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© 2018 Copyright Key Media and Research All rights reserved. 
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.

42
Decorative Glass and the Free Market
Segment’s Growth Shows How Risk-Takers Can Reap Rewards
BY DENNIS BERRY
I
t’s been more than 20 years since
I was actively engaged in the day-
to-day marketing of doors and
windows in either the wholesale or
retail channel. The segments of the
millwork industry I have remained
involved in do, however, allow me to
stay somewhat up to speed on at least
some of the changes that have hap
-
pened along the way.
The Early Days
We all tend to view history in the
context of our own lifetimes. When
I think about the term decorative
glass” in our industry, my mind goes
back to the late 1970s and through
the mid-1990s. This is when the con
-
cept of highly decorative glass for a
residential door was evolving. Prior to
that, a door with stained and leaded
glass was largely limited to perhaps
churches and the homes of the rich
and famous. Suffice it to say, there was
no generally affordable alternative for
the average homeowner.
Even as that began to change in the
‘70s and ‘80s, the trend toward dec
-
orative glass being made affordable
took more than a decade to evolve.
It was the rapid expansion of the
steel door industry in the late 1970s
and the corresponding doorlite inserts
that triggered the creation of decora
-
tive glass inserts. Although still beyond
the reach of the average homeowner,
these early versions were nonetheless
much more of a realistic possibility
for an upper-middle-class household.
They could get a somewhat realis
-
tic-looking leaded glass steel door in
the neighborhood of $750-$1,000. That
was in 1970s dollars!
Fast-forward to the 1990s. By that
time, the use of decorative glass with
leaded and brass caming had grown to
the point where big-box retailers were
routinely stocking and selling the same
steel entry door with real leaded or
brass glass, often for less than $300. In
some cases, for less than $200.
What drove the savings? Well,
theres no getting around the fact that
offshore sourcing of product had a
significant impact, but there was more
to it than that. As is almost always the
case, the driver of lower-cost options
generally relates to events that take
place over time. It involves entrepre
-
neurs who see a potential demand—
in this case, homeowners who would
purchase high-end glass for a door if
it were available at a price they could
afford. At first, the offering was lim
-
ited and still too expensive for most,
but affordable for a new segment of
customers.
New Demand
That new demand sent those busi-
nesses seeking even lower cost to
attract an even larger customer base.
The increase in investment, which
carried significant risk, ultimately
enabled the mass production of dec
-
orative glass at lower and lower costs.
As long as you didnt mind that
there were going to be other homes in
your community with the same deco
-
rative entry door as yours, you could
buy that door for a fraction of what
it would have cost a few years earlier.
Although there may arguably be some
quality differences to the expert eye,
most consumers would not recognize
them and would certainly not be will
-
ing to pay the differential in cost.
That story is repeated every day
in America, with new products and
services promising to make our lives
better. Not all of them work out. In
fact, the majority dont. We dont hear
too much about the many risk-taking
entrepreneurs who invest their life
savings and all of their energy into
ideas that ultimately fail.
Despite the many failures, the
risk-takers keep coming. Those who
succeed make our lives better with
their products. For themselves, it like
-
ly results in a comfortable living —and
in a few cases, a significant fortune.
That’s what makes free enterprise
so great. When you release the spirit
of entrepreneurial, risk-taking indi
-
viduals and allow them the freedom to
succeed or fail and hold onto the fruits
of their successes, you foster innova
-
tion and a better way of life for all.
One further observation: in the
story about how decorative glass
became so affordable, it’s important
to note that had it not been for those
early adopters who wanted the prod
-
uct and had the income necessary to
pay $1,000 or more for a front door
in the 1970s, there would likely not
have been a path that resulted in mass
production that ultimately led to that
$1,000 door becoming a $300 door
more than 15 years later.
Its helpful sometimes to be
reminded of this basic free-market
economic principle. In a time when
demagoguery in the political arena
suggests that profit is somehow an
evil thing, we should instead turn that
around and point to the multitude of
products that have changed our lives
for the better.
Remember this: when you make
profit a bad word and suppress the
ability of the individual to better his or
her life, you end up with car factories
that produce Yugos.
y
Dennis Berry is the first vice president of
the World Millwork Alliance.
W M A H E A D L I N E S
berryd@empireco.com
Door & Window Market www.dwmmag.com

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© 2018 Copyright Key Media and Research All rights reserved. 
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.