Nothing in 60 years has stopped Jerry Griffith from working with glass. “Once it’s in your blood,” he says, “you can’t get it out.”
Griffith founded White Bear Glass in 1977, when it operated at the site of a former gas station as an auto glass company. After several moves and a change of hands to his nephew, Jeff Meyer, and his wife, Jenny, in 1994, the small shop is still going strong. But Jerry still likes to keep involved. “I stop in first thing in the morning and see if I can do anything, and if I can’t, I go home,” says Griffith. “It’s a ritual for me.”
Like many downtown shops, White Bear Glass is as much a family as a business—literally, for some employees. Griffith’s sister and Meyer’s mother, Rosemary, is a frequent fixture at their office, and all of Jeff and Jenny Meyer’s kids have worked in the shop at one time or another. Even the employees who are not members of the family have come to feel that way. “We’ve had employees who have been here for 17 years plus,” says Meyer.
To extend that sense of family, the group is involved in the community in more ways than one: Meyer is a member of the White Bear Lake Area Economic Development Corporation, and White Bear Glass is a participant in the Main Street Organization.
Many of their installations are visible in local businesses, such as the windows in the new White Bear Center for the Arts and the Boatworks Commons development. They’ve also worked on unique, out-of-the-box custom projects—from bulletproof glass at CVS drive-throughs to artistic ventures such as the glass tennis ball can at Pine Tree Apple Orchard.
But, like most successful business owners who realize one must change with the times, the Meyerses decided to dive a little deeper into the ultra-hot residential market, in addition to their bustling commercial market.
“After the dust settled [in] 2010, we really focused on the residential stuff,” says Meyer. “We’re located in proximity to Hugo, which is growing, and Shoreview, which was established. And then we have really key markets like Dellwood and North Oaks, and the houses around White Bear Lake itself, which really had us gearing up towards the shower door market.”
“People do want some privacy,” he says. “The shower is your only time to have your own pace—and then you get out into the world and it’s fast. Email, voicemail, text—everything comes at you.”
They built a showroom in 2011 to feature some of those key trends in shower door design, including state-of-the-art enclosures (including a curved shower) and gleaming shower doors in a variety of styles and finishes.
“So many people, when they remodel, they look at a picture in a magazine, and they don’t realize how many hours it took to put that perfect picture together,” says Griffith. “Here you can come and actually see it in real surroundings.”
And speaking of picture-perfect, White Bear Glass has gained the attention of the television series Bath Crashers. Based in the Twin Cities, Bath Crashers features a team of designers and experts who completely redesign home bathrooms in the span of three days. Six episodes in the fall season featured the expert glasswork of White Bear Glass.
“It’s fun to dig into those unique applications,” says Meyer.
“It makes you feel good when somebody comes in with a problem and you can help them solve it,” says Griffith. “It’s kind of like being a fireman; somebody rings a bell and wants something done, you gotta go do it!”
See White Bear Glass on this season of Bath Crashers on the DIY Network.A New Direction