East Rochester company puts glass in class by itself

Date: 20 December 2004

When Frontier Glass got its start in 1998, the company had a steady business performing glass installations for businesses.In 2004, the company added a new twist to its repertoire.

It now performs custom glasswork on everything from shower stalls to staircases and floors for residential customers.

Founded by two industry veterans, Ken Sheedy and Frank Sapienza III, Frontier was originally satisfied doing strictly commercial work. But over time, the two were intrigued by some of the residential work they started to see outside Rochester and thought there could be a market here.

They added the shower design business this year, forming Shower Designs Inc. as part of Frontier Glass. Their client base now stretches from Rochester to the Pennsylvania border, Sheedy said.

And their work stretches the notions of how glass can be used. Among other features, they've installed glass flooring, staircases, showers, cabinets and countertops.

They've added a product line that can laminate items such as wood or rice paper inside several sheets of glass. Frontier recently installed a bathroom that consists of four glass walls.

"I always feared the residential market," Sheedy said. "But now we're doing stuff that blows my mind every day."

Sapienza and Sheedy attribute the surge in business to the increased exposure that unique design ideas get through the media.

"I think HGTV (Home and Garden Television network) has something to do with it," Sapienza said.

The national market is growing, too.

The Bath Enclosure Manufacturer's Association, a Topeka, Kan., industry group (which counts Frontier Glass among its members), says the industry booked about $500 million in sales in 2003 and top that in 2004.

It's been a busy year for Frontier. The company acquired Monroe Glass on Oct. 1 and the same day moved its operations from Rochester to 160 Despatch Drive, East Rochester.

The company plans to open a 500-square-foot showroom early next year, Sapienza said. Currently, Frontier has nine employees and could add as many as six next year, he said.

Margaret Gorniak of Irondequoit hired Frontier Glass to renovate her bathroom. Sheedy designed a massive circular shower door that will pivot from the top and bottom, instead of sliding along a rail.

"It's going to be something that's creative and unique," said Gorniak, the owner of the Polska Chata deli in Irondequoit. "I didn't want an ordinary shower."

Gorniak said she picked Frontier Glass out of the phone book but quickly found the company very easy to work with.

"Ken presented some great ideas and was very willing to talk things out," she said.

Frontier worked with Guardian Glass of Geneva to make the glass for Gorniak's shower. The piece is currently being built in the Midwest and will be installed in a few weeks.

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