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USGNN Original Story35 Years of Shower Doors

Bill Cobb, chief executive officer of Coastal Industries in Jacksonville, Fla., says 35 years ago shower doors in homes were a new concept. Before the launch of Coastal, Cobb was working for a window screen manufacturer and living in a mobile home. "Every time I took a shower the curtain would wrap around me. That was a tough way to take a shower because you were fighting the curtain off," he says. "So I figured, if I could take a screen frame and have shower curtain material roll-formed into the frame, and then put a W-track at the top and bottom, a couple of U-jambs on each side, I could have an enclosure made out of a screen frame for shower curtain material. And it worked."

That was the technology Cobb had in mind when he decided to start his own business a few years later. Today the company includes a 250,000-square-foot facility, nearly 200 employees and production capacity of 5,000 shower doors a day.

A lot has happened in the shower door market over the past 35 years, including periods of big business and slow periods. Despite the slow periods of residential construction, Coastal has always managed to thrive.

"Remodeling always goes up when new construction goes down," says Cobb. "And we also have seen in the past, manufactured housing picks up, but that hasn't really happened this time. The RV business has been good and some of the other segments stayed strong [multi-family, high-rise and hospitality] as well."

During slow periods, some companies stay busy by diversifying; Coastal has not chosen this path.

"We try to concentrate on what we do best and shower doors is the business we do best," says Cobb. "A lot of our competitors have gone into tempering glass and we've stayed away from that because it's not our niche."

Shower doors themselves have changed greatly in 35 years. Heavy glass doors are the big trend, along with creating a spa-like environment in the bathroom. This includes everything from aromatherapy showers to multiple shower heads.

"When I started out installing years ago it was rare to ever see a custom enclosure," says company president Ray Adams. "Now it's rare not to see one. The industry has become less cookie cutter."

And Coastal is continuing to keep up with the changes. In fact, in working with its advertising and marketing agency, Kleber & Associates, they are developing plans for what they are calling "the shower of the future." Areas they are considering include different types of glass such as "self-cleaning" and antimicrobial to products other than glass that could possibly be used.

"I don't know where this will lead us," says Steve Kleber, president of Kleber & Associates, "but it speaks highly of this company that they would engage in that type of thought leadership."

To learn more about how this shower door company continues to thrive, look for the December issue of USGlass magazine.

Ellen Giard Rogers is a contributing editor for USGlass magazine.

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