Business

Wilderness Glass reflects back on 15 years

NORTH BEND - A glazier works with glass, cutting it, installing it. Sue Beauvais is the granddaughter of a glazier and the daughter of a glazier. So it should be no surprise that she is also a glazier.

"I have glass in my veins," she said.

In 1987, Beauvais and her friend, Matt Walker, opened the first glass business in North Bend, Wilderness Glass.

You may remember the article that the Valley Record published then. Today, that article is a thin, yellow clipping that Beauvais keeps in a frame.

Initially, the two entrepreneurs assumed that they would easily pin down every glass job in the Valley. However, they soon found that contractors typically buy the cheapest, rather than the best, bid available.

Instead of sacrificing the quality of their products and craftsmanship to be competitive for commercial contracts, Beauvais and Walker focused on the retail market of private homeowners in the Snoqualmie Valley.

Fifteen years later, they still sell the best-known products in the industry, like Milgard Windows, Marvin Windows and Velux Skylights, to their loyal base of customers. Beauvais recalled a customer for whom Wilderness Glass has installed windows in three different houses - each time the customer moved.

Fifteen years encompasses many ups and downs. Business has not always been streak-free. Following the opening, Beauvais' brother, Chuck, one of the original owners, jumped off a boat and landed on a dock. He split one of his kidneys in three places.

While Chuck was recovering from his injury, Beauvais and Walker needed an extra hand. They hired Randy Rhoton, who still works there.

Then in 1991 Wilderness Glass moved to its current location. Bad news arrived a few months later when the Gulf War began.

"That was probably the worst year of my life. The economy went into the toilet. We had to lay almost everyone off," Beauvais said.

Weathering the tough times testifies to what has kept Wilderness Glass afloat from the beginning: a commitment to quality goods and service.

"We're providing a valuable service, not a luxury item. Lots of things you can live without; windows ain't one of them," said Beauvais' assistant, Judy Boyce.

Dedication reaps its own rewards. But it is always uplifting to be recognized by one's own community. In 1997, Wilderness Glass was awarded Business of the Year by the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Wilderness Glass carries a full selection of items to choose from, including windows, mirrors, shower doors - even screens. The business is listed in the Green Works Directory, a compilation of companies that practice recycling and re-using.

Beauvais called the listing "a feather in our cap." Wilderness Glass breaks down the aluminum from the frames of windows that it removes and recycles it.

At Wilderness Glass the craft of glazing continues to be passed from generation to generation. Walker trained his son, Zach, as a glazier. In addition, Channing Riach received her glazier training at Wilderness Glass.

It could be that after the next fifteen years have passed this article will be yellowed and thin, like the clipping from 1987. And Wilderness Glass will be celebrating 30 years of business.

* Wilderness Glass is located at 43415 S.E. 128th Place, North Bend. Business hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. You can call Wilderness Glass (425) 888-9666, or visit www.wildernessglass.com.

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