Stained Glass Express has always taken pride in never being out of stock on any glass. We would have at least one sheet cut up and out on the retail floor, ready for you to carry out, and another full sheet in the warehouse. As soon as the full sheet in the warehouse went to the retail floor, we ordered another one.
Unfortunately, it’s no longer that simple.
Since Spectrum (announced May 2016) and Uroboros (announced October 2016) closed, not only has some glass been scarce or not available at all, the dynamics of buying glass is different. Both companies’ assets were sold to Oceanside Glass and Tile.
Oceanside certainly has had its challenges. It moved the assets, constructed buildings and trained workers. As the distributors’ warehouses emptied their stock of Spectrum and Uroboros, we felt the need to find glass. It was a year from the time Spectrum announced its closing that we knew that Oceanside would begin production. In the meantime, this is what we did:
- We bought one year’s supply of cabinet glass in advance. We sell a lot of cabinet glass, most of it to one customer. We bought one year’s supply in advance, hoping the dust would settle by then and we would not be cutting and putting together hundreds of new sample sets for this customer. We called it right on that one. We made it through the year, and we are still using the same sample sets. Below is our top selling cabinet glass, Clear Seedy.
- We brought in two new lines of fusible glass. First, we brought in Wissmach’s 96 line. That meant rearranging some display area to make room for a new line of glass. We still had a lot of the old System 96, but as we ran out of some colors, we needed to be ready. Then we brought in Youghiogheny 96, later to become the Northeast distributor for Youghiogheny and increasing that line.
- We increased our offering of Bullseye compatible glass. We like to think of this as 90 COE, but Bullseye just calls it “Bullseye compatible.” We have had more customers switch over to Bullseye to avoid the turmoil. There is no question the glass is beautiful.
Then Oceanside announced that most of the line that previously was nonfusible would become fusible. Wow! That involved us changing around the entire showroom. Our big wall of nonfusible cubbies would become fusible because that change meant most of our glass would be fusible. What a delight this change has been for fusers, who now have many more options.
All these changes for Spectrum/Oceanside meant a rocky supply chain. Clear glass was manufactured and then it switched to color. Before it went back to clears, they became scarce.
It also meant a lot of changing around the showroom and trying to keep items so you could find what you wanted (if we were lucky enough to have it). We arranged our glass so that the nonfusible glass was kept separate from the fusible. For a time, we might have had two pieces of glass that looked identical, but one was fusible and one was not.
At this point, there are colors that are manufactured twice a year. We can only hope that our distributors call it correctly and have enough to get us to the next run. They have not even manufactured all the colors yet!
Iridized glass has all but disappeared. Kokomo’s iridizing machine was shut down during the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s investigations in 2016. It got plugged up when it was turned off and they have not gotten it running again. Oceanside does not have the ability to iridize yet. Once in a while, we get some Wissmach, but it is scarce.
We brought in two new lines, which was a big investment. Then Oceanside started being manufactured, and we wanted to grab glass from that line as it became available. We had to make big decisions about how much to buy. We all have limited resources and even though we might want to spent every available dollar on glass (we know you understand THAT) we also have to meet payroll, pay utilities, put paper in the copy machine and all those other things you just hate to think about.
Even planning a sale is different. I now start gathering up enough glass to have it on sale three months ahead. I might have to buy from three different distributors and I generally try not to buy glass more than twice a month. That means there is extra glass sitting here, waiting for a sale that is two to three months out — or more. That means less money for routine orders. However, we now know we’d better buy glass when it becomes available.
We are being diligent about continuing to do so, and we are trying to keep the website updated with these changes. On those days when customers don’t seem to realize there have been shutdowns, we feel we should pat ourselves on the back — because that means we have kept enough glass in stock so that vast gaps are not as obvious to you, the customer. There are other days when we don’t know how we are going to, for instance, run a sunflower class because we don’t have enough yellow glass. But we sigh, roll up our sleeves and find a way to make it happen.
Despite all the current difficulties, we are lucky to be in an industry that surrounds us with so much beauty, fun and healing power.