Bally Design, Kopp Glass form joint venture

Bally Design, a 31-year-old product development and industrial design firm, has formed a 50-50 joint venture with Kopp Glass, the Swissvale-based industrial glassmaker.

They expect to spin out K Glasswork later this year. The new company, which they are in the process of incorporating, is aimed at consumer markets. It is based in Bally's offices with Bally CEO Frank Garrity serving as K Glasswork president.

At present, K Glasswork borrows staff from both Kopp and Bally. Mr. Garrity said additional employees will be hired "as it ramps up" but wouldn't speculate on when that may occur.

"We probably need one person right now, and if the orders come in, we might add two or three representatives and maybe some people to fill orders," he said. Nor would Kopp or Bally reveal sales expectations.

K Glasswork creates something — decorative bowls and candleholders sold in gift shops — from former waste material.

"We call it reclaimed industrial glass. It's not really recycled, but it's glass that would have been thrown away and we've found a new use for it," said Mr. Garrity.

The young company is represented by New York City-based Art Objects, which displayed K Glasswork wares at massive gift shows in Los Angeles and New York last month and will attend the upcoming San Francisco Gift Show. These shows draw international retailers ranging from boutiques and chains to hoteliers and restaurateurs, who place orders with the manufacturers' representatives.

Susan Kammerer, Kopp's manager of marketing and business development, said her company approached Bally more than a year ago about coming up with new uses for leftover glass. Kopp, established in 1926, manufactures industrial signal glass for traffic, railroad and even jet lights.

"Our glass is handpressed, but we have to meet such tight industry specifications that we can't use all the glass we make," she said. "So we would throw away or recycle the glass."

She said Bally's original suggestions "weren't the correct fit" but that the design company reapproached Kopp last fall with the idea of finding commercial uses for this scrap glass, repackaging it as bowls, decorative containers and candleholders.

Some items were tested in November and December at a handful of sites including E House, the South Side retailer of environmentally correct products, and the museum gift shop of the Sen. John Heinz History Center, Strip District. Prices for individual items range from $12 to $30. Kopp and Bally wouldn't divulge results, but they were encouraging enough that the partners decided to create and grow a new company.

"I'm hoping it's going to be the next pet rock," said Ms. Kammerer.

600450 Bally Design, Kopp Glass form joint venture
Date: 24 February 2003
Source: Pittsburgh Bizjournals

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