Thursday, Jan. 25, 2007

Growing panes at Emmitsburg Glass

Brothers’ company honored for ambitious new plant

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Tom Fedor⁄The Gazette
‘‘We went though a lot of obstacles,” says owner Sheridan ‘‘Dan” Reaver of Emmitsburg Glass’ move to its new plant. ‘‘We lost six months on water and sewer design.”
Almost 20 years ago, they were five young men in search of something to do with their lives when they decided to each invest a few hundred dollars and start their own business.

Last year, that company won the Development of the Year award from two Frederick County agencies.

‘‘It’s a family business,” said Sheridan ‘‘Dan” Reaver, 45, owner of Emmitsburg Glass Co., an aluminum-and-glass fabrication company on Route 15 within 5 miles of the Pennsylvania line.

‘‘We were four brothers and a brother-in-law,” Reaver said. ‘‘We each threw in a couple hundred bucks and started the company.”

The company grew from its start in the Reaver family one-car garage to building and relocating to its current 53,000-square-foot plant. It was that project that prompted the Frederick County Business Development Advisory Council and the county’s Office of Economic Development to honor the company.

‘‘It was a major project by a major employer that was a success in every way,” said Jodie L. Bollinger, business development specialist for the economic development agency. ‘‘They brought all the elements together, and really participated in the community to make it happen.”

The project involved a partnership of several entities, she said, including the town of Emmitsburg, Frederick County and the state.

A community development block grant of roughly $200,000 helped fund infrastructure repairs to the town’s water and sewage lines.

‘‘The repairs were necessary to correct a longstanding problem that has severe environmental impact,” she said. ‘‘In addition, the project created an additional 2 million gallons of storage capacity at the plant, doubling the plant’s capacity.”

The company’s new plant has 105 employees, including 50 to 60 installation workers and 24 full-time shop workers, said Reaver, who runs the company with his 43-year-old brother, Greg Reaver. Two other brothers and the brother-in-law left the business early on, leaving the company to Dan and Greg.

When they launched the company in 1988, it was called Emmitsburg Panes Inc., ‘‘but people kept calling it Emmitsburg Paint,” Dan Reaver said. ‘‘Everybody thought we had something to do with painting. We finally changed the name to Emmitsburg Glass in 1997 to avoid the confusion.”

In the beginning, the company operated as a subcontractor, providing labor for glass companies, Reaver said. ‘‘It was a lot of headaches.” By the early 1990s, ‘‘we started getting our own jobs and projects,” he said. ‘‘We started to grow.”

It was around this time that the brothers and brother-in-law ‘‘parted ways,” Reaver said. ‘‘It was for business and personal reasons. That’s all.”

In 1990, the company moved from the family garage to a facility on the former Castle Farms Ice Cream Dairy property, and it continued to grow.

‘‘We outgrew our first facility,” Reaver said. ‘‘We renovated the old dairy and used it for seven years, then we moved again.”

The original plan was to build a plant on a 5-acre lot across from the Mother Seton School, but ‘‘the size of our proposed building was too large,” he said. ‘‘We were ready to expand, but we couldn’t find a spot that was big enough to accommodate us. We wanted to stay in Emmitsburg. We grew up here, and we didn’t want to change our name again.”

Eventually, a 44-acre site, part of the old Mason-Dixon Farm, became available. In September 2004, Reaver bought his first parcel of land, and bought the remainder in August 2005. Soon, the company began building the new plant.

‘‘We were put under a lot of pressure,” Reaver said. ‘‘When we bought the first parcel, we sold our old facility.” The company that bought the old site, W.F. Delauter & Son, an excavation contractor, signed an 18-month lease with Emmitsburg Glass.

With the clock running to build a new home, construction began.

‘‘It was a nightmare. There was a water and sewer issue with Emmitsburg, but Marie Keegin fast-tracked the construction approval and permits we needed,” Reaver said, referring to the executive director of the county economic development agency.

Construction on the new building began in October 2005, he said, and Emmitsburg Glass moved in last May. The new facility sits on 5.5 acres of the 44-acre parcel.

Reaver said he hopes to eventually sell the remainder of the property for development. Tyler-Donegan Real Estate Services of Ijamsville is handling sales, he said.

‘‘We want to sell the properties as soon as possible,” he said. ‘‘We’ll move on that as soon as the market dictates.”

The new facility is a mixture including 10,000 square feet of storage space, 30,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 10,000 square feet of office space to lease, he said.

‘‘We have plenty of room for expansion, but if I sell all my lots, I won’t have any room to expand. I’ll be out of luck,” he laughed. ‘‘I’ll be a victim of my own success.”

In the meantime, the success continues. According to Reaver, Emmitsburg Glass has ‘‘hundreds” of customers and about 50 projects ongoing in Maryland, Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and southern Pennsylvania.

One of those customers, Waynesboro Construction of Frederick, has worked on more than a half-dozen projects with Emmitsburg Glass, including the construction of Lansdowne (Va.) Office Park, a three-story, 80,000-square-foot facility that was built in 2004.

‘‘They did the whole façade,” said Greg Brown, president of Waynesboro Construction. ‘‘The exterior was almost completely glass. It was a curtain wall system. It took about four or five months to do the job and cost around $850,000.”

Brown said he likes working with the Reavers because ‘‘they’re very approachable. When it comes to design and development, they’re extremely helpful.

‘‘They’re the type of experienced people we like to work with,” he said. ‘‘We look for contractors who get things done without causing problems that we have to clean up. Dan and Greg do a great job. We have a great relationship with them.”

Annual sales total about $20 million, Reaver said.

‘‘2006 has been our busiest year in terms of sales, number of customers and projects,” he said. ‘‘It’s been very hectic, stressful. I’ve had a lot of nights of lost sleep.”