Volume 50, Issue 8 - August 2015
Analysis: 50 Years of Family Business
All in the Family: Longstanding Industry Businesses Span Generations
One doesn’t have to study the glass and glazing industry very long to recognize that it is very, very family oriented.
New York City-based contract glazier David Shuldiner is a prime example of how “family” is ingrained in the glass and glazing industry. This fifth-generation business stresses the importance of ensuring the employees feel they’re part of the family.
NYC Glazier Meets Tradition with Modernity
“This has always been a family business.”
Those are pretty meaningful words for a company that has been around for a long time. For Brian Land, CEO of New York-based contract glazier David Shuldiner, the meaning stretches across a whole century and well into another.
Land is the fifth generation of the company, having taken the reins from his father and uncle in 2013.
David Shuldiner founded Shuldiner Glass in 1888 and passed it on to his son, Charles, a decade later. Charles was just 20 years old at the time, but he was in it for the long haul.
He ran the business all the way into the late 1970s before handing it over to his son David and son-in-law Leonard Land. The pair ran the company for another decade and then passed it on to Leonard’s sons, Brian’s father David and uncle Richard.
Brian Land attributes the company’s success to “the quality of our workforce and the longevity of our workforce.” He adds, “We have people with us who are second- and third-generation employees, whose fathers and grandfathers worked for us out in the field.”
Over the years, Land’s predecessors built a strong reputation with building owners and contractors, something Land was proud to inherit. The maintenance aspect of the business, for example, is a valuable one Land continues to carry on.
“We’ve been very, very fortunate over our history on the building-maintenance side,” says Land. “There are buildings going back 40-50 years that we worked on originally that we’ve maintained ever since they were built. We have a long list of those clients.”
While striving to maintain the tried-and-true standards passed to him from his father, uncle and previous generations, Land has taken a fresh approach to the business since taking over in 2013. In just the last two years, he has helped it grow from an $11 million business to more than $30 million, with the size of its office staff tripling, and its field numbers more than quadrupling. The company now has about 70 employees.
And for the first time since its founding, David Shuldiner recently added an outside equity shareholder in John Toohey, an employee who started with the company 27 years ago—literally pushing a broom.
“I like to think we had the cleanest floors in Brooklyn back then,” says Toohey, who worked in the shop for a number of years before moving to project management and project executive positions. He’s now the company’s chief operating officer and is a new minority shareholder.
“We’re changing the culture here,” he adds. “We’re growing the company, bringing in young talent, and Brian wants them to know that even though this is a family business, all things are possible with hard work.”
David Shuldiner’s recent work is well documented: the Apple Cube store, the TKTS Red Stairs in Times Square, and the Madison Square Garden Transformation, among many others.
But the company is striving for more moving forward, and Land felt the best way to position it for long-term success was to make Toohey part of the family—officially.
“I like to think that we’ve created a culture here where people can grow, succeed and know there is opportunity down the road if you really want it,” says Land. “And we can use John as a model for that.”
Bacon & Van Buskirk’s history spans back to the 1920s and ‘30s. Among many other capabilities, its offerings now include the manufacturing of custom architectural muntins, which were applied at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Grayslake, Ill., for a project it worked on with Waukegan Gurnee Glass.
Bring Home the Bacon
(& Van Buskirk)
“We’re very much like thousands of other businesses in the glass industry,” says Rod Van Buskirk, president of the near-century-old glazing company Bacon & Van Buskirk.
Rod represents the third generation of his company—it was started by his grandfather, Verne, when Verne purchased the glass department from T.M. Bacon & Sons Paint & Glass in Champaign, Ill., in 1937.
But the history of the business dates back even further, as T.M. Bacon—the then-local store for paint, wallpaper and glass—was founded in the late 1800s.
Ten years before Verne Van Buskirk started his company, he worked for T.M. Bacon. And in 1947, 10 years after he purchased the glass department, he incorporated with Noah Bacon, a son of T.M. Bacon.
In 1952, Verne’s son, Roy, joined the business after graduating from the University of Illinois.
Rod says his father “took the business to another level, particularly on the commercial side,” and in 1954, the company formed its now longstanding relationship with Kawneer Co. Also in the ‘50s, Bacon & Van Buskirk became the first wholesale distributor of both PPG and LOF glass in America, according to the company.
Bacon & Van Buskirk phased out its paint sales in the 1960s and ‘70s and added branch locations, continuing on the path of “a small paint and glass store that grows over the years and becomes more commercially oriented,” says Rod.
Rod graduated from the University of Colorado-Boulder and joined the company in 1977, and in the next decade, Roy was elected to president and chairman of two different trade associations. Rod also served in the two glass associations after purchasing the company from his father in 1997.
Today, the largest percentage of the “full-service” glass company’s business is as a traditional contract glazier, installing storefront and curtainwall. However, Rod decided to get back into the residential door and window sector in the 2000s, something his father veered away from the decade before.
Bacon & Van Buskirk has locations in Champaign, Springfield and Danville, Ill.
—Nick St. Denis
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