PROFILE: A Clear Path
Small Business: Glaspro Inc., a designer and manufacturer of architectural glass, has set its sights on broadening its client base by acquiring a wider range of talent
By DANNY KING
The Green family has been in the architectural glass fabrication business for nearly 80 years and counts Pacific Design Center and Staples Center as among the local contemporary landmarks it has worked on.
Now, its Santa Fe Springs-based Glaspro Inc., which has a reputation for bent and tempered glass products from furniture to skylights is increasing its emphasis on specialized designs. It brought in Philip and Ursula Vourvoulis, a husband and wife team, to handle the more intricate work of custom decorative products that involve methods like silk-screening, sandblasting and film coating.
Glaspro bought a minority share of Vourvoulis’ company three years ago and upped the investment to a 71 percent ownership position last year. “We’re trying to create a diversified company,” said Joe Green, chief executive of Glaspro. “I’m very open to utilizing other people’s talents to do that.”
Glaspro handles larger institutional projects like the lobby partitions for Nadel Architects’ Westwood Center or the slanting concave windows jutting out of the northeast corner of Staples Center.
Meanwhile, the Vourvoulis-run Colorpro division, which will account for $1 million of Glaspro’s $8.2 million in revenues this year, handles more customized projects, like the lounge windows of Kor Group’s Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica, now under construction. The Viceroy’s 80, 130-by-54-inch custom window panels stretch across its first floor and feature circular patterns silk-screened by hand onto the panes.
“It reminds me of architecture from Miami in the 1960s,” said Greg Lebon, Kor’s assistant vice president of design and construction. “The job was competitively bid and they were the star.”
The marriage of Glaspro and Colorpro blossomed in “The Art of the Motorcycle” exhibit at the Guggenheim Las Vegas. While the Glaspro division worked on the 3,000-square-foot floor and panel job, its entr & #233;e to the project’s architect, Frank Gehry, was through Vourvoulis.
“My ear has always been to the ground, listening to architects and designers,” said Vourvoulis, who has worked in decorative glass for about 20 years. “Anywhere you can use glass, we now can make the connection.”
With the majority stake in Colorpro, Glaspro expects to grow its revenues by 17 percent this year. Less than half of that growth is expected from Colorpro.
The Greens started in the glass business in the 1920s, when Ray Green, Joe’s grandfather, founded Coast Glass in Hermosa Beach. In 1941, he started Wilmington-based California Glass Bending, where his son, Stan, and Joe got their starts.
In 1986, Stan and Joe left the family business (“It’s still a fairly heated topic,” said Joe), and took over the debt of the fledgling Glaspro, then based in Brea. An economic slowdown that continued into the mid-1990s kept Glaspro close to its core line of mirrors and tabletops. “That recession was just brutal,” said Joe Green.
Once the economy picked up, the company branched out into laminated and tempered glass products like windows and partitions.
In the face of competition from national giants like Viracon, an Owatonna, Minn.-based firm that does $300 million in glass fabrication alone, Glaspro starting going after the decorative market niche. This led to take an interest in Culver City-based Colorpro (which has since moved to Glaspro’s 75,000-square-foot plant).
Fine and grand
The plant reflects both the institutional and artistic sides of the business. Upstairs, small squares of silk-screened, hand-painted and corrugated glass adorn the walls of Colorpro’s small office. Downstairs, a huge loading dock opens into a plant filled with 15-foot-high barrel-shaped kilns used to bend glass and powerful pressing machines used to force air pockets from panels that contain two glass sheets bonded together.
Glaspro processes 2 million square feet of glass annually, selling a simple window pane for as little as 80 cents a square foot or a richly detailed decorative glass piece for as much as $150 a square foot.
Green acknowledges the difficulty of a small business serving a wide range of clients, but he’s philosophical about the challenge.
“If we were just a production company, you’d see stuff floating around here in a linear fashion,” said Green, pointing to the myriad glass-cutting machinery and glass-bending ovens at his plant. “And what fun would that be?”