With all the changes in home design and styles over the past half century, one thing has stayed the same for many of the windows that look out onto the Kent Valley: Pugerudes’ drapes and curtains.
From its start in a humble chicken coop at the end of Fifth Avenue South to its current 3,000-square-foot home on Railroad Avenue, the Pugerude family business has dressed windows in homes all around the region since 1957. It’s a 51-year legacy that today rests in the hands of the third generation of Pugerudes to sew, stitch and design their way into the homes of thousands of residents. Although now instead of just draperies, the business is a full-service interior design center.
“We’re doing the same thing they were doing just on a larger scale,” says current owner Jill Kramer, granddaughter and daughter, respectively, of founders Edna and Bill Pugerude.
Bill and Edna founded the business in the ’50s, after Bill’s father – Edna’s husband – was killed in a car accident. Bill was in high school at the time and, as the oldest of three children, was drafted into the business. Edna, a seamstress, started doing standard sewing work, but the business soon evolved into mostly draperies and the Pugerudes literally turned an old chicken coop into a work space.
“We worked out of that chicken coop for four years,” Bill remembers.
In 1961, the pair opened their first store front, Pugerudes Draperies on Central Avenue in Kent. “Draperies” was eventually dropped from the name as the business’s scope expanded.
“Twenty years later, my mother left,” Bill says.
By then, the store had moved to a new building on Railroad Avenue, which Bill himself helped build and he still owns and maintains.
When Edna left the shop, Bill’s wife, Glenda came on board, working at the shop until the pair sold it to their daughter and her husband 20 years later.
According to Bill, the booming growth of the region was the “salvation” of the drapery business.
“We typically dealt with new homes,” he says. “That was the crux of our business.”
Centrally located in Kent, Pugerudes was able to serve clients all over the area.
“We were really, for many years, in the epicenter of the building boom,” he says of Kent.
By the time she was in middle school, Jill began working at the store, making “Beauti Pleats,” a metal pleat shaper that she says was a “key to the success” of the store and a “lifeblood” of the business for nearly two decades.
As the Beauti Pleat fell out of favor, the Pugerudes adapted to changing tastes, altering their design work to fit the times.
“You change with demand,” Bill says. “To stay in business 51 years, you’ve got to be pretty keen on what demand is.”
Following her graduation from high school, Jill went on to the Art Institute, where she graduated in 1993 with a degree in interior design, the future of the business.
Also in 1993, Jill married David Kramer, who would eventually become an owner with his wife. Dave’s degree was in accounting and he said he worked in the information technology business until the dot com bubble burst.
On July 4, 2001, a deal was struck over a crab dinner at the family cabin and Pugerudes was sold to the next generation, with David and Jill at the helm.
“When we took over they packed their boxes and left,” David says with a smile.
The pair immediately updated the store’s show room and began to focus more on interior design instead of just window treatments, turning the business into what Jill calls a “one-stop design source.”
“People wanted a place to look at fabrics and talk to designers,” she says. “We handle it from start to finish.”
A second designer, Nicole Weber, was also hired. Now, from design to installation, the folks at Pugerudes cover the spectrum of window treatments, including all of the measuring, cutting and sewing of fabrics. That’s still done by hand in the backroom of the store.
Because everything is done in-house, Pugerudes prides itself on being able to meet the changing needs of customers.
“The designer gets to go back and talk to the seamstress and make little tweaks,” Dave says.
Within the first year the Kramers were at the helm, business shot up 60 percent.
“They’ve actually done better than we did,” Bill says.
“I couldn’t be more pleased, more proud,” agrees Glenda of the next generation’s work.
Along with helping design new rooms, Pugerudes also handles full room makeovers, like those seen on home-improvement shows. Customers are ferreted away from their homes and the designers go to work, culminating in a big ‘reveal,’ just like on TV.
Well, almost like TV.
“We don’t send them to Disney though,” Jill says with a laugh. “We sent them to Southcenter.”
Jill says the surge in popularity of makeover shows has helped the business.
“People now see ‘wow, I can get that done,’” she says.
“A lot of times, they’re entrusting us to do the right thing,” David adds.
Though draperies and window treatments are still the cornerstone of the business, David and Jill say the add-ons are what makes their shop stand out.
“We’re offering fries with the burger,” David says.
For the future, the Kramers say there will be few changes to the store – though there is a new focus on upholstery work – and there are no plans to move out of Kent, where they still live today with their two children, a possible fourth generation to take over the business.
“After five, 10, 20 years, why would you want to pack all that up and move somewhere else?” Glenda says.
“It’s just a great, central place,” Jill agrees.
Pugerudes is located at 118 Railroad Ave South. For more information call 253-852-2517 or visit www.pugerudes.com.
What: Family-owned Kent business specializing in custom window treatments and interior-design services.
Where: 118 Railroad Ave. South, Kent