Insights and Lessons from a Father and Son Glazing Duo

By Joshua Huff

Kevin Hardman has glass in his blood. The owner of Hardman Glazing Management (HGM) in Athol, Idaho, charts his family’s history with the profession back to the late 1800s. In fact, his great-grandfather and great-uncle worked as journeymen glaziers in San Francisco—the two were listed in the San Francisco yellow pages as far back as 1894.

It comes as no surprise that Hardman became involved in the glass industry at an early age. His love of glass started at his great-grandfather and great-uncle’s glass shop, Bank Brother’s Glass, which opened in 1911 in Alameda, Calif., and moved into an old San Mateo, Calif., police station years later. “I would frequently go [to the shop] with my father, Joseph A. Hardman IV (Joe), to work and see the magic happen,” says Kevin. “At 10 years old, I was hooked and started working at my grandfather’s shop occasionally and at my father’s shop mostly. I was shipped out to my first out-of-town job at the ripe old age of 12.”

His love of glass grew into a burgeoning career culminating in a family-owned glazing company, Hardman Glazing Systems Inc. He started the shop with Joe after graduating from the University of Oregon with a focus on economics and business administration. The two ran it for 21 years before Joe’s retirement in 2021. The company had as many as 17 employees. It was based in San Leandro, Calif., and worked on projects throughout the Western U.S. The annual sales for the company were around $2 million.

Hardman Glazing Management

When Joe retired, Kevin shifted his focus to HGM. His new company manages various commercial and high-end residential glazing projects nationwide. He provides consulting work for new projects, design, product selection, waterproofing and finish material alignment. Kevin is the only employee. He has completed work throughout 14 states in the past two years. HGM has annual sales of around $3.5 million.

“I help oversee jobs, solve problems and help break the learning curve on products by working with field teams and sharing tricks,” explains Kevin. “I also bid on installing projects directly using several glazing contractors I have partnered with. Projects come my way, and I choose the best match and act as the project manager while my partners provide the labor.”

Kevin says his ability to manage and oversee projects comes from years of shadowing and learning from his dad, who always led by example. Of course, as rosy as hindsight can be, the partnership had its fair share of challenges. Kevin admits the two would occasionally butt heads, but those times were few and far between.

“Like any business or father and son relationship, there were those moments,” says Kevin. “We see things differently and take different approaches to projects and problems. There would be some head-butting at times … But, learning side-by-side with my father in the field in the early years was so positive and why I fell in love with the trade. He taught me everything.”

Born with a Glass Thumb

As a child, Joe had a knack for glazing. Much like Kevin, Joe’s education in the glazing industry began at an early age. His father, Joseph A. Hardman III, took over Bank Brother’s Glass from his wife’s father, Fred G. Bank, following World War II; Joseph was stationed on the USS Tennessee during the Pearl Harbor attack.

“My father was an amazing craftsman who taught my brothers and me early on the importance of working with tools and doing things correctly,” says Joe. “He always said if you do something, it’s worth doing it right. He also stressed if you start something, finish it. He did not like quitters.”

Joe learned how to cut glass almost before he could walk.. He recalls his childhood friends always asking why he had to go to work, but he told them he never considered it work. He simply enjoyed spending time with his father.

After graduating from college, Joe decided to get into glazing professionally to follow his father. He returned home and approached his father about jumping into commercial glazing. His father, however, wanted to continue to focus on residential glazing. So, Joe left for a glazing company in Colorado. Eventually, he returned to California and moved between glazing companies until he started JA Hardman Glazing in 1989. Then in 2000, he and Kevin opened Hardman Glazing Systems.

“With our family, there has always been respect and a passion for the trade,” says Joe. “Each family member has taken the trade and turned it into their own, taking it in a new direction and reinventing how they see the glass business.”

Father and Son Glaziers

Kevin and Joe agree their time as owners of Hardman Glazing Systems was full of fond memories, obstacles and learning opportunities. Kevin says the move from commercial glazing to the more challenging “high-end world” was tough initially, but the two had the experience and ability to adapt.

Kevin says they assembled, installed, modified and glazed systems from all over the world. Their projects included big technology giants, wineries, historic buildings in San Francisco, and Alcatraz Island, among many others.

“We have been fortunate to have experienced many different and unique installations from craning glass over three-story buildings and lowering it between the scaffolding and building on the backside, installing German channel glass, English and American steel windows to oversized glass,” says Joe.

Business is Never Easy

Kevin admits that owning a company is tough.

“It’s hard to continue the momentum,” he says. “We always felt the weight of staying busy as we knew our guys and their families were counting on it. That was a heavy pressure.”

Joe agrees. Business is always challenging. It took them years to successfully build Hardman Glazing into a respected company. That success also stemmed from Joe’s penchant for perfection, a trait that rubbed off on Kevin.

“Watching how good he was and how his brain processed things made me able to do the same,” says Kevin. “He always had a great rapport with the guys, and they followed him anywhere. He taught me to lead by example and never ask anyone to do something I couldn’t do or hopefully do better.”

Working alongside Kevin was a fitting conclusion to a long glazing career for Joe.

“Working with Kevin, there were always laughs, smiles and stories, as well as working hard to get the job done,” he says.

In his retirement, Joe has time to sit back and reflect on his years in the glass industry. He says one of the reasons he stayed in the industry so long was the excitement of seeing the next wave of technology.

As Joe steps back from full-time glazing work, Kevin says he feels his absence as he ventures out on his own.

“I love that guy, and I’m sad that we don’t communicate about work every day anymore as I move along my new path,” says Kevin. “But I will forever take his skills and the life lessons he has given me into whatever I do.

Joshua Huff is the assistant editor of USGlass magazine. Email him at jhuff@glass.com and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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