Volume 36, Number 3, March 2001



Spring Smiles

Spring is teasing us in Virginia right now. Yesterday she—and surely spring is an enchanting she—showed just enough of herself to get us interested, but not so much that we take her for granted. She appeared briefly in the form of 69-degree weather, but flitted away mysteriously, replaced by windy 30s in the dark of night.
Early spring always makes me smile a lot. You expect me to tell you it's the life-renewing-itself thing, right? But in reality, I like spring because it's warmer than winter, stays lighter later, and because everyone is still wearing loose-fitting jackets as opposed to form-fitting bathing suits.

Anyway, smiling at spring got me thinking about things that always make me smile without exception. I could come up with only three things. (Puppies almost made the list except puppies sometimes are doing things that no one smiles about.) My big three: stuffed animals, March 2 and the Silver Diner.
The stuffed animal affection is self-explanatory. I just like them (especially very furry bears—they are a rare joy), and they always elicit a grin and a momentary escape from whatever I am doing. But the date March 2 and the Silver Diner are related and a bit harder to understand, so I'll explain.

March 2 is the first day I started working in the glass industry. This year was my 20th anniversary doing so, as I started as an editorial assistant for another glass publication on March 2, 1981. These are the kinds of dates you remember that no one else really does or knows. What makes me smile is how I felt that first day. Besides being totally petrified as I began my first "real job" in the big downtown of Washington, D.C., I was totally ignorant of the subject matter and the glass industry.

During that day, I attended a half- day training session, after which I was given my first article to copyedit. Copyediting is more like advanced proofreading and now I was going to show the editor just what I could do by dazzling him with my first effort. And what did he give me to cut my teeth on? An article about curtainwall sealants.

Now, before this exact moment, I had never heard of a curtainwall sealant. I'd heard of curtains and walls but never together in the same word. And I'd seen them talk about sealants in denture ads, but this was the extent of my knowledge about this topic. But, heck, I was fearless. I was 22 and I needed the job. So I sharpened my blue pencil, and started reading. I'd like to say I learned all about failures and water leakage and deflection and the modulus (plural: moduli, got that right) of elasticity. And I did, too, until my head hit the desk when I fell asleep while trying to read the third page.
Luckily, the thud of my head hitting the metal of the desk woke me up ... and I remember thinking, "This is absolutely the most boring article I have ever read and I probably won’t last in this job more than a week." Of course, the fact that I was working in a glass office and everyone had seen me fall asleep mid-assignment made me think I’d be escorted out that very day (that actually took ten years).

So March 2 always makes me smile because it reminds me of how much longer than a week I’ve stayed in this crazy industry and how much I’ve learned and how much I enjoy it. I’ve learned that anything is interesting the more you learn about it, and that taking the time to understand curtainwall sealants, or any of a million glass-related topics, is really quite enlightening. The chance to learn a lot about the glass industry—and a lot about business and people—has been incredibly rewarding.

During the ensuing years, I’ve been fortunate enough to get the chance to start and run my own business publishing magazines for the glass industry. This is why the Silver Diner in Woodbridge, Va., always makes me smile—and it has nothing to do with the food.
Back in 1993, our fledgling company got the chance to purchase USGlass magazine. At the time, USGlass was in a steep decline and there were a lot of rumors that its demise was imminent. Instead, I was able to work with the suppliers and customers and to borrow more money than I thought anyone would ever lend to purchase the magazine.

The printer at the time would print no more issues until he was paid. As we didn’t own the magazine yet, but knew missing an issue would be catastrophic, I took a risk and paid that printer enough money to get the issue released to me. I then called a printer I had worked with in Virginia and asked them to print USGlass for the first time.

Our sales rep was a wonderful, soft-spoken gentleman named Mike Keefe, who went to bat for us. As a start-up company, we had no credit history and no real assets. But Mike convinced his company to give us a hearing. They agreed to print our March 1993 issue and we have been printing with them ever since that first day.

So it was then I met Mike midway between our respective offices in the very windy parking lot of the Silver Diner to hand him our first issue off to print.
Two years ago, due to the wonderful support of our customers, suppliers and staff, we made the last payment on the bank loan. Our company now publishes five regularly scheduled magazines including AGRR for the auto glass industry, Door & Window Maker for the fenestration market and Window Film magazine for the film industry.

This month also marks Mike Keefe’s retirement from our printing company after nearly 20 years of employment there. He was a credit to his company—and the image of him fighting the wind to take my first born issue of USGlass to be printed in a rainy parking lot will always make me smile when I pass the Silver Diner.
So as I enter my 21st year doing what I love, thanks to you who read it and to you our wonderful advertisers who support it and to the suppliers who have, in many ways, become partners. Our goal is to do the best job possible for you and thank you for the opportunity to serve.
Happy spring!

Debra Levy


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