Every company has a story, and the one behind Zip-Dee Inc. is a good one.
Brenda and Henry Duda were on a camping trip together in the mid-1960s. After finding the perfect spot to park their Airstream recreational vehicle (RV), the couple pulled an accessory out of a bag — an awning made by a third-party manufacturer. That’s when the frustration began. After struggling mightily to put up the awning, Brenda set an ultimatum: she wouldn’t join her husband on another camping trip until there was an easier way to enjoy some shade.
Inventing a Better Awning
At the time, Henry was president of a large dairy. But he was also a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago. His design talent had come in handy when fabricating products for a dairy coop. Maybe he could design a better awning?
Henry got to work in his home garage. The result was an awning unlike anything else on the market: it could be set up in less than a minute by one person. Brenda loved it, and so did the couples’ friends. Henry started making awnings for them too.
Soon, Henry left the dairy industry and founded a new company called Zip Dee — inspired by the whimsical way it could be combined with his last name to echo a popular Disney movie song from that era: “Zip Dee Duda …”
Zip Dee Today
Located at 96 Crossen Ave. in Elk Grove Village since 1967, Zip Dee Inc. still handcrafts high-quality awnings one at a time, as well as folding chairs and other products for luxury RVs. But today the company owners are Jake Mullins, his brother Matt Mullins, and business partner Nathan Webb. Jake and Matt grew up in Elk Grove.
Jake says having the business in the Elk Grove Industrial Park makes it easy to use local suppliers for parts. “I recently needed plastic moldings,” he says. “I was able to walk down the street to meet with Star Die Molding and design what we needed. When we have a new product, we look here first — no shipping costs and we can easily meet with the vendor.”
As more people took to the road for vacations during the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 brought strong demand for luxury RVs and Zip Dee’s products to accessorize them. With no signs of slowing in 2021, the Zip Dee team is grateful to its suppliers and the Village of Elk Grove for playing a part in the company’s success.