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Cindys Window Fashions marks 25th year


Twenty-five years ago, Cindy Norlen took a chance with a part-time job selling window blinds.

Since then, she opened a store — Cindy's Window Fashions — and moved from the original location to a larger gallery showroom, all while weathering an epic economic downturn and being recognized as the area's top business for home décor and interior design services.

Neither Cindy nor her husband, Don, who joined the business in 2004, want to take credit for the company's success. Instead, they thank their customers, knowledgeable staff and supportive family and friends.

And to think, it all started at Skate World.

The two met while working at the local roller rink. She was a student at Columbia High School and Don attended Gresham High School.

They graduated from their respective high schools in 1983, and were married in 1987. He stayed on at the roller rink. She was working full-time for an aunt in the travel industry, when a friend suggested she'd be a good fit for selling window-coverings.

Back then, big department stores and a few specialty shops cornered the market for window fashions. But blinds were all the rage, and companies were hiring representatives to help customers make purchases from the comfort of their own homes.

Cindy sold blinds part-time while still working full-time in the travel industry. Eventully, she quit the travel job to focus on blinds.

Then, suddenly, the structure of the window-coverings business that Cindy worked for crumbled.

Cindy didn't know what to do.

“Why don't you do what you love?” Don's sister Carrie asked.

Cindy realized she already was. She continued to work from home doing exactly what she did before, only as an independent contractor. “It allows me to be creative and hands-on, so it was a good fit,” she said.

Plus, it worked well with her growing family. In 1990, daughter Kaela was born, followed by son Andrew in 1994.

Over the years, Cindy mastered draperies and other window coverings. In 2005, she opened her first store shortly after Don joined the company.

The store was a hit. In 2007, the lease was up, so they moved to a larger store in the Civic Neighborhood. The 1,700-square-foot showroom featured everything from bedding to closet organizers.

And for a few months, everything was grand. Then one day, it was if someone put a “closed” sign in the window, Don recalled.

They didn't know what to make of the sudden lack of customers.

Did they go too big? Did customers not know they moved? What did they do wrong?

It wasn't them, it was the global economy beginning to shrink at the start of what has since become one of the worst recessions in American history.

Although the economy hasn't fully recovered, it is getting better and so is business.

Earlier this year, just in time to mark the store's 25th year in business, Cindy's Window Fashions was voted by readers of The Outlook as the best home décor and interior design business. The store partners with a network of interior designers who can freshen up a room with new furniture placement or paint.

Cindy's Window Fashions is located at 1700 N.W. Civic Drive, Suite 140, and can be reached at 503-667-8898.