In The Beginning: Mobile Installations
Part One of a Five Part Series
By Lyle R. Hill
I thought I’d better call him just to make sure. I certainly didn’t want to be one of those people who gets accused of re-writing history–you know the kind. They recount the basic facts somewhat accurately but then put their own spin on things. Not that I haven’t been accused of this myself a few times. And I will admit that my Irishness sometimes leads to exaggeration, but I wanted to be as deadly accurate as possible on this thing. That’s why I decided to call him–to make sure I remembered it correctly. You see, between us we have more than 100 years of experience in this commercial enterprise known as the “Glass Business”– his mostly on the auto glass replacement side and mine mostly on the architectural side. So I picked up the phone and made the call. He answered on the second ring.
He recognized my number and began with “Hey Lyle, how are you?”
“I’m good, Eddie, and how about you?”
What most people don’t know is that in the mid-1970s Eddie Cheskis (the current day CEO of Glass America) and I worked side-by-side. He handled the marketing and sales side of the Tyler & Hippach Glass Company of Chicago while I focused on the operational side. The company was wholly-owned by Globe Glass. We were a true full service glass business meaning that we did contract work, service work, wholesale sales, fabrication, board ups, mirrors and shower doors.
We were both young and enthusiastic about what our futures in the industry might hold. And we were having some success. But then, Eddie got the call to the majors … he moved up to the parent company, Globe Glass, where he became fully immersed in the auto glass replacement business. I was happy for him … sad for me. You see, in the 1970s, the auto glass replacement business was where I would have preferred to be. I came close once when I was offered a chance to manage Globe’s store in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. They did both auto and fl at there. I accepted the offer but it was later overruled because of needs at the Tyler & Hippach operation. I was disappointed and truthfully, a little jealous of Mr. Cheskis. Flat glass work was much more difficult and labor intense than auto glass and fl at glass pricing was nowhere near as ‘healthy’ as auto. But I accepted my fate and moved on.
“So Eddie,” I began, “I have my understanding of when and where the mobile auto glass installation program started, but I want to run it by you because I want to be as accurate as I can be on this.”
“I understand, Lyle,” he responded. “And as we both know, my memory has always been better than yours so let’s hear your version and I will correct you as needed.”
“At the moment I need your help Eddie, so I’ll respond to that comment the next time we meet for lunch.”
“Let’s hear it, Lyle.”
“Okay, it was late 50s or early 60s when a very prominent and influential customer brought his car to the Globe Glass Western Avenue branch to have his wind-shield replaced. He was in a big hurry and had an early morning appointment. The wrong windshield had been delivered to the store and the guy left in a huff. He went back to his office in Oak Park, Ill., and called owner Joe Kellman and read him the riot act. Kellman called the store and told him he didn’t care what it took but that the guy’s windshield had better be replaced that day. Racing against time, someone made the decision to put the windshield in the back of a station wagon and do the job on the street at the guy’s place of business. All went well except that the installer was arrested for endangering the public when he put the broken windshield that he had removed on the sidewalk in down-town Oak Park. So Eddie, how close is that to what you heard and believe?”
“Pretty close, Lyle. I think it was actually the mid-50s and I don’t remember it being in Oak Park, but the rest sounds pretty accurate. Joe Kellman, always the visionary, then put the slogan ‘We Kum 2 U’ on the side of all of the Globe trucks and an industry was born.”
“Thanks, Eddie. I appreciate this more than you know.”
“You are welcome, Lyle, and you can show your appreciation by paying for the next lunch we have.”
“You know Eddie, in addition to having a memory almost as good as mine, you are as consistent today as you were 50 years ago.”
Over the years I have heard many versions of when and where the mobile auto glass replacement program got its start. The stories vary quite a bit and I have no way of verifying them. The Globe Glass version was told to me by several people, not all of them employees of the company. I believe it to be accurate.
Of course, Globe’s competitors around Chicago were not happy when they too had to buy vans and start offering the same service that Globe had now introduced. It really was a break-through. And you want to know what else is a breakthrough, Ed-die Cheskis and I actually agree … kinda … about something. I have marked my calendar!
LYLE HILL has more than 42 years of experience in and around the auto glass industry. At one time he operated 71 auto glass retail shops and a wholesale auto glass distribution business. He is currently the managing director of Glass.com®, an information portal and job generation company for auto glass businesses.
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