How Skreenz Came To Be
Invented by an Engineer and Outdoorsman
Skreenz™ were invented in 1986 by Chuck Blethen, who lived in Minnesota at the time (photo of Chuck making wild blueberry pancakes boatside on Lake Michigan on left). Chuck was an engineer by education, a devoted camper, hunter, and winter camping instructor. He had purchased a VW Vanagon and loved to go camping. One weekend, he took his family for a camping trip in their new Vanagon. When it was time to bed down for the night, he and his family folded down the back seats and spread out their sleeping bags. After about 30 minutes it became hot and stuffy, so he rolled down his windows to get some fresh air. The mosquitoes swarmed inside. He rolled up the windows, sprayed the inside with insect repellent, and tried running the engine and air conditioner - it was noisy, used gas, and the engine over-heated when left idling for over an hour. He shut off the engine (and air conditioner) and rolled down the windows - in came the mosquitoes again. That was the most miserable night of his camping career. He was used to tent camping where there were screens to keep out the insects. There had to be a better way.
The Usual (and Unusual) Screening Materials Didn't Work
Upon his return from that memorable weekend outing, Chuck set about calling VW dealers and other van manufacturers trying to find a solution to his problem. No one had a solution, including VW America in New York and VW Germany whom he visited during a business trip. Chuck began experimenting with different materials to see if he could make an effective bug barrier so he could get a good night's sleep in his van in the middle of the summer in the Minnesota woods. He first tried cutting metal screen to fit the exact window slot. It worked, but the metal screen leaked when it rained and the windows could not be rolled up or down. Then he thought of making a "pillowcase" or "upside down sock" out of various webbing material. That idea allowed him to to roll the windows up or down between two layers of screen, but the nylon stretched and let the bugs in. So did polyethylene. So did rayon. So did cotton and wool. But Chuck was certain the "pillowcase" design was the way to go, if the right material could be found.
The Answer - Woven Fiberglass Developed for the Army
His materials engineering background kept him at it until he hit upon the right materials combination to solve his problem - a coated, woven fiberglass material developed for the Army which had the unique characteristic of not stretching in the horizontal or vertical weave direction but which would stretch on the bias. It also did not fray along cut edges because the vinyl coating acced as fray-stop. He made a few samples until he had just the right size and tension for his Vanagon door frame. Testing under deep woods camping conditions in Minnesota (a World Health Oorganization category 10 mosquitoe infestation area) proved his product was capable of protecting his family from biting, stinging insects. Neighbors saw his screens and wanted them for their vans.
Thousands of Skreenz™ Sold all around the world since 1986
That was in 1986. In 1987, Chuck started making patterns and hard templates for the most popular vans and soon he and his family were making Skreenz™ and selling them throughout the United States and in many foreign countries. Chuck applied for a patent. Skreenz™ by Blethen has been operating as a family business since 1987. Thousands of Skreenz™ have been manufactured during that time. Many have been sold through automotive supply catalogues, but most have been sold direct to the public via the Internet. His best advertising comes from satisfied customers who rave about his Skreenz™ on various camping blogs. His most recent invention was a Skreenz™ for the sunroof openings of vehicles.
In 2009 Skreenz™ acquired the Bug-Barrier RV Division Retail/Wholesale sewn product line from Bug-Barrier Screen Corporation in Medina Ohio.
Skreenz™ began fabricating the sewn products immediately. By the end of 2010, all of the sewn products previously manufactured by Bug-Barrier was being manufactured by Skreenz™ in North Carolina. The products include grill screens for the Sprinter, Ford vans, Chevy vans, and Dodge vans as well as a variety of pickup trucks, SUVs and minivans. Rear cargo screens for the Sprinter are included as well as side and rear cargo doors for Ford, Chevy and Dodge vans.
Chuck & Jeannie during a visit to Tuscany, Italy in June 2013.