The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

June 15, 2013

Canvas shop needs a new owner

By Dale Denwalt
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — After 43 years in business, Derrick Canvas is in danger of closing its doors forever.

The only thing that can save the rare shop — apparently the only one in northwest Oklahoma — is someone to buy it and operate it.

Longtime owner Marilyn Hawkins has decided to move with her retired husband, Bill, back to their native Missouri.

“I’m so in hopes that someone will purchase the business and keep it as a canvas shop because if they don’t, people from here are going to have to go to Tulsa, Oklahoma City or Wichita,” Hawkins said.

The Hawkins’ came here during the oil boom in the 1970s, and have stayed ever since.

“When we came here we figured we’d be here for two or three years. And 36 years later we’re still here,” she said.

She took over the business from Lea Derrick in 1998, after working there for three years.

“When the original owner, Mrs. Derrick, retired, I had worked for her and she trained me, so she allowed me to keep the Derrick name because of the years it has been in business,” Hawkins said.

Derrick Canvas has outlasted many other specialty canvas shops. It’s responsible for many of Enid’s colorful awnings that hang over the entrances to businesses. One day, Hawkins drove around town and started counting. She finally quit when she reached 50 awnings she hand-stitched over the years.

“We’re small and not well-known to a lot of people, but I think we’re a very vital part of Enid. All you have to do is walk around the Square and look at all of the awnings,” she said. “People that never need a canvas shop, they don’t even know we’re here.”

That’s not to say all the business cares about is quantity. Quality, rather, is how the shop’s namesake trained Hawkins

“We’ve been in business long enough that people expect a certain quality of work. That’s what brings your customers back,” she said.

Derrick Canvas also specializes in boat coverings that fit so well, Hawkins needs the actual craft to measure.

“This guy lives in Edmond,” Hawkins said Thursday, pointing to a large blue and silver creation sitting under her sewing machine.

And it isn’t a huge business that mass-produces product, she said, which owes to the longevity of Derrick Canvas.

“Everything we make is individually custom-made. The only way I know to make them is custom fit,” said Hawkins. “If they’re not made right and fit well, then they’re going to look sloppy and they’ll flop around.”

Oftentimes, the two-person business has more work than they can handle. The shop currently is booked up to July and on Monday, Hawkins fielded orders for eight handmade canvas coverings.

“The amount of boat covers I do is amazing,” she said. “Sometimes in the summertime I do two boat covers a week.”

In addition to awnings and boat covers, she also builds pool coverings and is an exclusive outfitter for expensive agricultural and oilfield equipment, some with vinyl coverings. She also subcontracts with a local design shop to print graphics, if needed, on her creations.

Derrick Canvas also makes repairs, even going so far as to reattach zippers to soft Jeep doors.

Custom canvas-makers are rare, with the nearest vendors in major metropolitan areas. Derrick Canvas caters to the entire region, and Hawkins has customers throughout western Oklahoma and Kansas. One long-time patron who moved to Louisiana even brought his boat back to Enid so Hawkins could craft a covering for it.

Hawkins said she would stay to train a new owner, and the shop’s other 13-year veteran employee has promised to stay on through the transition, if someone comes forward to take over Derrick Canvas.

Hawkins plans on advertising soon, hoping someone can carry the legacy of the long-time Enid business.

She’s not done working, though. After she and her husband move back to Missouri to be closer to her family, Hawkins said she might open another, smaller, canvas shop.

“He’s retired, but I’m still going to have to work,” she quipped.

Derrick Canvas is located at 1006 Kline Circle. The phone number to the shop is (580) 237-4077.