In less than five minutes yesterday, William A. Kelman bought the Smith Glass building and more than 10 acres in Mt. Pleasant Township for $15,585. There were no other bidders.
Kelman formed a new company, Port Augustus Glass Co. LLC, to acquire L.E. Smith Glass. He signed a purchase agreement in November and followed through last month when the company bought the glassmaker's assets, including equipment, inventory, machinery and receivables. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The acquisition preserves nearly a century of glassmaking history at one of the last hand-molded glass factories in the United States.
"We're absolutely thrilled. We think there's a potential to grow into bigger and better things. The company has always had decent sales, but you have to be there every day and supply clients with what they want," Kelman said.
Kelman said plans call for restarting the furnace by the end of March. He said about 25 employees are currently working, but that number could rise to 35 when actual glassmaking resumes. Unionized workers at L.E. Smith Glass are represented by Locals 537 and 102 of the United Steelworkers of America. Union officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.
"Right now, we have lots and lots of inventory, which we're in the process of organizing and distributing. We're going to keep focused on what we've done in the past, and perhaps expand into complementary businesses," Kelman said.
In the past, Smith Glass clients included Williams-Sonoma, a high-end kitchen retailer, and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Smith Glass products, which included crystal bowls, tureens and tabletop accessories, also were seen in Bloomingdale's, Spiegel, Restoration Hardware and Neiman-Marcus catalogs.
Kelman said he plans an immediate "road show" to introduce himself to customers and reintroduce L.E. Smith's product line. He said the journey will take him from "New York to San Francisco, and everywhere in between."
Glassmaking initially ceased at L.E. Smith Glass on June 30, after 11th-hour talks to find a buyer broke down. The glassmaker was placed into a court-ordered receivership in July. About 30 workers were recalled in August to make glass on a limited basis to preserve core customers until a buyer could be found.