Store owner shares love for Czech glass with shoppers

Dana Barrer, owner of Glass Shoppe Imports, used to hold down two jobs at a time just to afford to travel. When he went to Prague in 1999, he fell in love with the city to such a degree that he knew it was more than just another vacation.

"I decided I wanted to do something that involved going to Prague on a regular basis," he said.

A year ago, Barrer opened Glass Shoppe Imports at Southridge Mall with partners Diane and Kevin Workman. The business sells handmade glass and crystal imported from the Czech Republic.

"I've learned an awful lot about Czech culture and language, and now also about glassmaking," said Barrer, who has made 22 trips to the Czech Republic. Although not of Czech descent himself, he said the wealth of preserved history in the area has captivated his interest.

"During World War II, there was very little area bombing, which helped preserve structures that date as far back as the 1200s," he said.

History is also reflected in the glass. Barrer enjoys purchasing pieces directly from Czech artisans and vendors so he can learn firsthand about the techniques used to make each piece. Some of the vendors he purchases from have five generations of family who have blown glass.

"I always pay attention to the process," Barrer said, "and I love to get this information."

He said his customers find the information just as compelling.

"When a husband and wife come into the store, the wife is always the first one to eagerly look around," Barrer said. "But once you explain some of the technical details behind the craftsmanship, the husband is usually the one who wants to stay and learn more."

Des Moines resident Jerry Pitts said he's collected a number of glass pieces from Glass Shoppe Imports since the store opened.

"I like glass, and it's something that's not going to lose its value," said Pitts, who likes Czech glass so much that he's since come to work with Barrer in the retail shop.

"There's so much you can do with it that you can't do with other things. It's easy to decorate with, but you must really have a love for it," he said.

Barrer said he's hard pressed to see anyone who doesn't respond in a positive way to Czech glass.

"You know you have an appealing product when anyone from a teenage boy to a 90-year-old woman wants to buy this," he said. While artisans throughout the world make glass, Barrer said he believes "the Czechs do it best."

He said the level of inventiveness and skill in Czech glass seemed to explode when Communist political restrictions were removed, and glass artisans throughout the world have taken note.

"One glass blower recently said to me, 'I'm producing things now the Italians never even thought of,' " he said. "This glass is something you can have forever. It's really the type of thing that's an heirloom."

600450 Store owner shares love for Czech glass with shoppers

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