The History of Raber Patio Structures and Enclosures

Born in 1949 to John and Anna, Ervin Raber was the second youngest of 5 children. From the age of seven Ervin started practicing his “auctioneering” by selling horses and harnesses to fence posts around the Raber Farm.

In eighth grade, Ervin attended Honeyville School, where he was a part of the basketball team. Despite the school’s poor basketball record, coach Mr. Jim Miller encouraged his team every day by telling them not to give up. Because of coach Miller’s perseverance and leadership, the eighth graders won the regional championship that year and, out of a class of 12 boys, 7 went on to become successful businessmen. Ervin Raber was one of them.

After completing his schooling in 1963, Ervin started working at Honeyville Metal. However, due to his father’s battle with cancer, Ervin returned to farming full-time. When 1969 brought the Vietnam War, Ervin worked as a CO in the Bronson Hospital x-ray department for two years. After the war ended, Ervin continued moving from job to job.

Work Ethic on Display

In 1972, Ervin worked as a ranch hand in Chouteau, Oklahoma. In 1973, his childhood dream came true when he attended auction school and started a weekly consignment sale. December of 1974, Ervin moved to Florida, where he worked in a lumber shop for 18 months before moving back to Indiana. On May 20, 1976, Ervin married Clara Miller and they decided to buy Raber Masonry from Ervin’s brother Levi.

Raber Masonry was a business that his father had started in the 1940s and Ervin had helped create tiles when he was younger. Because of the dairy boom in the late 70s, tiles for milking parlors were in high demand the year that Ervin and Clara took over Raber Masonry. The request for tiles resulted in a record year of sales, which meant selling one semi-load of glazed tiles every week.

Going back to his childhood dream, in 1978, Ervin founded the Honeyville Consignment Auction at the Honeyville Feed Mill. In the late 70s, he also started the Topeka Carriage Auction. Although these two auctions moved locations throughout the years, Ervin stayed involved with both sales until 1993. It was at the close of his auctioneering that Ervin pursued another business endeavor—PGT windows and sunrooms.

We Thought We Were Only Buying a Sunroom

When Ervin and Clara Raber started traveling to Florida in the mid-1980s, they didn’t expect anything other than warm weather and rest. Clara had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and the Florida climate helped to relieve some of her pain. While they were house hunting in Florida, Ervin and Clara came across some sunrooms with EZE Breeze windows installed, and they envisioned a similar setup for their Indiana home. The Raber’s never suspected that their interest in an ordinary sunroom would lead to a much bigger order.

After contacting PGT, the EZE Breeze manufacturer, Ervin was informed that there were no dealers in the Indiana area. Ordering sunrooms and windows was also out of the question unless Ervin became a dealer. At the time, Ervin worked as an auctioneer two or three times a week, ran a tent rental business, and managed Raber Masonry. Surprisingly, after signing on as a dealer with PGT, Ervin sold his other businesses. What was initially Ervin’s attempt to buy a sunroom quickly expanded into a full-time business called Raber Patio.

Business Starts to Boomin

After it was established in 1987 as a humble one-employee business, Raber Patio exploded. Because of the high demand for furniture to accommodate the sunrooms, Ervin soon became a dealer for Berlin Gardens, Lloyd Flanders, and Classic Rattan. Early on, Raber Patio was located in a rental building. However, as his business grew, in 1993, Ervin chose a base for Raber Patio in Shipshewana, Indiana. From 1993 to 2019, this store supplied the necessary storage for Ervin’s retail and the space for over 30 employees.

Ervin’s Retirement

Aside from his many business endeavors, Ervin served on many county boards, including the Indiana Haiti Auction board for 14 years. He is currently an advisory member on the Florida Haiti Auction Board, where he worked as a chairman for seven years. Additionally, Ervin assisted the Elkhart County Building Association as a chairman and the Shipshewana Retail Merchants Association as a chairman and a board member. He was also a part of the Shipshe-Scott PTO Board.

In 2018, after years of experience in business and marketing, Ervin retired. However, because of Clara’s battle with arthritis, the Rabers travel to Mexico for treatments once a year. Ervin and Clara also live in Pinecraft, Florida during the winter months, where they enjoy charter fishing. Ervin has been a part of the Pinecraft Planning Committee for years. He also serves on the PGT Steering Committee, which is the company that first caught the Rabers’ attention with its signature sunroom windows.

An Ongoing Legacy

Following in Ervin’s footsteps, granddaughters Kristen and Karissa launched their own product in 2015 called Pappy’s Grilling Spray. With Ervin’s help developing and perfecting their product for 20 years, Kristen and Karissa now do the bookkeeping and bottling for their business. An instrumental figure in getting Pappy’s to market, Ken Chupp of E&S Sales supplied encouragement, bottles, labels, and ingredients for the businesswomen. Today, Pappy’s Grilling Spray is available in wholesale quantities from Ervin himself, Yoder Meats, E&S Sales, and of course, Raber Patio.

Ervin and Clara’s three children all stayed close to home. Their daughter Deanna married Matt Yoder from Nappanee, Delores married Chris Schlabach from Shipshewana, and Dean and his wife Sara live in Middlebury. Raber Patio is now proudly owned and operated by Ervin’s son Dean Raber and his son-in-law Chris Schlabach.

Visit Our New Location!

When COVID-19 hit, Raber Patio, like many other businesses, ran into supply chain issues and fluctuating prices. To provide a quote for customers who had signed a contract, Raber Patio made it a priority to order supplies immediately before prices rose again. Countering price changes meant holding ordered products in-store until the additional supplies arrived. At that point, Ervin and his staff started discussing the issue of storage space and the need for a warehouse.

The new Raber Patio and Enclosure location is only one mile north of our main Raber Patio showroom and allowed us to add space for our partners, A&L Storage Barns. With this latest expansion, Raber Patio accomplished several things: created space for A&L Storage Barns, gave more options to choose from, and created new offices for the sales and service staff.

Although Ervin and Clara never expected to go from buying a sunroom to selling storage barns, the timing, and the expansion of Raber Patio has felt like nothing short of the extraordinary. In the words of Eva Wingard, Raber Patio’s current store manager, “…To see everything happen the way it has, it feels like God has guided everything perfectly in ways we didn’t see for ourselves!”

Hours for Our Additional Location

The hours for the new location are 8am-4pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and 7am-3pm on Tuesday. To place your customizable order, visit our store or call (260) 336-1978 today!

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