Blizzard Set to Retire from YKK AP, Leaves Behind Legacy in Midwest Branch

Phil Blizzard and Oliver Stepe

Phil Blizzard and Oliver Stepe

When Phil Blizzard joined YKK AP America 18 years ago, he was told to open a branch in Cincinnati.

So he did.

“I moved here, bought a home, went to a local office supply, purchased a fax machine and plugged it into my spare bedroom, and the branch was open,” says Blizzard. “We now have 34,000 square feet and 17 employees in Cincinnati.”

A dozen and a half years—and as many employees—later, Blizzard is calling it a career, as he the 66-year-old is set to retire this summer after 30-plus years in the business. He spent time with W.A. Wilson Glass Plus, Binswanger Glass, Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company and Eastfield Glass Company prior to joining YKK AP in 1996.

“It’s time for this dinosaur to step down and let the newer computer and electronic savvy guys take over,” he says.

The company honored Blizzard with the Journey of Excellence Award earlier this month, as YKK AP senior vice president Oliver Stepe says Blizzard will be remembered for his leadership and achievements.

“Phil will leave a lasting legacy on our company, as well as the industry we serve,” Stepe said. “His continuous journey for success will be used as a platform for company growth for years to come.”

Joseph Bernard will assume full operational authority of the Cincinnati and Chicago branch as Blizzard’s successor. “Joseph has a wide range of industry credentials including overseeing major plant operations as well as his recent leadership experience as operations manager of YKK AP’s Atlanta branch,” Stepe said in March.

“I think he will do just fine,” adds Blizzard. “After all, he has a great team around him.”

Part of that team, according to Blizzard, includes several of the employees he hired 18 years ago when he started the branch, something he’s proud of and considers to be part of the legacy Stepe alluded to.

So what’s next?

“I used to teach, so I am hoping to do some substitute teaching, and between the teaching assignments, some serious fishing,” he says.

Blizzard adds that what he’ll miss most about the industry is “the interaction with customers and ‘selling’ the project even though you were not the cheapest quote.”

And one last piece of advice from the veteran as he makes his way out: “Surround yourself with good people, and become a good listener.”

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