Volume 37, Issue 3, March 2002
An Inside Report on a Members-Only Topic
by Dez Farnady
To those of us who have spent all or a large portion of our working lives in the glass industry, it is much like being a member of a large, private club. Clubrooms may well be the offices of vendors or customers with whom we have spent a lot of time or have done a lot of business. The club lounge is often the restaurant or bar you have frequented with your customers of many years. The clubhouse is the trade show or convention where all of us gather to swap lies or tell stories or maybe even learn something new when we thought we already knew everything about the business.
While I have mentioned before that I don’t much like the clubhouse anymore, it is not because I did not enjoy it, but because it has become a little too pricey for me. I still love the opportunity to press the flesh and renew old acquaintances with out-of-towners or old friends who have moved a little way out of my travel routes. Normally, when you cut down on travel because jobs or circumstances have changed, you lose touch with people with whom you shared time and bread. At one time in my life I traveled to see “club members” from Northern California down through Central San Joaquin Valley with stops in the famous desert hot spots of Sacramento, Modesto, Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield all the way to Los Angeles. Contrary to possible public perception, there are some fine dining establishments along old Route 99 (that is, if the locals show you where they are).
I would also see club members on my periodic trips to the Pacific Northwest. I was a regular at the Valley River Inn in Oregon, and a frequent diner at the hash houses of Kent, Puyallup and Bellevue, usually with customers. When you run into those guys at trade shows it is like old home week whether in Phoenix or Las Vegas.
My favorite clubroom in San Francisco was not what you might think. It was not a flashy, white-tableclothed dinner house in the financial district with expensive wine and stuffy waiters. This was a hidden place out in the suburbs off Church St. behind a German deli and reserved for the cognoscenti. If you did not know it was there you could never find it. It is gone now because the owner finally got tired of making all of that money and maybe, just maybe, she had had enough of us drinking her beer. Regrettably, she closed her doors the fall of last year. I had the good fortune of being able to help drain the last barrel of Spaten while breaking bread with one of those glazing contractors who knew the distinction between food in San Francisco or eating and drinking beer at Speckman’s.
The members of the club who frequently broke bread—hell, drank beer—with me at Speckman’s included every estimator, project manager and superintendent working for every major glazing contractor in San Francisco. I worked for a big company and sold and entertained a lot of big customers. For more than 20 years there were a dozen or more glass houses, including the two biggest glass contractors now long gone, Cobbledick-Kibbe and Habenicht and Howlett. Their first choice when I took them to lunch in San Francisco was “the German.” The food was good enough to get periodic write-ups in the snobby San Francisco papers, and the beer was good enough to be able to stretch lunch into the early evening hours when that was still a politically correct way to entertain customers. After a few years I stopped looking at the menu because I knew it by heart.
While I feel like I am a member of a pretty exclusive club, I do know some people who whine about the glass business. For them the industry must be like an immense spider web, and they are the flies fluttering in the web only to get more wrapped up in it. It is tough to get out. While you can move from company to company it is difficult to leave the industry. If you are like me and most of my friends, you may have to change jobs on occasion because circumstances change, but you are still a member of the club
and there is always a good club lounge somewhere around the corner.
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