Bacon & Van Buskirk Glass Co. Inc. Celebrates 75th Year of Business
October 9, 2012

by Kaitlan Mitchell,

Bacon & Van Buskirk Glass Co. Inc. celebrates its 75th anniversary this fall under the direction of Rod Van Buskirk president and third generation owner.
Rod’s grandfather, Verne Van Buskirk, founded the Champaign, Ill.-based operation in 1938. Verne initially started working for T.M. Bacon & Sons Paint & Glass in 1927 and went on to buy the company’s glass department from T.M. Bacon, the owner of T.M. Bacon & Sons Paint & Glass, after he retired in 1937.

Rod Van Buskirk spoke to about what he accredits to the company’s success and the preservation of a family tradition through challenging economic times.

USGNN: How did you become a part of the family business?
RV: Bacon & Van Buskirk Glass was founded by my grandfather and continued on by my father. I purchased thecompany in 1997 and have taken it from there. I went to school locally in Champagne and then went to college at the University of Colorado in Boulder and then came back to become a part of the family business. I worked in several of our locations and have basically done all of the functions of work in our shop growing up. I have also worked in a variety of sales positions including commercial and residential departments. You name it, in a small business, you do it.

USGNN: From where does your enthusiasm for glass come from?
RV: I didn’t start off with a passion for glass. Like many kids growing up within a family business, you don’t always want to be in the family business. I came back after graduating college to find a job. At the time, the late 70s was a slow recessionary period. I was hungry just to find some work. My father graciously called me up and offered me a position. I took it but didn’t expect to stay long. After a couple of years, I figured out I actually liked the business. I continued to want to learn all I could and get good at it.

USGNN: Are you doing anything special to celebrate this big landmark?
RV: We’ve begun to do a little more advertising, primarily thanking current and past associates for all of their business. Right now we still have to watch every penny. This is still a tough time for every small business. We are spending a little more money thanking our markets and our associates.

USGNN: What is the special ingredient you credit with keeping the company in the family this long?
RV: It all depends on the temperament and the business skill of the parents. I was very fortunate my grandfather and father were both good business people and enjoyed being part of the community, the industry and being active in the associations. Between the good temperament of my family and the fact they liked to be involved in the community and the industry and were interested in growing their business, and the fact we had really great associates working with us through all of those years, all that combined helped us.

USGNN: What is your proudest accomplishment in all of your years of operation?
RV: Right now survival is a good thing. Probably the last three to four years have been the most difficult financially in our company’s history since the great depression era. We’re lucky to have survived. As you look around the industry a lot of people have not, both large and small. But we have rebounded and we’re poised to grow appropriately in the new economic environment that we all now currently face. Right now, just going through a disastrous period in the last few years and surviving is really something to point to.

USGNN: What advice can you offer to those in the industry?
RV: We’re very fortunate to have had great long-standing relationships with our vendors. We’re also very fortunate that my father and grandfather helped get us interested and involved with the industry associations. Being in the middle of central Illinois in a largely rural area, we have to reach out to learn more about our industry and keep abreast of the recent developments. Being a part of [national industry associations] as well as being a member of smaller industry associations has been very beneficial in helping us grow over a long period of time. If you’re a small business owner out there, that’s one key ingredient that I would suggest you do. You should get involved in the industry associations because it will eventually pay off for you and keep you up on things.

USGNN: Who is the next Van Buskirk in line to keep the family tradition going?
RV: You have to have the right combination of children who are capable and interested. It’s a good question at this time. I may be the last Van Buskirk, but time will tell. I probably have 10-plus years to go before we need to make that decision.

This story is an original story by USGlass magazine/USGNN™. Subscribe to USGlass magazine.
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