Glass Company Is On The Cutting Edge

Nestled in the heart of Columbia, a 96-year-old family business consistently draws at least 200 visitors a week, and frequently gives tours to out-of-state visitors.

The Susquehanna Glass Factory has survived long-term, while similar businesses have come and gone in the area.

The secret is in the company mentality. They will accommodate niche markets and often execute small production runs. "We're capable of creating highly customized, personalized products," said Walt Rowan, who owns the business with his wife, Kate.

The business was founded on hand-cutting, but now sandblasting and color-screening are also done on the premises. Retailers like Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, and Red Envelope are among the factory's most frequent customers.
Crystal, dinnerware, and all types of glassware are available in the store. The orders reflect what is popular with customers at the moment, and currently, monogrammed items are on the rise.

A common misconception is that the factory makes glass, when in fact, they decorate it. One tourist offered her view in a letter: "They don't make glass at the Susquehanna Glass Factory, they make glass beautiful!"
Walter and Albert Roy, Rowan's grandfather and great-uncle, built the business in 1910. The original equipment on the glass-cutting floor is still intact, and continues to be used.

Rowan bought the business from his mother in 1999, but he's worked there in some capacity since his mid-teens. After attending college, he worked as a salesman, traveling to trade shows.

The factory is still very much a family business. "We don't hesitate hiring family members," said Rowan. "We've found it creates much higher loyalty."
Many of the employees live locally, and have worked at the factory for many years.

Main tour guide Tierney Elslager has been working at Susquehanna Glass for nine years. She begins and ends tours in the retail store, and makes stops in hand-cutting, sandblasting (deep etching), and color-screening. Sandy Miller, who has worked in hand-cutting since 1973, often stops to speak with tours. She demonstrates the precise skill of the art by cutting designs and monograms in mere minutes.

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600450 Glass Company Is On The Cutting Edge
Date: 21 July 2006

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