Moving on Up
Dale Schenian Takes His Place in the Hall of Fame
by Elizabeth Herlan
The following profile introduces one of the 2001 inductees of the Glass and Metal Hall of Fame™. This year, Dale Schenian of City Auto Glass and Jim Johnson of Sommer and Maca were recognized for their accomplishments at the awards ceremony that took place on October 5, 2001 in conjunction with Glass Expo Midwest™.
2001 has been a big year for Dale Schenian. He celebrated his 60th birthday on July 4 with family and friends. Then he was recognized for his dedicated commitment to helping the community of South St. Paul, Minn., where he has resided since high school. Now, what better way to commemorate his 41st year in the glass industry than by being inducted into the
2001 Glass and Metal Hall of Fame?
When asked to share words of wisdom for a successful career in the auto glass industry Schenian replied, “Never worry about the competition.” He believes the key to success is to “focus on providing your customers with good service and competitive pricing.” Schenian added, “If you know that you are doing the job well and to the best of your ability, then don’t worry about what the other guy is doing.”
This advice comes from a man who walks the talk. He started City Auto Glass in South St. Paul without a single customer. The company has now grown far beyond its five metro area locations and employs more than 100 people. Yet, sales aren’t the bottom line for Schenian. He places great importance on being involved personally with all of his employees and also his community. He takes great pride in the successful people within his organization, some of which have worked with him nearly 40 years. “I enjoy developing branches of my business and helping the people within my business develop themselves,” he said.
Schenian’s career began after high school, working in a glass and paint store. He earned his certificate of completion of apprenticeship as a glass worker in July 1965. He joined Union 1324 and soon thereafter he secured his glazing certification. In 1967 the owner of the shop where he had been working had a heart attack and a year later the shop went into bankruptcy. So Schenian decided to buy South St. Paul Glass and Paint and received his first taste of running his own business. His wife Bette helped by doing accounts-payable paperwork in the evenings after getting home from her full-time job. Schenian said the company had prospered and was an industry leader when he sold it in 1985.
Getting his Feet on the Ground
A successful career doesn’t happen without bumps along the way. “Many times I felt like I had one foot on a banana peel ready to slip into a hole,” Schenian said.
Throughout his career he has experienced many of the highs and lows that are characteristic of the auto glass business. Schenian said the roughest times were when the networks and big corporations tried to take over small businesses. In 1985 his company was acquired by a division of the Columbus, Ohio-based Safelite Corp. and operated under its control for a little more than four years. Things worked out well in the end, though; Schenian said his team became the best performing unit.
The turning point of Schenian’s career came in the late 1960s when he met a man by the name of Saul Shore. Shore then introduced him to Joe Kellman who was involved in the auto glass business in Chicago. Kellman helped Schenian buy a franchise of US Auto Glass Center and educated him on how to run a successful business. According to Schenian, Kellman was a source of sound advice for him throughout the years and quickly become his mentor and lifelong friend.
About a decade later, in the late 1970s, Schenian helped form the Minnesota Glass Dealers Association. He effectively served as the group’s first president and was then asked to serve a second term. Two of his employees have since held the same position, an accomplishment that Schenian says makes him proud. Schenian also is highly involved in several other organizations, and from 1980 to 1984 he served as director for the National Glass Dealers Association.
The Schenians’ only son, Mike, began working as an installer for the business during high school. He worked his way up to his current position as president of City Auto Glass and handles running the business on a day-to-day basis.
Spreading his Wings
Schenian has extended his keen business knowledge beyond the auto glass industry. He serves on the board of directors for Bremer Banks and has played an instrumental role in the company’s growth and success. Ken Nelson, executive vice president of the Bremer Financial Corp., has developed a close friendship with Schenian in the 25 years since he asked him to join the bank’s board.
“Dale can make you do things you didn’t think you could,” he said.
Schenian also is part owner of Canterbury Park Racetrack, serving as the vice-chairman of its board of directors. That venture complements his pastime of breeding and racing thoroughbreds. During race season he says you’ll find him at the track every Thursday through Sunday. In fact, the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association named him “Member of the Year” in 1992.
Schenian has also extended his personal commitment to his community, in which he plays an active role. He and Bette were charter members of the South St. Paul Education Foundation and have been strong supporters of programs directed to help the youth of their community. Neighbors Inc. is one such program designed to work for the greater good of the community and for which they have been dedicated participants.
In his spare time Schenian enjoys playing a little golf, but his true passion leads him to the racetrack. He also enjoys going to what he calls his second office in Fort Meyer, Fla., for a little rest and relaxation. Even though his son Mike is in charge of daily operations, he is still very involved with his business and says he enjoys what he’s doing because of the people in the business. “My father is at the office most days as a mentor and role model for both myself and all the employees,” said son Mike.
Elizabeth Herlan is the marketing assistant for AGRR Magazine.
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