EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Lynn Guthrie’s glazing company, Guthrie Glass & Mirror, always found ample business in its own back yard, covering Atlantic City and its outlying suburbs.
The company catered to the glass-loving casino industry for everything from its eye-catching exteriors to its many doors and retail window displays.
But since the recession, the company watched as commercial and industrial construction withered in South Jersey. It turned to public agencies and nonprofits to work on schools and hospitals.
“I’m strictly a commercial glazing company. We saw a big decline in our volume since the recession — 50 percent. It’s been a very rough four years,” she said.
The company Guthrie started in 1986 began going farther afield to find work.
“We had been lucky to have enough work here to keep us busy. We do more now in Delaware and Philadelphia,” she said.
Guthrie, of Longport, grew up around the construction business in Indiana. She attended Purdue University, where she studied construction management. A job brought her to New Jersey, but she soon broke away to form her own company.
This willingness to take a chance is something she instilled in her five children, who have the same entrepreneurial spirit, she said.
“All of my kids want to work for themselves. They see the rewards that can come with that. They’re risk-takers. You need to be willing to take a risk. And it’s a risky business,” she said.
Much of the company’s business comes from maintenance contracts to repair or replace glass windows or doors.
“When it comes to glass, people look for aesthetics and energy efficiency,” she said.
Glass products have come a long way in the last 20 years in durability, purpose and function. Guthrie’s company has installed glass bridges connecting atria for a university and point-supported glass panes that have no visible frames for buildings, such as Parx Casino and Racing in Philadelphia.
“The products are changing all the time. Designers want a lot of natural light to get in, so they’re using a lot more glass in new construction,” she said. “They need the building to be energy efficient as well. They use sun shades that still let light in.”
Locally, the company installed glass for Atlantic City International Airport’s renovation, Shore Medical Center’s expansion in Somers Point and the Pennsylvania Avenue School in Atlantic City, among others.
Guthrie is responsible for most of the glass found in the Quarter at Tropicana and the first phase of Atlantic City’s retail district, The Walk. This year, the business installed glass at Margaritaville at Resorts Casino Hotel.
The company hires its glaziers through Painters and Allied Trades District Council 21 in Philadelphia. The company’s employment rolls can swell from eight to 38 for bigger projects, she said.
The union has had a good relationship with the company, spokesman Mike Laughlin said.
“They’re probably one of the best employers we have in South Jersey. We have a large territory. Guthrie travels throughout the area. If there was a model company, it’s Guthrie,” he said.
The biggest challenge a building contractor faces is getting paid when the work is done, she said.
When times are good, her company can pick and choose its jobs based on the reputations of the general contractors or project managers.
“When times are bad, you’re forced to do work with people you might not otherwise do business with,” she said.
But Guthrie said she considers herself lucky to work in South Jersey, where so many of her business associates are her friends and neighbors.
“We have a lot of good local contractors. We see them at church or at Little League games. They’ve been around a long time. They’re in it for the long haul,” she said.
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