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Business Spotlight

June 11, 2007

COSTA MESA — Joanna Fowler loves to keep her doors open all year long. When she moved to Costa Mesa from Chicago, she was surprised to see that practically no house in Newport-Mesa had a screen door.

Having a 10-month-old son at the time, she wanted a way to keep her door open for the breeze while keeping her son from running out into the street or neighborhood.

She found her solution in a Secret Screen, developed by Brett Vandale of Costa Mesa.

"I actually saw his truck just driving around town and I had just moved to California, and just from living in Chicago, everyone had a screen door and I moved out here and no one had them," Fowler said. "I love keeping my door open all the time, but having a little one I couldn't without a screen."

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Vandale came up with the idea while in high school in Northern California and didn't start searching for patents till he was a student at UC Irvine. But a little more than two years ago, he got serious.

With the help of his engineer dad, he came up with designs for a screen that mounted at the top of a doorway and pulls down to hook at the bottom.

When Fowler moved to a new house on the Eastside, she had to have another Secret Screen and said the people who moved into her old place were excited that she left it there.

When it's up, there's hardly any evidence that a screen exists, and it's so easy to operate Fowler's son, now 5, can use it.

The product cost just as much or less than traditional screen doors at $49.95 and it's easy to put up as well, Vandale said.

"You can set it up yourself," he said. "It only has four screens to install."

Vandale had to create custom parts for the screen, which is in its third season of sales. And he's committed to tweaking the product as needed.

When his mother-in-law ran into the black screen, he decided to find a material that was striped so it's more visible than before.

He had to custom order the material, and now the screen is available in both black and black-and-white stripes.

He started selling exclusively online, but the screens can now be found at Los Angeles area Anawalt stores, and he's in talk with Ganahl Lumber to carry it there.

Fowler summed up her feelings on the product in two words: "It's perfect."

For more information or to order a screen, visit www.secretscreen.com.


  • AMANDA PENNINGTON may be reached at (714) 966-4625 or at amanda.pennington@latimes.com.

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