New Ohio owner, seeking elusive profits, ends up sinking lead crystal icon Steuben Glass

In a memorable Hollywood scene from “Risky Business,” the 1983 comedy drama that launched Tom Cruise to stardom, a mother’s prized Steuben glass egg goes missing from the mantelpiece only to reappear — imperceptibly nicked — in the nick of time.

Steuben Glass, an American icon of handcrafted crystal for over a century, looks now as if it’s vanishing for good.

Its lone factory in Corning, a glassmaking company town flanked by Steuben County’s tree-topped mountain ridges in southwestern New York, is shutting down Nov. 29, the week after Thanksgiving. With profitability elusive at the best of times, the prospects of reviving the 108-year-old vanity brand seem every bit as slim.

While the matchlessly transparent glass is still acclaimed as the lodestar of lead crystal, Steuben has struggled to find its footing in old age — never more so than since 2008 when glass pioneer Corning Inc. sold the ailing business to Schottenstein Stores Corp., a retail-chain operator in Columbus, Ohio.

Topping the list of critics’ complaints: Uninspiring new designs, the addition of cheaper engraving methods and, for the first time in its history, a production shift overseas that squeezed the price of simpler ornaments and champagne glasses below an unheard-of $100 each.

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600450 New Ohio owner, seeking elusive profits, ends up sinking lead crystal icon Steuben Glass
Date: 26 October 2011

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