Brianna Goodwin is president and CEO of Contexture, a Canton-based company that's the largest U.S. dealer of commercial window shade and acoustics systems.
GARY HIGGINS / BOSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL
By Don Seiffert – Managing Editor, Boston Business Journal
Feb 15, 2023
When Brianna Goodwin’s father founded Ver-Tex Construction 38 years ago in an Abington garage, he had no way of knowing that a few years later, another company named Vertex would be formed that would eventually grow to be an internationally-known drugmaker.
The similar name has caused confusion over the years. Like when the company opened a showroom in Boston’s Seaport neighborhood nine years ago, a few blocks from the gleaming new headquarters of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, or in marketing efforts.
“We actually tried to advertise on NPR, and they said it caused brand confusion,” she said.
That's one of the reasons the company rebranded as Contexture last year, amid a multistate expansion that's made it the largest distributor of commercial window shades in the U.S. And while it may not be an internationally known innovator of drugs, Contexture is innovating the field of blinds retailing, helping developers attain aggressive building emissions goals being set in cities throughout the U.S.
This week, the Canton-based company is announcing the latest in its string of recent acquisitions, buying the Tennessee division of Virginia-based Commonwealth Blinds & Shades. The acquisition allows it to better serve customers in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi as well as across its 20-state service area.
The company did not disclose the purchase price, but said it adds six workers to the 109-employee company. The company now brings in $40 million annually, and is on-goal to hit $50 million by the end of 2024.
A family business
Goodwin’s father had worked for years in the industry before starting his own company a few months before she was born. Brianna Goodwin began at Ver-Tex in 2005, and took over as president in 2017.
It was the acquisition of a company called Brambier’s in Florida in November 2021 that began a period of rapid growth, allowing the company to offer acoustic products like noise-damping stretch wall and ceiling systems. That started Goodwin rethinking the company’s role, transforming it from being an order-taker into a strategic partner in interior design.
“That's when we started really looking at the whole interior environment, the performance of light, heat and sound, between sun coming in and sound within the space,” she said. “That's really what started to formulate Contexture as our new brand.”
Today, while Contexture does some residential work, the bulk is in commercial buildings. It works with developers like Suffolk Construction and Consigli Construction on many of the largest projects in and around Boston, especially in the life sciences and higher education sectors. Longtime clients include MIT, Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“We're pretty much in almost all the buildings in the commercial industry in Boston right now,” said Goodwin.
Boston’s recent push to mandate net-zero emissions in all large buildings by 2050, as well as similar discussions in Cambridge, only promises to boost interest in controlling natural light to minimize the energy required for heat and light. It helped inspire Contexture to launch a new design division to work with architects early in the process, instead of leaving the choice of blinds as an afterthought.
“So net zero carbon energy initiatives are something that we've been obviously been keeping an eye on, knowing how our products can impact that, if they're looked at that way early on in the project,” said Goodwin. “The strategy was to get in front of that conversation now, so that we can be part of designing future buildings that will have net zero carbon initiatives.”
The company is innovative in other ways as well. In addition to being a family business — Goodwin’s husband, Jon Harrington, is chief revenue officer — it’s also a woman-owned business, a rarity in the construction sector.
Looking ahead, Goodwin plans to open an office in Orlando, Florida, and is looking at another in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s also taking part in a Department of Energy study aimed at better quantifying how much energy savings different window shades and blinds can bring about.
But Goodwin sees the company’s role as making indoor spaces more pleasant to work in.
“We've all experienced that, whether in an office or some public space, where it's glaring sun, and heat buildup as a result of the sun, and it's overly noisy — especially in restaurants where they are shouting at each other and you can barely hear,” she said. “So that's what we're out to change... Ultimately, if we do our job well, that all blends into the background, and everyone is just feeling comfortable and productive.”