Volume 34, Number 2, February 1999


The Perfect Potion?

Balancing Work and Love in the Glass Industry

by Helen B. Price

You wake up together every morning, travel to separate workplaces, then return home to discuss the events of the day. At least, that’s the story for many families today. But, what about the husbands and wives who work together? What happens when you spend all day at the glass shop, then come home together as well? Do you tire of spending so much time together? Many couples say that although this scenario does pose challenges, there are ways to deal with these difficulties and still maintain a happy relationship.

Industry Pairings–a Help or Hindrance?

While all this togetherness is certainly wonderful, can there be such as thing as too much togetherness? Sharon Tankel of Hub Glass Services in Sommerville, MA (see box this page), believes both partners working in the same industry can be both a help and a hindrance. "In the beginning, it was a big help. Right away, we had a lot in common. We could compare notes on the industry and we had a lot to talk about," she said. "But later on, it’s not so good if you go home and keep on talking about work. Of course, it’s good to bounce work-related issues off each other, but there are other things in life."

In 1996, one of those "other things" became baby Samuel Joseph—and that gave the couple a whole lot more to talk about. "It’s hard to leave work at the office, but we have learned to make a conscious effort to cut it short and think about other things," said Sharon.

Today, Richard Tankel continues to work as manager at Lo-Can Glass, handling worldwide sales and distribution. The company has moved to nearby Woburn, MA. At Hub Glass Services, Sharon is still working in sales "and a little bit of everything else, as we do in a family business," she said. Richard also said their companies occasionally do business with each other, a fact that he says is a bit unique in this competitive industry.

Ed Fennell of Bartlestone Glass in the Bronx, NY(see box page 39), agrees that sharing the same industry with his wife Anne is a plus. "Working in the same industry makes it a lot easier to understand each other," he said. "I found it a big help," said Anne Fennell. "It makes it easy to discuss things that come up every day. We both have a knowledge of what’s going on in the other’s life, so we understand each other better."

Jerry Moser of Commercial Glass Co. in Bladensburg, MD (see box page 40), believes being in the same industry has been much more of a help to himself and his wife Pam over the years. Today Jerry is the executive vice president of Architectural Facades Inc., headquartered in Frazer, PA, and Pam serves as product manager at Laminated Glass Corp. in Telford, PA. "We both gain from our conversations. She comes to issues from the supplier’s standpoint, and I come to them from the sub-contractor’s standpoint," said Jerry. Pam listens to him objectively and has even changed his views on certain issues.

Not only was Pam in the same industry as Jerry, so were many members of her family. Her mother was the sales service manager at Falconer Glass, and her father, one aunt, an uncle and two cousins also worked in the industry. "I had an instant rapport with my in-laws—something most new husbands don’t have," Jerry said.

Pam said being in the same industry allows her to relate to what Jerry does and he can relate to her. "We can offer solutions to each other’s problems. But we are both strong personalities. We listen to each other, but then each of us knows what we have to do, so we still make our own decisions independently," she said.

While Pam and Jerry said working in the same industry has been helpful to their relationship, they realize that it has also posed some challenges.

"Here was Pam, a sales rep, dating the person doing the purchasing. We worried that people would see that as a conflict of interests," said Jerry.

Also, Jerry pointed out that "one of the drawbacks to both being in the same industry is that our businesses may boom at the same time, and then we both are working longer hours simultaneously." And of course, if business is bad for one, it’s going to be bad for the other, and that can impact the family finances.

For Patty and Jack Reardon of Clearview Glass in North Hollywood, CA, who worked together every day, different challenges were presented. In 1973, the Reardons bought Clearview Glass Inc. in North Hollywood, a glass shop that Jack had formerly called on to do business. He found it quite different being on the other side of the counter, but says his experience in sales was invaluable in guiding his hand, and Patty’s, in the new venture. Today, Jack is the owner/operator and Patty serves as vice president. "But I don’t spend much time there now," said Patty. She goes in about twice a year when everybody else has to be out of the building, answers the phones, and handles anything else that needs to be done.

In the beginning, Patty worked as the company’s receptionist and kept the books. "But then we decided working that closely together was probably not the healthiest structure for our relationship. So, I went home to raise the kids," she said.

Working on the Same Turf

As with the Reardons, other couples have found that, while being in the same industry is a plus, being in the same place all day, every day, is not. The Fennells said the dynamics can change when both work for the same company. "In 1985, about three years after we were married, I went to work for Bartelstone still in sales," said Anne. "Then, about a year later, Ed joined Bartelstone as the general manager."

Suddenly, Ed was in control from nine-to-five—he was definitely ‘the boss.’ To make matters worse, there were many long-time employees at the company who were not in favor of numerous changes Ed was making. But they couldn’t complain to the boss, so guess where they took their complaints?—to the boss’s wife. "It was just too much stress," Anne said. "It went on for about eight months and then Ed fired me, and I said, ‘I quit!’"

"Sometimes it can really be hard when both work at the same company," said Ed. They both realized that, at the end of the day, they were bringing the office home with them. "We talked about it for a long time, and in the end we both agreed that things would work better if Anne left the company," he said. She stayed home for a few months and then went to work for an optical company.

Shortly after their marriage, Ken and Sally Custer (see box this page) also found out what it was like to work in the same location. Ken was hired by an architectural glass company to set up an auto glass division at Glass Masters in Blaine, MN. The company quickly opened three additional branches and Ken hired Sally to handle the administrative aspects of the new division and to be the customer service representative (CSR).

"It was awful," said Sally. Having left a glass association, she was thrown into a new state, with a new business, a new boss, a new marriage, and the exciting but unfamiliar world of becoming stepmom to Ken’s then-13-year-old daughter—a totally new world for her at every level. The job lasted about two weeks.

"We were like two bulls in a pen, and I quit," said Sally. But then Ken gave her a map book and suggested, "why don’t you try sales?" But that didn’t work either. Eventually, Sally became the office manager at another location and the two settled into their new life.

As luck would have it, developments in the auto insurance industry began to seriously impact the business and Glass Masters eventually had to close its auto glass division. Ken and Sally opened their own business, Glass Plus in Mound, MN, where Ken serves as president and Sally is the vice president.

But again, working together in the same location was difficult. "We both are pistols, we’re both leaders, neither is a follower, and we’re both strong-willed and opinionated," said Sally. While they both respect each other, it became very hard for the couple to work together on a day-to-day basis. She realized that he was, unintentionally, becoming harder on her than other employees, asking them politely to do things while seeming to order Sally to do certain tasks.

Eventually Sally went to work for the Independent Glass Association (IGA) in Spring Park, MN, and today serves as the executive director of IGA. However, she still keeps the books for their family business.

Leaving Work at the Office

If both spouses work in the same industry, what do they talk about at the end of the day? Does work still go on over the dinner table, or do couples switch gears and talk of other things? Or does it really matter?

Yes it matters, according to the Mosers. But Jerry said, "It’s no different for us than any other couple. I think you are either a person who can put aside the cares of the day, or you can’t. It makes no difference that we are in the same industry. If there was a recession, or something bad going on in the industry, it would be difficult—some days you can leave it, and some days you can’t. But we try."

Pam believes that "Jerry needs to do more venting that I do, although I have my days. But it has been easier for me since our son was born. I don’t want anything to interfere with that relationship." When she comes home, she is totally focused on being a mother, "and that helps me leave the office behind."

Although the Tankels no longer work together every day, "We still discuss industry issues after work," said Sharon. "We tell each other what happened during the day, and ask each other ‘what would you do?’ We hear each other out, but then we each go our own way and do what we need to do in our own companies."

While Anne Fennell is no longer working in the glass industry, Ed said "She still stays involved. She keeps up with what’s going on in the industry and goes with me to glass shows and other functions," he said proudly. They both agree that, while working in the same industry is extremely beneficial to the relationship, working at the same company definitely is not.

After she left North Hollywood Glass Distributors, Patty Reardon never went back to work full time in the industry, but she says that the time she spent there gave her a solid understanding of the glass business. Jack said he can talk to her about work and she understands what is going on. "She goes to glass industry conventions and meetings and she can talk intelligently to suppliers if we go out to dinner with them," Jack said. And, of course, she goes in as needed to help out at their business.

Despite the challenges and difficulties, these couples are weathering the unique challenges of working together amid plate glass, auto glass, decorative glass, mirrors and mastic.

Sharon and Richard Tankel

Sharon and Richard Tankel had to travel all the way from Massachusetts to New York City to meet each other. Both were working in family businesses in Somerville, MA. Sharon was working at Hub Glass Services, Inc., which was founded by her grandfather in the 1930s, and Richard at Lo-Can Glass International, which was founded by his father, in 1953. Parents, kids and siblings worked at both companies as well.

Richard was planning to attend a glass show in New York in 1986. "As it turned out, Richard’s grandmother knew my grandmother when they were teenagers," said Sharon, "and a cousin said to Richard’s mother, ‘when you get to the glass show, look for Frances (Sharon’s mother) and her daughter. I know they are going to be there.’"

The families did find each other, and Sharon met Richard at the show’s dinner dance that weekend. "We had to go all the way to New York to meet each other, but all the time we were working right down the street from each other," Sharon recalls, adding that the two liked each other from the beginning.

The romance progressed slowly, as Sharon and Richard began meeting for lunch now and then. That went on for a few months and then they began dating more seriously. The pair was married on September 16, 1989.

Patty and Jack Reardon

Jack Reardon met Patty Cooper in the summer of 1964. Jack was an inside salesperson at North Hollywood Glass Distributors in North Hollywood, CA, while Patty worked there as a switchboard operator.

"One of the reasons it took us so long to start dating was that, although I was very much attracted to Patty, I worried about what would happen if things didn’t work out." He was concerned that, if things fell apart, it might be difficult to go to work every day and see that other person.

"I often wished he would ask me out," said Patty. "But, in those days, women didn’t ask men for dates." But then Patty left the company to work for the Screen Actors Guild. "I found I was really missing her, and I thought I’d better check it out," Jack said. The two dated for the next year and a half, became engaged for another year and married on September 21, 1968.

Anne and Ed Fennell

Ed and Anne Fennell met each other while in New York. Anne was working as a sales representative for Diamond Auto Glass in Brentwood, NY, and Ed was a rep for Amilite Corporation in Garden City, NY. "Ed sold glass products to my boss, Ira Turner," Anne said, "and Ira really was responsible for our courtship. He kept encouraging me to go out with Ed." But, she remembers that she kept saying "no," because she was intimidated by Ed.

Ed recalls, "I think Anne was a little frightened of change. She did most of her work over the phone and I was traveling all over the world. I think she found that a little intimidating."

But then one day, Anne needed an escort to attend a glass industry dinner. Again, Ira Turner encouraged her to invite Ed, and this time she did. "That was the start of it. I found out I didn’t need to be intimidated—he really was a big teddy bear," she said. Both Ed and Anne agree it was "love at first sight" during that first date. They were married in 1982.

Sally and Ken Custer

Sally Smith and Ken Custer were two strong, independent, single-again people, making their way through life with no thought of finding romance. Sally was the educational coordinator at a glass association in Virginia and Ken was the manager of Glass Service in Minneapolis, MN and also a part-time auto glass installation instructor.

Sally first met Ken when he taught a seminar sponsored by Sally’s association. It was Sally’s task to pick Ken up at the airport. But, Sally says, Ken was at a rough place in his life at that time, and they just talked a little, but didn’t spend any time together; they were just friends. "After that, I didn’t talk to him for about a year," said Sally.

Then one day, the West Virginia Department of Education contacted Sally and asked if she could find someone to teach a seminar on auto glass installation. She remembered Ken and she asked him to teach the seminar. He said "yes," and came to town to conduct another seminar. This time, they went to dinner and took a long walk. That was in July. The following March—March 24, 1990 to be exact—just eight months later, they were married.The couple even cut their wedding cake with the Equalizer, sent to them by its creator, Ray Asbery.

Pam and Jerry Moser

In 1987, Jerry Moser met Pam Gane. She was an architectural sales representative for Falconer Glass Industries in Falconer, NY, serving as the area rep for the Virginia, Maryland and District of Columbia area. Jerry headed up the contract department at Commercial Glass Co. in Bladensburg, MD.

In their respective capacities, Pam and Jerry sometimes worked together on glass industry projects. They had their first date in March of 1988 and, from then on, the romance bloomed. Pam and Jerry were married on July 2, 1989—"aboard a 70-foot sailboat, in the Gulf of Mexico, at sunset."

Their wedding party consisted of the two of them, the minister, and the ship’s crew. That, and 70-feet of space on the water to play and honeymoon. They cruised the Gulf of Mexico for a few hours, followed by a romantic dinner for two, as they began their life together.

Helen Price is special projects editor for USGlass magazine.


Copyright 1999 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.