Image remains clear for area glass supplier

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Safety and professionalism, as much as convenience, is a big part of the glass window business. For Express Glass owner Jonathan Russo it is not simply a matter of repairing chips in windshields. He is interested in keeping his customers, whether auto, marine or custom industrial, satisfied to the degree that they will return when needing help or new products and refer his business to their friends, relatives and associates.

“It was my father’s business (which originated from Landry Seat Cover and Glass),” Russo said to explain his origins in this line of work. “My dad took over in 1968, then that is how I got started.”

After becoming a partner, the second-generation glass man ultimately became owner and changed the business name to Express Glass in 1991.

With three locations, the independently-owned operation originated with providing glass for marine vessels and offshore operations, which today along with industrial specialty glass provides more than 40 percent of his work. The company expanded into auto glass replacement, which constitutes approximately 60 percent of its business.

“We maintain and repair boats and cranes,” Russo said. “We do about anything offshore. We run specialty items. We do all the hard-to-find stuff. Kind of the oddball stuff.”

Express Glass takes care of the insured driver with auto glass replacement needs. “We probably service 500 to 1,000 people a month between our three locations,” the business owner said.

With crane cab work, Russo’s business installs soundproofing and glass into the cab for the crane manufacturer. Custom glass is cut from larger stock sheets at Express Glass’s main location in Houma.

Russo said his most unusual job occurred when he was called to Barker Honda, which was at the time across the street from his business.

“The [Barker] body shop manager called me to remove a windshield from a Mustang,” the glass replacement expert said. “I went over and looked and asked what the problem was.”

The vehicle belonged to a car rental company that said they had a snake trapped in the dashboard. Rather than remove the windshield, Russo ran the air conditioner until the 6-foot-long snake dropped from under the dashboard and Terrebonne Parish Animal Control was called. “We didn’t have to change the windshield, but it was the most bizarre thing I’ve had happen,” he said.

Russo explained that the glass repair and replacement season generally begins during Mardi Gras and continues into October. “We have mild winters here, but because temperatures change and we get extreme heat, it makes for an expansion and contraction of glass. Then it starts splitting.”

“A windshield is constructed with two pieces of glass with a plastic film placed between them,” Russo said. “When a rock hits a windshield it makes an air pocket. So, we put a round suction disk on the pocket and suck the air out. Once the air is out then we inject an epoxy.”

Russo said that customer service is the most important element to provide in glass supply and repair business, because if all goes well for the customer that person might not need a repair again. “You have to have a level of trust with customers so when they do need you they will come back.”

The business owner added that education of employees and consumers are essential as well. “That windshield is not just for you to see through,” he said. “It actually helps you with rollover. It keeps the roof from crushing in. When windshields have to be replaced. It is almost like going into surgery. Safety elements have to do with it.”

Antennas, screen on glass imaging and controls on glass, make replacing a windshield a skill to itself, and a more significant job than popping out and in a piece of glass.

Certified professionals with Express Glass install, repair or replace windows. They undergo continuing education and must keep up on industrial changes. They also remain skilled in their field to insure referral business and remain ahead of the competition.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Louisiana has the fifth highest concentration by occupation of glass repair and replacement employees in the nation. When it comes to occupation representation, auto repair and maintenance are among the highest in the nation as well.

Russo said he is aware of the competition and expects the best performance possible from his employees and himself as they keep Express Glass cruising with jobs both on water and on the roads.

Express Glass owner Jonathan Russo prepares a windshield for replacement. In addition to auto glass, the Houma-based company cuts and fits glass for marine vessels, offshore operations and custom interior jobs.