Volume 39, Issue 9, September  2004

Family Affair
F. Barkow Inc. Celebrates 125 Yeas of Business
by David Jenkins

As America’s leading glass carrier manufacturer, Milwaukee-based F. Barkow can attribute at least part of its success to experience—125 years worth. Founded by Herman Barkow in 1879, F. Barkow began as a manufacturer of horse-drawn, commercial delivery wagons, and for the past five generations, the company has remained in the Barkow family. The company is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

“I feel privileged to own a company that has been around for so long,” said current owner John Weise, who purchased F. Barkow from his in-laws five years ago.

One senses Weise truly appreciates the heritage of F. Barkow—several years ago, he missed out on the opportunity to buy his own family’s company, Paul Weise Furniture, also located in Milwaukee.

“Interestingly enough, there’s a very good chance that F. Barkow sold horse drawn wagons to the Paul Weise Furniture Co. more than 100 years ago,” Weise said with a laugh.

Although F. Barkow only has approximately 20 employees, Weise views his company’s size as an advantage.
“We can quickly adapt to changes in the industry and respond to customers promptly. Every decision doesn’t have to go through a board of directors, since I’m the sole shareholder.”

Another key to F. Barkow’s lasting success has been specialization. By focusing on a specific niche of the glass industry, F. Barkow has managed to remain an effective company attuned to its customers’ needs.

“Limiting our product line to glass carriers was a conscious decision,” said Weise. “I’ve seen other companies diversify too broadly, and as a result, their product quality suffers. In contrast, F. Barkow’s focus is on the customer. By custom making all of our products, we can provide customers with the highest quality glass carriers in the business.”

As Weise explains, the quality of F. Barkow’s products has been the ultimate reason for the company’s success.

“The majority of glass dealers in the industry are small, mom-and-pop operations that may only own three or four vehicles. To these companies, it’s extremely important for their products to be transported safely and effectively.”

To this end, F. Barkow has introduced a number of carrier innovations over the years to ensure its customers’ glass remains safe and secure during transportation.

“One of F. Barkow’s biggest innovations was our patented STAKE-LOC™ self-locking stakes, which feature spring-loaded tips on the bottom of the stakes to ensure they can’t come out by themselves.”

According to Weise, F. Barkow has no plans to expand its product line into non-carrier areas or adopt assembly-line construction techniques. Instead, the company plans to remain true to the techniques and values that made it successful in the first place. Weise hopes this includes F. Barkow remaining in the family for generations to come, although it’s too early to tell if any of his three young daughters (ages six, four and two) will enter the family business.

Weise stresses that humility and providing a needed product will ensure the company’s future success. “No one in the company’s history became really wealthy, so our motivation remains in the right place—supplying customers with the best, most cost-effective products on the market. Glass will always be a popular construction material, so there will always be a demand for its safe transportation.”

F.Barkow Inc. Celebrates 125 Years During GEMS 2004
One hundred and twenty-five years in business can certainly be considered a milestone. F. Barkow Inc. is one company celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, and to do so the company is planning a number of special events to take place as part of Glass Expo Midwest 2004™ (GEMS). GEMS, which is co-sponsored by eight regional glass associations and USGlass magazine, will take place October 14-15 at the Four Points by Sheraton Milwaukee Airport in Milwaukee.

To get the celebration and GEMS underway, F. Barkow will be hosting the F. Barkow Café on the show floor the evening of Thursday, October 14, from 4 – 6 p.m.

In addition, F. Barkow is offering GEMS attendees the opportunity to tour its plant. The tour will take place Friday, October 15. Transportation will depart from the show registration area at 7:50 a.m. and will return to the hotel by 10 a.m. Each attendee will receive a raffle ticket and the chance to win one of three prizes:
Grand Prize: Barkow Model 609H-A Cargo Van Glass Carrier (driver side exterior), a $1,710 value;
First Runner Up: Set of Barkow Stake-Loc™ Stakes, a $250 value; and
Second Runner Up: Set of Barkow 10-foot Load Holding Straps, a $120 value.
To register for GEMS 2004 and the F. Barkow tour visit www.glass.com/gems.asp or call Pam Marth at 540/720-5584 ext. 0. 


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