Volume 35, Number 7, July 2000


a message from the publisher

A Return to Vaudeville


Remember the old vaudeville gag (and no you don’t have to be old enough to remember vaudeville to remember the gag) where the magician pulls the tablecloth off the table so quickly that everything appears to stay on the table? It’s quite a feat to be able to make such a basic change to the composition of the tabletop while keeping the appearance of everything the same. It’s a gag I’ve seen over and over again. They used to do it on I Love Lucy at least once a season (and no you don’t have to be old enough to remember I Love Lucy, just the reruns). It’s even in one of the recent videos on MTV (and yes I am trying to prove I am not old enough to remember vaudeville by mentioning MTV). Anyway, what always gets me is the way the audience gasps. It’s almost as if they miss a collective breath and then let out a loud huff. Of course, we always see the successful attempts in reruns, so the audience then breaks into loud applause for the trickster who has pulled off a seemingly impossible task.

The way businesses change can be like this too. They can make change slowly and with lots of deliberation—in a way akin to taking everything off the table one piece by one piece, removing the cloth, then painstakingly replacing everything on the table right where it was before. Or they may just pull the tablecloth out from under the dishes. Some changes, especially family succession, take years and are accomplished slowly. To the audience—the suppliers, the customers, the employees—change sometimes seem to have pulled the tablecloth out from underneath. But the message is always the same: everything is in its place on the table. Business continues as usual.

Pilkington (sans the LOF now) takes over Visteon, PPG takes control of Apogee Enterprises’ Glass Depot and forms a new joint venture. Safelite files for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code. And as recently as I write this today, July 11, Viracon/Curvlite Inc. has announced that it will no longer supply aftermarket auto glass to any company but PPG.

“While Viracon/Curvlite is not a part of this joint venture, our ongoing and future business structure will be impacted by the formation of PPG Auto Glass LLC,” wrote Robert C. Jungbluth, vice president and general manager of Viracon/Curvlite, Inc., in a memo to distributors. “We will continue to produce RV/bus windshields for the OEM market; however the majority of our current ARG manufacturing capacity will be dedicated to PPG. As a result, we will no longer be able to supply the aftermarket with automotive replacement glass and will be discontinuing our AutoGlass Express deliveries prior to the end of this month,” the letter continued.

Jungbluth asked that customers be assured that this decision was not made without careful consideration. Viracon is a fine company and there is no reason to doubt this. But this news, as with much other news these last six weeks, still comes before us—the audience—like a tablecloth being pulled off a table before our eyes. And because of this, we must gasp and be assured that everything is in its place before we’ll hear any applause begin.

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Copyright 2000 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.