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Blueberry Fields Forever! – Solar Window Shades

Window Dressing for a Bakery and Café

It’s surreal! Being back at Whitesbog, NJ, is like being through a time warp! This is one place where nothing seems to have changed, with the General Store still the only place one could get refreshment at but for invitations from friendly locals, of course! Another thing that hasn’t changed! It’s wonderful in a way. Unspoiled beauty, most of the estates self-sufficient enterprises with lakes of their own to irrigate the blueberry, cranberry, apple plantations. Driving through the country roads feels much like the Provence idyll, in France. A superbly scenic town, untouched by the machinery of modernity! Which reminds me of why I left this place 20 years ago.
A rebellious teen wanting to see the world, I backpacked my way out of Pembroke after having graduated the local high school, only knowing that if I’d stayed a moment longer, I’d go nuts! But having being steeped in the family’s culture of hospitality, I sought out waitressing jobs in Jersey City, and before too long, decided I’d like to pursue a career in Hotel Management. It’s been quite the roller coaster since, having worked from the east to the west coast in eclectic hotel and restaurant settings before making my way to Thailand and Hong Kong, and later to Europe, and back again to manage the kitchens of a hotel chain as corporate executive chef. In the course of time, I even managed to find the man of my dreams, and we have two little sons. Being the only daughter, I decided to head back to Whitesbog – the parents are getting on, as their only son-in-law is a Wharton business grad who’d been places, they thought they’d leave the legacy of their 45-acre estate to us. Though its operations were on the ball, a well-oiled machine, dad thought it could do with new practices, a new infusion of ideas that would take it to the next level.




Returning to Whites-bog

Having thought long and hard about it, we decided to pack up the international nature of our lives and settle down in Whitesbog, once and for all. And now in our middle ages, it’s only now I appreciate the quietude, the placidity of this town. Known for its blueberry cultivation today, it was originally home to the Hanover Iron Furnace, and though iron ore production proved to be an important industry, it eventually ruined the village. But the degradation of the land left its soil in a physical condition that was ideal to grow cranberries that grow extensively in the Northern American temperate zone – the strip-mined soil was ideal for its cultivation, and by the 1860’s, barrels of cranberries were even being exported to Europe! It took Elizabeth White to discover blueberries, and in collaboration with Dr. Coville, a pioneer in blueberry cultivation to scientifically propagate, cultivate and hybridize them – and they turned out to be the perfect complement to the cranberries, due to the difference in their harvest seasons.




The Hangout

Blueberry muffins and tarts are popular the world over, fresh, canned or preserved, and desserts made with blueberries are considered delicatessen yet wholesome in appeal. Blueberries were tartly sweet, the taste of summer! But I remembered being thoroughly fed up with blueberries and cranberries when I left this place; over the years, using them with discretion in my cooking (having created quite a few classics myself) has made me look at them differently. As the estate functions independently, and John doesn’t really need my help in its everyday functioning, I sought approval to start my very own Pembroke café, in the vicinity of the popular General Store, and decided to name it ‘The Hangout’.
The little place was all of 500 sq. ft.! It had plate glass windows flanking the doorway sporting bat wing doors, two 4’ by 2’ windows on either side of the room, and a door leading to a little yard at the back. Seeing as the space was small, I decided on an open design. A large island served as my workspace with my cooking equipment all wall-mounted. I had the work area outfitted with Kitchenaid and Siemens equipment, done up in white and buffed steel. In front, I had refrigerated and non-refrigerated glass display cases for the bread, pastries, and pies! In the back yard, I had three round tables with sun umbrellas, where barbecue parties could be held.





Blessings in the Form of Solar Window Shades


The windows were meant to be left uncovered, and I don’t like the idea of awnings over my windows. Besides, it really didn’t blend with the landscape! I soon realized that my cooling bills were sky high – not good for my business at all. Aside from that, the sun reflecting off the plate glass meant that folks couldn’t get a clear views of my window display or a view in. I think this is very important in the scheme of things, so some online research proved that the internal solar shades might just fit the bill. And anyway, the display cases were lit from the inside, and I had energy efficient rack spot-lighting installed for those days that were dark and dismal.

Solar window shades were manufactured to defend homes and offices from the harsh sun. In the Northern hemisphere, the sun can be hot and intense, generating uncomfortable solar gain, stressing the HVAC to the maximum, and increasing the production of greenhouse gasses. When solar shades are used to combat the harmful effects of the sun, there are a couple of factors to keep in mind.
Dark colored solar fabrics are best used where solar gain and glare control are needed, especially on a cold day – basic science tells us that dark colors absorb light and heat. The opposite is true for light colored fabrics.

The more the openness factor or, the more open the weave means the more total the view, and less shading and solar heat gain reduction. But screen color changes the portions of sunlight reflected, absorbed and transmitted; color affects glare and solar heat gain reduction as well. Openness factors can range from as high as 25% to as low as 1%, with colors ranging from white to black. For the same color of screen, the openness factor can change the shading performance by between 5 and 25%; color can change the shading performance by as little as 5% or as much as 100%. Darker colors generally provide the best combination of solar heat gain/glare reduction and visibility.

Confused for a bit, I finally chose the solar shades called the LightWeaves PP 2390 by Graber. They have an aluminum coating on one side, actually enhancing the deflective performance of the shade, and can be reversed during winter so that heat gain can be maximized. I chose a dark, almost black color, as I wanted potential customers to have an excellent view of my products. I’m so pleased. I don’t think I could have made a better choice, especially as I opted for the automated shades that would work in tandem with the lighting and temperature inside. How’s that for a country bumpkin having returned to make a positive impact on the town?!




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