First Responders: Good Suppliers Keep Emergency Repairers Moving

Glass shops are often on the frontlines helping people after a natural disaster turns windows and storefronts to many tiny pebbles of broken tempered glass. But how do glass shops in some of the country’s most vulnerable areas, from Tornado Alley to the coastal hurricane zones, protect their wares from such disasters so that they themselves are ready for the uptick in business that’s likely to come?

There’s no secret to storing inventory, according to Danny Sullivan, owner of City Glass in Oklahoma City. He says it’s all in the supplier.

“Now [inventory] is available anytime we need it. In the old days we’d keep stuff on-hand, because we’d order things from 200 or 300 miles away, but now everything’s available here,” Sullivan says. “Maybe we got a little short of single-strength or double-strength glass [after the] last hailstorm, but we caught up quickly. We don’t have any inventory problems; everything’s restocked overnight. In this area, we’ve got some pretty good suppliers.”

Today, Sullivan’s glass shop keeps much of its available inventory in cases or stacked on modern racks within the 15,000-square-foot store.

It’s a good thing product is easy to come by, too, since City Glass is being inundated with job requests following a series of deadly tornadoes that struck the metro area in late May and early June.

“It’s been quite an exciting spring,” Sullivan says solemnly. “Work has just really started picking up on stuff that’s happened well over a month ago. They’ve been waiting for the insurance money, maybe?”

He adds, “I bet this is going to last until Christmas—the last one did. Our last bad hailstorm lasted from summer until Christmas.”

Sullivan says it’s not keeping inventory in good shape that plagues his region’s glass shops, it’s the never-ending disaster of trying to find good help. “We have too much to do and not enough qualified glaziers,” he says. “Good help is hard to come by.”

Glass USA in Broward County, Fla., also specializes in providing emergency services for other businesses, but when the emergency hits its property, there’s not much the company can do to protect its extensive stock of glass besides battening the hatches and weathering the storm.

“We don’t take any special precautions to save any of the glass,” says Scott Sorenson, owner of Glass USA. “Everything’s kept inside. We do different things like park the vans a little bit closer to the garage door so they don’t blow in and we board up our own place, things like that.”

Sorenson also feels that the best preparation for a natural disaster is to keep your suppliers close. “Most of our suppliers are local. A lot of them closed up when the recession hit, but we still have them here,” he says.

One might say the glass shop’s motto is keep your suppliers close—and cut off those competitors when they try to get even closer.

“We’re one of the glass shops that is usually heavily stocked and so some of the smaller glass shops come and use us like a mini warehouse sometimes,” Sorenson says. “They come over and try to get glass from us. The problem there is that there’s such a demand for the glass after a storm that we have to sometimes cut them off, because they use up our supply.”

For companies looking to help others weather the storm, the key seems to be finding dependable local suppliers and building lasting relationships with those companies.

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