Volume 37, Issue 5, May 2002
A Few of Our Finest
My Second Annual Tribute to Fathers
by Max Perilstein
A year ago, in honor of Father’s Day, I profiled a few of our industry’s finest. That column drew so much response that I decided to spotlight a few more fathers (and in one case, a mother) for this edition.
Since 1958 Bob Hartong has been an upstanding member of the glass industry’s society. As the owner of Wheeling W.Va.-based W.A. Wilson, Bob has been involved in many facets of our industry. However it’s his incredible relationship with his son, also named Bob, that most intrigues me.
In an industry where nepotism is usually the rule, the elder Hartong did not immediately bring his son into his business. He wanted him to work somewhere else, to be able to experience other working atmospheres and if he wanted to work with his father then he could bring something to the party. So the younger Hartong worked at PPG in Memphis for a little more than three years before returning to work with his father. Regarding working with his dad, Bob said, “I have truly been blessed with seven years of working with my dad … this is a guy who is a fabulous teacher and he is also my best friend.”
Personally my respect for Bob’s dad has been high as he has always been up front, honest and fair with me during my time dealing with him. His son sees it the same way. “My dad’s ethics, and his business relationships over the years has always allowed him to be known as someone as trustworthy and fair.”
Our industry needs more people in the mold of Bob Hartong the father, and for that matter, Bob Hartong the son.
Larry and Trish Vockler
I know this is a tribute to fathers but as I was researching I came across Kris Vockler’s parents and figured it wouldn’t be fair to break up such a great team. The Vocklers are the owners of Industrial Control Development (ICD), which is better known to most of the industry as the suppliers of the OPACI-COAT 300 spandrel material, among other items. Larry and Trish started their business 17 years ago and nurtured it through all of the hard times. According to Kris, “the first five years were very rough, we would be hoping for orders and producing them any way we could but my parents didn’t waver, they kept their vision and believed in it.”
The OPACI-COAT product has become a major staple in our industry and every day it gains more acceptance. Part of the success, Kris said, is her parents’ qualities. “My dad loves to get his hands dirty and find out the way things work. He is always innovating, always working on something new. My mom has this intense desire to make sure the customer is serviced and that he gets what he wants.”
Kris had no intention of getting into the glass business but with a chemistry degree in tow, she tried it and now lives it like the rest of us. I did ask Kris if her family dinners turned from pass the peas to why OPACI-COAT is better than frit and she commented, “We try not to talk business but we always end up doing that. Usually those conversations outside the walls of the company are the best talks, we end up strategizing and conversing about work. I enjoy those times.”
No doubt that the Vocklers’ focus and contribution to our industry should not go unnoticed. Without Larry’s innovative ways and Trish’s desire to make sure the customer was happy, the fabricators’ choices for spandrel would be extremely narrow and choices for the end user limited greatly.
As the owner of one of the Midwest’s largest glaziers, Mitch Shammas has used his superior work ethic and solid core values to ensure that his company is always viewed in a positive light. His company, Roseville, Mich.-based Modern Mirror and Glass, was founded by Mitch’s dad in 1945, managed by his mom after a while and then eventually by Mitch who worked there from the beginning. He now has his son, daughter and son-in-law with him as the business continues to prosper.
Sometimes when companies grow to the size that Modern is, unscrupulous behavior can sneak in. However, according to Mitch’s son, Matt, his dad’s honorable lifestyle would never allow it. “He is very principled, has a strong religious background and keeps his ethics high. He likes to do things the right way, even if it may not benefit us as a business financially. He always wants to do the right thing. He always emphasized honesty when we were younger and now I try to follow his lead.” Part of the reason that Mitch can take this angle is the fact, as Matt explains, that he can roll with any punches thrown. “He’s great at putting things in perspective and making you always focus on what’s important-let the little things slide and see the big picture.”
For those of us who deal with Mitch, Matt and everyone involved with his company we see the picture clearly. They do everything above board and with great care and class. Obviously they get their ideals from the top.
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