January 31, 2009

Blenko Closes?!

This is a shocker...

via the AGG bulletin board and huntingtonnews.net. -

Blenko Glass Calls it Quits

By Tony Rutherford, Huntingtonnews.net Reporter

Huntington, WV (HNN) - One of the only hand blown and stained glass manufacturers in the United States has closed. Blenko Glass, a Milton tourist attraction, told workers Friday afternoon, Jan. 30, 2009 that production had stopped.

The company has an on-going dispute with Big Two Mile natural gas company and the two parties have not been able to negotiate any compromises.

About 50 employees will lose their jobs.

say it ain't so.

more from the news services -
Charleston Gazette - Blenko Glass stops production, perhaps for good
Huntington Herald Gazette - Blenko Glass to shut down
Charleston Daily News - Historic Blenko Glass shuts down
WSAZ news - Blenko Glass Stopping Production
Herald-Dispatch's Heart of Glass, a Blenko Glass related blog

Looks like this has been brewing for years, with lots of legal shenanigans. As a stained glass enthusiast, I can only hope it resolves itself without losing the glassblowing facility for good.

More info on the legacy of Blenko Glass at The Blenko Project.

Full press release below the fold -

The full press release from January 30, 2009

Blenko Glass Company, Inc.
P.O. Box 67.
Milton, WV 25541.
January 30, 2009.
For Immediate Release
Blenko Glass Company announced today that it is shutting down production and is discussing with its counsel whether it should consider filing for bankruptcy. The Blenko Visitor’s Center will continue to remain open. The Milton based manufacturer of hand made glass was sued by Big Two Mile, its former gas supplier, four years ago because of a disagreement about the payments due for gas used at the factory. A court found in favor of Big Two Mile and entered a judgment against Blenko for more than $500,000 in September of 2005. Several proposals for settlement of the case were made by Blenko; none of the proposals was accepted. Over the past three years members of the Blenko Family were in contact with members of the Maier Family who are the owners of Big Two Mile. Blenko was led to understand that Big Two Mile would not take steps to shut down Blenko. Relying on those assurances Walter Blenko of Pittsburgh PA and Don Blenko of Wellesley MA invested more than 2 million dollars in Blenko in an effort to return the company to profitability. In recent months the company’s losses had been reduced and Blenko management was looking forward to seeing a positive cash flow in the company’s operations. On January 15, 2009, Big Two Mile took steps to seize “all amounts, deposits, and moneys” in the Blenko Glass bank accounts including its payroll and withholding accounts. Blenko first learned of Big Two Mile’s action on January 23, when Blenko’s bank reported that the bank accounts had been emptied. Blenko had issued a check on that day to pay for gas that it used in its glass making furnaces. When Blenko learned its funds had been seized it was able to recover the check which was already in the mail. Because of nonpayment Blenko’s gas supplier has refused to supply gas for the glass making process after January 31, 2009. Blenko has therefore shut down its furnaces and some of them will be destroyed due to the loss of heat. Blenko employs approximately 50 employees. Walter Blenko, President of Blenko Glass, said “I want to thank and pay tribute to the many loyal employees of Blenko Glass who worked diligently and faithfully against bad economic conditions to keep the company operating and producing world renowned Blenko Glass up until the last day.” For further information please contact: Walter Blenko, President, or Katie Trippe, Assistant Vice President, at (304) 743-9081.
Posted by Tom at January 31, 2009 07:56 PM