A Door Maker’s Craft

GlassCraft Door Co. shows how artisanship and R&D work together
August 15, 2013
FEATURE ARTICLE | Close-Ups
  
  
   
More than 1,000 Speakeasy door features have been sold to date. 

 Had Glasscraft Door Co. offered its stylish Speakeasy door during Prohibition, more bootleg joints would have had their covers blown; it would have been tough to keep the locations secret with such an attractive and useful entrance feature.

The Houston, Texas, premium door manufacturer prides itself on its wide range of unique products. Some, like theSpeakeasy door, evoke historical antecedents, but are built to withstand present-day impact codes. GlassCraft founder and president, John Plummer, has melded an arts and crafts family heritage with a business focused on R&D investments. This combination has yielded a huge assortment of entry doors and 11 approved USPTO patents, with seven more pending. Nine of 10 existing patents for fiberglass door innovations belong to GlassCraft.

You can see the results in the glossy showroom, but the full story is in the company’s 180,000-square-foot factory, where 95 employees design and produce fiberglass, wood and steel entrance doors, many from start to finish. Plummer and his Executive Vice President, John Hart—junior high school pals—are rightly proud of the fact that more than half of GlassCraft’s workers are 10-year veterans; about 15 are 20 years in; and six have been with the company 25 or more years.

   
Hand craftsmanship is applied to every door before it leaves the factory. 

GlassCraft sells through distribution channels across the United States and defines itself as a “mass customizer” offering thousands of doors for customers to choose from. Customizing choices include color, finish, grilles, glass textures, modular sizes, right or left outswings, ADA jamb widths—the list is long and varied. True to his arts and crafts roots, Plummer designs everything and keeps his eye on quality; every door is completely constructed and tested before shipping.Plummer hung his first door in 1970 and has spent the last 30 years perfecting the details of material choices and how to process them, from integrating real wrought iron grilles to developing distressed and patina finishes for fiberglass doors.

   
The Artisan Premium Fiberglass Door Collection, winner of a 2012 Window & Door Crystal Achievement Award for Most Innovative Door, is featured in the Houston showroom open to the public and designers. 

Plummer estimates he’s made at least 50 trips to Asia alone to source material; a supply chain that now includes Mexico and Indonesia. “I stay close to our suppliers,” he says. While the company has fine-tuned its overseas production cycles, Plummer is prepared in case of a port strike, like the one that ground imports to a halt in 2012. Part of GlassCraft’s supply chain insurance is a fully equipped mill shop for building wood doors from scratch. As its name suggests, the company originally beveled glass, but now outsources the time-intensive work as it keeps a deep inventory of beveled parts for repairs for door lites and the 10,000 windows in stock.

  
  

GlassCraft Door Co. continues to invest in patent-producing processes and automated equipment to manufacture new door styles, and recently reported increased production capacity of 300 percent in the last six months. “We’re working hard to keep lots of capacity as we continue to invest in machinery and R&D,” says Plummer. “When the market comes back, we’ll be ready,” he adds.

   
Matthew O’Shea, director of operations, designed GlassCraft’s versatile six-door crates, pictured, that allow customers to easily inspect each door. The door crates stack four-wide and two-high on a standard truck. 

Of course, no one expects the next homebuilding wave to include a Prohibition on alcohol, but GlassCraft is ready for that, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Manufacturer in the Making

GlassCraft President, John Plummer, learned about doors in his family’s arts and crafts door company. By college, he knew he never wanted to work for anyone but himself and opened a stained glass retail store, and then another. By the late 1970s, he transitioned to wholesale distribution. In his 37-year business career, he says he’s experienced only two years of decreasing sales.

1979

Founded Houston Stained Glass Supply

                        

1986

Opened a wood door company

    

1999-2007

Skyrocketing sales, distribution expansion, 250 employees

                    

2010

Started offering fiberglass doors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1981

Founded GlassCraft Specialties to sell beveled glass windows to door companies across the South

 

1988

Started importing doors from Mexico

 

2001

Started offering high-end steel doors

 

2011

Received first of 11 patents for fiberglass doors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1982

Started importing beveled glass windows for doors

 

1989

Sold two companies; started importing wood doors from Indonesia, and glass from Poland and Taiwan

 

2006

Saw the downturn coming and paid off all bank loans

 

2013

Increased production capacity by 300 percent by adding automation to back up significant sales increases, 95 employees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1983-87

Sold beveled glass to Therma-Tru in Arkansas, and then to its Matamoros plant

 

1990

Started importing glass from mainland China

 

2007

Closed GlassCraft’s credit line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1985

Opened a beveled glass company

 

1995

Focused on door business

 

 

2008-2012

Held steady

 

 


 

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