The company had recently expanded into Canada and in 1920, as international trade began to settle again after the Great War, Reginald was sent to Montreal to sell Pilkington's glass for them.Two generations later, Reginald's grandson Lee is still in Canada and still in the glass industry - but now he's buying Pilkington brand glass, not selling it.Lee is Managing Director of Walker Glass, North America's only fully integrated manufacturer of mirrors and acid-etched glass.The company was first acquired by Reginald and his son Gerald - Lee's father - in 1951, as an artisanal mirror manufacturer, but today it has grown into North America's market leader in decorative glass substrates, supplying projects as diverse as exterior glazing for universities and hospitals or interior panels for restaurants, museums and airport terminals.
The two companies' histories have been intertwined over the years. When the Harrison family bought Walker Glass it was using a manual silvering process to produce hand-crafted mirrors. In partnership with one of the company's technical experts, Frank Horvath, the Harrisons designed and built a semi-automatic silvering conveyor, giving themselves an instant competitive edge.
In 1960, after Reginald had retired, Gerald built a new factory with state-of-the-art silvering and beveling equipment. In the 70s and 80s, Walker Glass rapidly increased its market share, acquiring the assets of other, smaller manufacturers and introducing new technologies and products. Acid etching was introduced in 2002 and capacity was quadrupled only five years later.
The relationship with Pilkington was re-established in the 1970s, when the UK company began float manufacture in Canada. "We had plants in Toronto and Montreal and Pilkington was manufacturing in Toronto so we bought from them and established a strong relationship," said Lee.
When Pilkington sold that operation to Ford, Walker became a Libbey-Owens-Ford (LOF) customer. Then when Pilkington acquired LOF's glass business in 1986, Walker continued to buy from the company.
"We had always been a loyal LOF customer and we are now a loyal Pilkington North America, Inc. customer.”