On the Road with USGlass

From Stalking to Smiling: Just Another Day at GBA

Don’t let the empty aisle fool you; it was early on Friday when this photo was taken. This show was one of the industry’s best in the past decade.

Well the show in Vegas is in the history books now and will fade into memory in direct proportion to how large Atlanta ’17 looms in the distance. Friday is always the lightest day at the show and this year proved no exception, but that gave me some time to reflect on the trends I saw as news.

So here are my top five take-aways from the show:

1. The Regional/Independent Fabricator Finally Get R-E-S-P-E-C-T. For years, suppliers have sought the largest glazing contractors and uber-glass fabricators as the market in which they peddle their wares and for which to develop new products. Not so this year. Many machinery and equipment suppliers came with products geared specifically for regional and/or independent fabricators. The ubers began buying in earnest again about 18 months ago but the regional and independents had held off, gun-shy after the end of the 2000s. Again, not so this year. They were ready to sign on the proverbial dotted line and had a wide variety of choices developed specifically for them from which to choose.

2. Decorative Does Dominate. The most consistently crowded booths were those displaying decorative glass technology. Everything from perfected processes that have been around to brand new technology garnered attention. And decorative technology is being applied to an even broader array of glass, with even more stunning, unique and unusual results.

3. Super-Size Supermarket: Just about everyone is betting on the continued growth of large glass lites. Some manufacturers and fabricators debuted their over-sized glass capabilities; others showed equipment to handle it, trucks to move it and equipment to provide quality inspections of these Goliath lites.

True divided lite shower doors as shown here by American Shower Door, may just make the next splash with designers.

4. Shower Doors See the Lite: Shower door manufacturers are beginning to glimpse the peak of conventional frameless shower door growth. How to keep it going? New designs and new materials. When asked what would the next major shower door design trend would be, American Shower Door’s Carol Perry simply pointed to the divided lite door shown here. “We are selling more of these than anything else,” she said. “These are true divided lites and they have gotten very popular.” So just as granite begat quartz in the kitchen countertop arena, perhaps frameless all glass shower doors will begat divided lite wonders.

5. 專業化: This is (I think), the traditional Chinese word for specialization, and the fact that the Chinese have done so was evident throughout the show floor. Oh yes, there are still a number selling container loads as commodities, but there were also a fair amount specializing in certain types of value-added glass. Who would have thought?

And now for most last set of my daily awards, which I hopefully-not-too obnoxiously call “the debbies”:

Most awful trade show give-away: A suction cup-like device that the gift-giver gleefully pointed out will let you text while driving more easily. The giver shall remain nameless as I wasn’t quite sure if it was a gift or a lethal weapon.

Most stalked person: Bill O’Keeffe of SAFTI First. I wanted to thank him for sending over some old pictures of our staff at glasstec. But as usual, Bill was faster than me and I never caught up to him.

Most dedicated promotion: Pink ribbons off to Rustin Cassway and the team at Myglasstruck. They continue their work to combat breast cancer year-after year with their “Nice Rack”* campaign, having raised now more than $56,000 through their truck sales.

Vision Hardware

Best large sized booth of the day: Hard to choose as there were a number worthy of the “debbie,” specifically Guardian’s new stand, very clean and strong, as well as Quanex, whose stand always helps it appear to dominate any hall it’s in. Others of note were Bohle and Vison Industries.

The next big thing. Software. A number of software providers had upgrades and enhancement to their products and a few European software manufacturers exhibited for the first time. Klaes Worldwide blew me away with its electronic capabilities, able to create buildings with literally thousands of custom glass and metal shapes and footprints.

Most surprising thing at the show: The city of Las Vegas. Because I have been visiting Sin City about 4-6 times a year for more than three decades, I thought I knew the city pretty well. But no more. Brand new areas such as “the Park” have sprouted up and the new casino/hotel near it will be the largest in the city when it’s completed. I was also surprised by how many people told me they prefer Freemont Street to the strip.

Most amusing conversation snippet: Between Jack Van Meerbeeck of Matodi USA and me. Now, if you know Jack you know he is a sincere, but extremely serious, fellow. So my goal is always to see if I can say something to get even the smallest start of a grin form upon his lips. So that was my goal when I caught up with him.

Me: Why Jack, you must have such an amazingly good show, because I can already see you actually had the start of a smile on your face when I asked you how it was.
Jack (turning to his colleague and very serious: Deb Levy has always been very blunt with me, very blunt.
And then he let out this great big hearty belly laugh.

I heard and saw it and it made my show.  -Deb

  • In the pre-2016 presidential race, the term “nice rack” might have been deemed a bit risque for this blog. Compared to at least one quote I have heard from one presidential candidate, not any more.