January-February 2014 | REFLECTING QUALITIES

The Charles Brown Glass Co. Family: Charles Jr., Catherine, Jenni, Nathaniel and David.REFLECTING QUALITIESREFLECTING QUALITIES



The Charles Brown Glass Company's success over 55 years comes down to industrial-strength professionalism with good old family values

Written By: Nick Brandi | Photographer: Grant L. Gursky

Some dismiss the importance of being a multigenerational family business, but that is likely a short-sighted perspective. The stakes are always higher when you’re running a family business, especially in a tight-knit community such as ours. What each generation of leadership does with that business comes to represent a reflection of the family as a whole and can profoundly affect that business’s — and family’s — standing in their own community, the echoes of reputation rippling back in time and to the future all at once. That’s why the patriarchs and matriarchs of these entrepreneurial clans are so often perfectionists, even taskmasters, when it comes to the conduct of their businesses by family members — especially by family members. This is certainly true of the Charles Brown Glass Company in Salisbury, where for 54 sterling years, a member of the Brown family has been the guardian of the family name and reputation by providing only the highest standards of quality and customer service.
It began in 1959 with the man whose business still bears his name more than a half-century later. Charles Brown Sr. founded the company in Salisbury on April 1 of that year, when Dwight Eisenhower was still the president. His right hand in the office was his loving wife, Ann Brown, who worked for the company answering phones, processing payroll and any other miscellaneous clerical work that needed to be done so that her husband could concentrate on serving his customers.
Charles Sr. and Ann had two children, Charles Jr. and Catherine. The former — who started with the company straight out of college — is the current president of the company, having taken over the day-to-day management responsibilities from his dad about 20 years ago. Catherine, meanwhile, is the company vice-president and co-owner, sporting 30 full years of tenure under her Brown belt in the daily running of the office, which includes not only all clerical and payroll but also personnel, accounting and the paperwork for their large commercial jobs.
Charles Jr.’s son Nathaniel Brown is a good-hearted, fun-loving 26-year-old who joined the family business about five years ago and has, reportedly, taken to it rather well. He now works as an estimator of the company’s big commercial jobs, a big responsibility that must be discharged competently for the Charles Brown Glass Company to thrive in the 21st century. His complement, meanwhile, is his first cousin, 34-year-old David Brown, who’s demonstrated an innate talent for the family business from his introduction to it, which was literally half his lifetime ago. He’d started out doing installation of custom showers and mirrors but was eventually promoted to shop foreman before ultimately transitioning to the position of estimator for the residential jobs about five years ago. Lately, the extremely affable David has begun to dabble in small commercial job estimation, too.
There is another third-generation Brown, but this one also goes by the name Perunko. She is Catherine’s daughter, Jenni, who recently capped her first decade with her mom and uncle’s company. Jenni helps Catherine with the daily office administration and clerical work. Recently, Jenni has gotten into job costing as part of her long-term apprenticeship to one day receive the baton of leadership from Catherine, along with Cousin Nathaniel and her brother. And like David, Jenni is as friendly as she is competent, which suggests that the Brown family is talented at more than just installing glass.
The dedication and cohesiveness of the Browns throughout their three generations of service have kept the company vibrant and growing even during the most challenged economies. Thus, today, they are definitely a power player in the industry, with at least 25 employees and eight trucks canvassing the region at any one time. Two of their current coups involve local schools. As of October 2013, Charles Brown Glass began work at Laurel Middle/High School in Delaware, a huge job where they will be installing all-new storefront and curtain-wall glass, as well as mirror work, for many months. They are also gearing up for a mammoth job at James M. Bennett High School in Salisbury, which will keep them hopping throughout much of 2014. But despite these high-profile gigs, Jenni emphasizes that the company has not gotten, nor will it get, too big for its britches.
“We haven’t at all deemphasized the residential component of our business,” declared Jenni, who also plays the role of mom to the fourth generation of likely CB Glass leadership. “In fact, we’re still delighted to take on jobs that involve the installation of sliding glass doors and windows for patios, as well as window-pane glass and picture windows, custom shower installation and mirrors, too. No matter how big we may get, we will always be the Browns, your community glass company, because my grandfather Charles Sr. wouldn’t have it any other way.” 

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