Penn Glass Closing Its Doors
August 21, 2012

by Penny Stacey, pstacey@glass.com

Penn Glass in Lancaster, Pa., is closing its doors after more than 50 years in business, according to company president Jeffrey Rieker. Rieker says he and his brother and business partner, Michael Rieker, made the decision to head in this direction approximately a year and a half ago.

"We've had enough," he says. "I'm not waiting around anymore for this economy … I think it's going to be another two years until things turn around."

The Riekers' father, Frank, founded the business in 1959, after spending 13 years with PPG Industries, first as a glazier and later as an estimator. Frank Rieker passed away last October at the age of 91.

Jeffrey Rieker recalls spending much of his childhood around the company.

"I remember working here when I was 6 years old," he says. "I grew up with it. I spent my summers in high school and college out on the jobsite—that's how I learned every nuance in this business."

He graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh with a bachelor's of science degree in business, and then opted to join Penn Glass full-time in 1974. Meanwhile, Michael Rieker graduated from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, and then earned a master's degree in psychology from Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pa.

"I twisted [my brother's] arm and I talked him into this business when things were really humming along back in the late 70s," recalls Jeffrey Rieker. "He wanted to be a psychologist, and I told him he could make a lot more money doing this than he could in psychology."

However, Jeffrey Rieker says in recent years it's become more difficult to stay ahead in today's economy.

"Bidding is still way off," he says. "If you bid a job right now you have to bid so low to get it."

Jeffrey Rieker offers a number of tips for others continuing in the glass business.

"You've got to meet all [of your] overhead," he says. "You're going to have to take a hit in your pay. The banks aren't going to lend you money anymore for your good looks, as they say."

Focusing on your company's strong suits also is key. "Whatever you [are] best at, stick with it and work like crazy at it. Don't try to get into the granite countertops or sunrooms or solar," he says. "You can't just go with the immediate product du jour because you don't know how long it's going to last."

Oversaturation of the market also is a concern and something of which shops should be wary, according to Rieker.

"In Lancaster there are five or six of us within four miles of each other," he says. "We're too close together and there's literally too many in a radius. Be away as much as you can from competition."

An auction is scheduled for October 15 to sell the company's equipment and assets via Miller & Siegrist Auctioneers LLC in Ronks, Pa.

"I thought I'd be sad, but I'm actually happy," says Jeffrey Rieker of the closing. "I'm glad we did it when we did."

Jeffrey Rieker says he plans to retire and become a backpacking guide in Wyoming during the summer months.

This story is an original story by USGlass magazine/USGNN™. Subscribe to USGlass magazine.
Subscribe to receive the free e-newsletter.