Fred Kumpel, Owner: It’s not often that a part-time job in high-school turns into a full-time passion and career, but for Wilmington native, Fred Kumpel, that was the case. Fred started working for Strickland’s after school at just 17 years old. He liked the environment and the atmosphere, so continued working with Strickland’s Window Coverings while in college. When Fred decided becoming a famous musician wasn’t in the cards, he declared Business Management as his major.
After graduation from UNC-W, Fred went full-time with Strickland’s, eagerly learning everything that his mentor, Mr. Strickland, could teach him about the business. It wasn’t long before Fred had assumed a strong leadership role, managing the store and innovating changes that would help the long-time window coverings business keep pace with an ever-changing marketplace. When Mr. Strickland decided to retire, he offered Fred Kumpel first option to purchase the family business.
Since 2008, Fred has successfully blended the best of the Strickland family legacy for superior customer service with the latest products and newest technologies. He has revived the window coverings repair center (one of the few on the East Coast), expanded the commercial and specialty branches of the business, and added a new division, Carolina Closets, to the Strickland’s portfolio of products and services.
An active member in the local business networking community, Fred devotes a lot of time to supporting community and church-sponsored events. When he’s not helping the local community or helping others improve their properties with new window coverings and custom-built organizational systems, Fred works on his own home improvement projects and the Honey-Do list his sweet wife, Melissa, keeps updated at all times.
Chris de Jong, Sales Manager: It’s been nearly 25 years since Chris de Jong started working at Strickland’s as a part-time installer while he studied Business Management at UNC-W. After college, when a full-time position opened in the sales department, Chris didn’t hesitate to claim it as his new career.
A Wilmington native, Chris has watched both his hometown and the industry grow by leaps and bounds: “The view from my ‘office’ changes daily, since I spend the majority of my time meeting with contractors, architects, interior designers, and homeowners in the Greater Wilmington area,”, he explains. “I love learning about each project and making recommendations based on the nearly 500 window covering products we carry. Between meeting new people and keeping on top of the latest trends and technologies in our industry, the one constant in my job is that every day is different.”
When he’s not working on the commercial projects or homes of others, Chris enjoys working on his own house. He even makes his own furniture! An avid reader, Chris also likes traveling and dabbling in photography.
Laura Salo, Office Manager: Laura Salo knows a thing or two about charming coastal towns. 10 years ago, she made Wilmington, NC her home when she and her husband, a mechanic and boating enthusiast, decided to move from Cape Cod, MA to the warmer Carolinas. (Laura grew up in West Virginia and has family near Greensboro, NC).
Laura already had experience in the window coverings industry when she arrived at Strickland’s in 2003. Over the past decade, her role has grown to include much more than scheduling appointments and overseeing the administrative side of orders. She explains: “As the area’s most reputable window coverings provider, we work on historically important properties, film projects, and residences for celebrities who live or vacation in the Wilmington area. They often have special requests like finding period-specific materials or overnighting samples to meet a tight deadline. Part of my job is handling those requests.”
On weekends, Laura and her family enjoy bicycle rides together and taking the occasional day trip. During football season, they cheer for their favorite NFL teams: Laura is a fan of the Green Bay Packers, but her husband roots for the New England Patriots. In addition, Laura is working on a detailed dollhouse project with the “help” of her 8-year-old daughter (who also enjoys jumping on the trampoline and dancing). When asked if the dollhouse has window coverings, Laura laughs, “Not yet, but I sure know where to get them when the time comes!”
Keecha Anderson, Bookkeeper and Showroom Floor Manager: Keecha Anderson started working for Strickland’s Window Coverings nearly five years ago, assisting Mr. Strickland in the field and helping in the showroom on the weekends.
Today, she is the company’s full-time bookkeeper and the person responsible for creating a welcoming, tidy, and well-organized showroom. A native Wilmingtonian, Keecha had previously worked as a childcare teacher and office administrator, but she feels she has found a professional home with the Strickland’s Window Covering team. She explains: “It is a privilege to work in a company that allows people to learn and grow not only in their profession, but also as individuals. The management team believes in integrity and strong business ethics, and that means a lot to me.”
A devoted mother of two, Keecha spends her free time bonding with her children: “My son loves motor cross and boxing, so I enjoy slinging mud and hanging tough right with him! My daughter enjoys baking and reading, so we spend time creating our own custom confections and ‘travelling’ through books at the local bookstores.” Keecha also volunteers at her church and cares for her 90-year-old grandmother, whom she cites as a major inspiration in her life.
David Bruns, Installation Manager: David Bruns’ family has been in the construction business for generations, so he says working with his hands comes naturally. Even at the young age of seven, David remembers building things alongside his father.
David has worked in the window coverings business since 2002 and is about to celebrate his 2nd anniversary at Strickland’s. “I care about offering high quality work and ensuring our customers are always happy.”, says David, “Because Strickland’s shares my values, working here is a great fit.”
A family man, David and his wife have two very active children, ages five and two. After work, the kids keep him busy with requests to visit the park or play with cars. The family recently vacationed together on a Disney cruise. “If you weren’t so busy with the kids”, we asked David, “what would you do?” Without missing a beat, he replied: “Take a nap!”
Jeremy Shrader, Installer: A native North Carolinian, Jeremy Shrader is one of the newest members of the Strickland’s team. Prior to working as our window coverings and organizational systems installer, Jeremy worked in demolition. “I’m much happy here”, he says, “It feels better putting things together than tearing them apart.”
Jeremy’s mother was the first to spot his talent for mechanical installation; as a young boy he was always disassembling his toys and putting them back together. Today, his toys take the form of motorcycles and ATVs, which he enjoys riding and tinkering with on his days off.
Jeremy’s talents don’t stop there. He is also a gifted singer and songwriter. An active member of his church, Jeremy loves gospel music and enjoys leading his congregation in musical praise and worship. One of the highlights of his life was singing a song he wrote at a public memorial service for the victims of 9/11. When asked if he would sing for customers during an installation, Jeremy smiles and says: “If they really wanted me to, why not?”
Kade Bryan, Installer: Kade Bryan is the youngest member of the Strickland’s team. A student at Cape Fear Community College, he is currently working toward Associate’s Degrees in Marine Technology and General Education. When he’s not in class or studying, Kade works in the repair center, helps unpack merchandise, and installs window coverings for customers.
Born and raised in Wilmington, NC, Kade has the sea air and salt water in his blood: he surfs, boats, rides jet skis, fishes, swims, and loves spending time outdoors. It was a former girlfriend who encouraged him to apply for a job at Strickland’s Window Coverings, but these days Kade says his main ‘love interest’ is his brand new truck. In fact, at this writing, Kade was driving his truck to the Outer Banks for a weekend of surfing.
Karen Johnson, Interior Designer and Fabric Treatments Consultant: With a degree in interior design from East Carolina University, an associate membership in the Interior Design Society, and more than thirty years of professional interior design experience, Karen Johnson brings a wealth of expertise to every window treatment consultation.
With a degree in interior design from East Carolina University, an associate membership in the Interior Design Society, and more than thirty years of professional interior design experience, Karen Johnson brings a wealth of expertise to every window treatment consultation.
Born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, Karen came to North Carolina to attend ECU. While at school, she met a native Wilmingtonian. They fell in love, got married, and the rest is history…. The couple lived in Great Stukeley, England and Austin, Texas before settling down back home in Wilmington.
When Karen’s children went to college and she celebrated a “monumental birthday”, she decided to open her own business, Karen Johnson Interiors. Karen believes in working with local vendors whenever possible to support our community, so she started her relationship with Strickland’s Window Coverings as a client. As the team at Strickland’s worked with Karen, they recognized not only her talent and expertise, but that her values and customer-focused approach matched the Strickland’s way of doing business. In 2008, Strickland’s asked Karen to become the company’s official custom fabric treatment consultant.
When she’s not helping customer design draperies, roman shades, or bedding, Karen takes advantage of her travel benefits as the wife of a commercial airline pilot, flying to Tennessee to visit her newborn grandchild. She also enjoys playing tennis, boating, fishing and spending time at the beach.
Ginger Thornton, Carolina Closet Company Designer: Ask Ginger Thornton what she studied at UNC-W, she will joke: “Digging in the dirt”. One might wonder how an Anthropology and Archeology major ended up as an organizational systems designer, but listen to Ginger talk and it all makes sense: “I come from a long line of artists and architects and I am able to visualize in three dimensions. To me, designing is like a puzzle—and the more challenging, the better. Archeologists put together pieces of the past, but I create solutions to organizational puzzles of the present.”
Ginger’s first career was in telecommunications management; she later bought Carolina Closet Company. She sold the company to Strickland’s Window Coverings last year so she and her partner (name) could focus solely on what they love most—designing. Well-designed organizational systems aren’t just limited to closets; Ginger has designed solutions for garages, pantries, linen closets, laundry rooms, and commercial offices. Whether it’s a samples closet in a doctor’s office or dry foods storage in a restaurant, Carolina Closet Company can do it! Ginger’s designs have been featured in local and regional publications and in the national magazine Cottage Style.
Ginger’s organizational design skills are put to good use in her own home which has its own unique challenges; she lives with her husband and two daughters in one hundred year-old fishing cottage near Wrightsville Beach. The family loves spending time outdoors, boating, and caring for their three egg-laying chickens: Scratchback, Henry, and Whitey.
Joelle Ando, Carolina Closet Company Designer: For Joelle Ando, design is in her blood. The daughter of a successful interior designer, Joelle was working as her mother’s assistant by age of sixteen. After school, Joelle continued to pursue her passion for the industry, working as a sales associate for a high-end furniture company in New Jersey before relocating to North Carolina.
While designing models for custom built homes (Joelle’s husband has been constructing custom built homes for more than fifteen years), she met Ginger Thornton. The two designers now collaborate on closets and storage areas for both residential and commercial spaces. On weekends, Joelle, her husband, and her two children enjoy boating, playing tennis and participating in community events.