Count it Up: Binswanger Celebrates 150 YearsApril 25th, 2022 by Chris Collier
Following the conclusion of the Civil War, Samuel Binswanger opened a small glass store in Richmond, Va., in 1872. One hundred and fifty years later Binswanger is now a national retail and commercial glazing firm with a workforce of about 800 in 55 locations across 12 states. Its growth has kept pace with history.
“[The company] made it through all the major wars and everything else that happened early on in the early 1900s,” says Jennifer Brereton, director of marketing for the company. “So [Samuel Binswanger] was broke—he started it with the last dime he had and took a chance. And now today, it’s turned into the largest full-service retailer and installer of glass and glass products.”
The company, which also offers sliding glass doors and screened-in porches and window screens, thrived during the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War and began installing auto glass as cars replaced the horse and carriage. The early 1900s were a time of growth, and Samuel Binswanger brought in his sons to help expand the business. The first expansions were to Memphis, Tenn., in 1906 and then Houston in 1923.
The business faced more hardship than expected, especially regarding its finances and familial relations. In the early 20th century, the company dealt with the repercussions of World War I, the death of three Binswanger brothers and, ultimately, the Great Depression. Resiliency and luck joined forces in 1947.
“The Binswanger family stretched all their finances to build the Binswanger Mirrorplant in Grenada, Miss.,” says Rich Porayko, a consultant for the company. “And the day before the plant was set to open, it was destroyed by fire. Mickey Binswanger remembered, at the last minute, to insure the building. He pulled into the insurance store on the way home, before this building was about to be [destroyed]. And so sure enough, that night, [it was destroyed by the fire].”
It was rebuilt by the insurance proceeds; Mickey Binswanger later was quoted as saying that the family and the whole business would have been devastated had the plant not been insured. “This story would have ended in 1947,” he says.
In 1982, one of the divisions of Binswanger/Glasscraft was awarded the opportunity to inscribe 57,000 names on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington. The project underwent numerous inspections and took several months to ensure all was correct.
In February 2022, USGlass magazine ranked Binswanger Glass as North America’s largest contract glazier by most locations, largest contract glazier by the number of employees, and the ninth-largest contract glazier by sales.
Mark Newsome, president of Binswanger Glass, says, “We lead our industry through innovation, expertise, and customer service. We deliver premier glass products and solutions resulting in long-term relationships, and that is what has made us what we are today.”