Lifestyle Spotlight By Felicia Lowenstein Niven
The Art of Awnings
At Berges Trenton Awning, quality craftsmanship runs in the family
IT MAY BE COLD OUTSIDE, but there’s a hint of summer inside the shop at Berges Trenton Awning in Pleasantville. That’s where the team is busy welding aluminum, cutting canvas, and sewing together the handcrafted awnings that will adorn homes and businesses all around us. “It’s a master craftsman approach that may surprise people,” notes owner Richard Berges. “We don’t get anything out of a box or off of a shelf. We construct our awnings from the raw materials.” Quality defines this family business, founded by Richard’s grandparents Louis and Mary Berges in 1927 in Atlantic City. In fact, their awnings are part of the fabric of Atlantic City’s history — having adorned many of the landmark buildings along the Boardwalk, as well as residences in our island communities. On the commercial side, you can see more of their custom work at Boardwalk Hall, Brooks Brothers, and Gilchrist’s in Atlantic City, Jon & Patti’s Coffee Bar & Bistro in Ocean City, and Flat Stone Tavern & Grill in Egg Harbor Twp. to name just a few.
Pictured top and bottom left, the exterior of Berges Trenton Awning’s Atlantic City location found on Massachusetts Avenue during the 1970s. Middle photo of Nate Berges and his father, Richard Berges hanging an awning in 1992. Right photo of Louis Berges standing proudly with his truck circa 1950.
“Our awnings have been compared to the Old World charm of a tailored suit,” said Richard. “We have a pride in what we create, and also a family legacy that has continued for so many generations.” In fact, generations of the Berges family have literally grown up in the business. Louis and Mary passed the helm to Ronald and Nancy Berges who, in turn, brought in their children, Richard Berges and LuAnn Halpin. “We had the blessing of seeing mom and dad daily; it was part of the family bond,” explained Richard. “Everyone in the family has been involved in one way or another over the years.” Richard’s son Nate now represents the fourth generation of leadership, and has been inspirational in many changes that hold on to the family’s nostalgic roots but helped advance areas of the business bringing in new trends and technological advancements that fit their custom approach. “We’re constantly looking to update our processes and materials,” said Richard, “but we don’t want to change the personal attention we 18
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provide our customers. That’s why people come to us, to get that custom expertise. We want the whole process to be the best experience that you can have.” It starts with a visit to a customer’s home, where the Berges team discusses the project. The same level of care and attention goes into a single window awning for a residence or an expansive one for a restaurant’s outdoor dining area. The team provides their input on the direction of the sun and other practical concerns that could affect the final product. They also share their creative ideas. After all, there are hundreds of fabric patterns alone, so each awning has a unique appearance once complete. “This is not a one-size-fits-all product,” explained Richard. “Each awning is created for a certain space. An architect has taken special care to design a client’s home to fit their vision and our awning becomes an extension of the home. We care about each aspect of the product’s