Leaded-glass firm prospers

For Martin Faith, the money is beginning to flow like wine - or is that whiskey? The smiley Scotsman's company, Scottish Stained Glass Corp., is believed to be the first in the nation to gather dozens of artisans to produce custom leaded-glass panels priced for the middle class, a crowd that typically doesn't splurge for such embellishment.The 9-year-old Centennial company's creations start at $150 and are expected to generate $3 million in sales this year, up $1 million over 2003.Teams that handle sales, design and installation allow Faith's 15 window builders to focus only on their craft.

Because builders don't have to worry about administrative distractions, their production is high and quick. The result is low prices.

"We're giving people alternatives they never thought they could afford," Faith said with a brogue as thick as porridge.

From order to installation, a window or a glass door panel could take as little as a week to produce. During November and December, Scottish Stained Glass averaged 150 installations a week - a rate that many solo practitioners would be lucky to achieve in a year.

Faith's company is capitalizing on two current trends in home building: more and bigger glass doors and windows, and homes built so close to each other that neighbors can see into those doors and windows easily.

The average American home is 2,320 square feet and has 19 windows, according to the National Association of Home Builders. The association also reports that the average lot size has shrunk over the last 30 years to 9,000 square feet from 15,000 square feet.

Custom glass panels can add unique elements to uniform housing designs and preserve privacy. So many residents of Highlands Ranch purchased windows and door panels to add a little pizzazz to their homes, Faith said, that the neighborhood's developer, Shea Homes, is considering offering Scottish Stained Glass' products as design upgrades.

Faith said he is also in "serious talks" with other home developers and is working deals with window manufacturers and kitchen designers. He expects to sell his first franchises in June.

Faith has made believers of several artisans. Some of their salaries have more than doubled since they joined his company. Faith has a waiting list of 18 glass experts who hope to be hired when his business expands.

"I hate marketing. I'm not a salesperson. I'm not artistic enough to enjoy designing," said Marilyn Pansa, who has built windows for more than 25 years and now works for Faith from her home in Centennial. Like many artisans, she labored alone and shouldered all aspects of running a business. "This is the first time I don't have to worry about anything other than what I excel at," she said.

Faith's company is using 21st-century technology to do a 12th-century job. He has a database of more than 10,000 window and panel designs. Customers select from dozens of different types. On Faith's advice, most choose clear styles.

Faith refers people looking for more detailed painted and fired designs to artists who specialize in them - and typically charge in the neighborhood of $500 a square foot for their work.

The company's quick turnaround times and restoration services are winning business from owners of some of Colorado's most treasured stained glass. Two employees are working to refurbish historic ceiling panels in the Hotel Boulderado in Boulder, a $65,000 project expected to take six months.

"There aren't that many places that have the skills, time and facilities to do a job this big and in the time we'd like to see it done," the hotel's chief engineer, Ken Davids, said. Other studios estimated the restoration would take more than 18 months to finish.

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