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UPDATE: U.S. Glass Plans To Continue Manufacturing In Williamstown

By: WTAP News Email
By: WTAP News Email
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UPDATE: 1/21/2014 4:40 P.M.

A name may be gone, but a plant will remain.

That's what the owners of Fenton Art Glass tell us.

Gene Bem, C.E.O. of U.S. Glass, says participation by the Fenton family in the Williamstown plant is winding down.

But he says U.S. Glass, who purchased the plant in 2012, still plans manufacturing there.

In fact, Bem says it is working on a deal with Wal-Mart, and hopes to be making glass products by the end of this year for the nation's largest retailer.

Fenton made decorative-and collectable-glass products there for more than a century.

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UPDATE 1/20/2014 5:00 PM

There hasn't been any manufacturing at Fenton Art Glass for a long time.

What's left of it is the gift shop.

A year ago the company which bought the long-time manufacturer tried, unsuccessfully, to sell off its old glassmaking moulds as a fundraiser to re-start the business.

Fenton has always been a large tourist attraction to the area.

And the West Virginia Division of Tourism says it is anticipating what remains of the glassmaker will soon be closing.

And it will be a loss for area tourism.

"I think what makes it so sad for a lot of people is that part of our Americana, part of our heritage, glassblowing, is a well-known thing in West Virginia. So it will be a loss to not have it," says Debbie Florence, supervisor at the Williamstown Welcome Center.

Fenton has been close to shutting down before but efforts by the company and its employees held off a complete shutdown before U.S. glass purchased the property two years ago.

Florence says while Fenton likely won't be bringing visitors to the area, state and local tourism officials will continue efforts to make travelers aware of the area's other attractions.


Updated: 5/14/2013 6:10 P.M.

Fenton Art Glass and its new parent company, U.S. Glass, are running out of time to raise money to catalog the 10,000 moulds it has in its Williamstown plant.

They come not only from Fenton, but from glass makers of the past, like Imperial and Fostoria Glass.

And they might be of interest to the thousands of collectors of Fenton products from all over the country.

"Probably over the last 30 years, as other companies in the handmade glass industry went out of business, we were able to acquire their moulds", says company President George Fenton. "In some cases, we scrapped them, and in other cases, we kept them in storage. And that's why we have to catalog them, so they'll have a full picture of what's available."

Fenton needs $50,000 by next Monday for the cataloging fundraiser. It currently has a little less than one-fifth of that goal.

We have a link to the newsletter and information on the fundraiser on the "Hot Button" on our web channel.

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Updated: 3/19/2013 6:10 P.M.

Residents of the area, and, more specifically, Williamstown, understand the impact Fenton Art Glass has had during its more than 100 years of operation.

"Tour buses come into it, and all kinds of things," said Beverly Strickler. "I have a business, and we have people stop. So, it means a lot."

But while a new company has stepped in to operate it, when it does again begin production, it won't have the Fenton name. It will instead be known as the Williamstown Glassmaking Plant. And while it may, at first, use Fenton's molds, it plans to produce its own decorative glass products.

"Over time, we plan on bringing our own types of glass products into that facility that may even have other brands on it," says Gene Bem, CEO, U.S. Glass, Incorporated. "So, the initial start will be a Fenton product line that is refreshed, using the current infrastructure that's in the factory, that will reflect the capability of the factory. Not necessarily the exact products."

It has been two years since production ceased at Fenton. U.S. Glass bought the plant at auction in 2012. Its gift shop has remained open, and will continue to be open-but to sell the company's remaining inventory.

"And there's product there to be bought now, especially if you like Fenton glass, since they or we won't be making any more of that," Bem says. "So now's the chance, if you like some of the stuff that's from the past."

While it will have just a few employees at first, Bem says U.S. Glass hopes to hire up to 50 people in the next few months-and maybe more- depending on how well its product line is received.

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Updated: 3/18/2013 5:35 P.M.

A step toward a new beginning for Fenton Art Glass.

Its new owners have received $100,000 from the state's venture capital firm.

The West Virginia Jobs Investment Trust provided the funding to restart the company's decorative glass production lines, which closed down two years ago.

It's the investment trust's first round of funding in the Fenton group, which bought the plant last year.

Department of Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette says the funds will also be used marketing.

While production at the plant was stopped, the company's gift shop has remained open.

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Associated Press 2012:

WILLIAMSTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - Hand-blown glass-maker Fenton Art
Glass Co.'s assets will be sold later this year at auctions in Ohio
and West Virginia.

Auctions of glass are set for April 21 and July 28 at Randy
Clark's Auction Gallery in Dexter City, Ohio.

Intellectual property, including the company's name, logos,
trademarks and glass formulas will be sold at a May 24 auction at
its plant in Williamstown.

Fenton Art Glass President George Fenton says that the company's future depends on who buys its
assets.

Last July, the 107-year-old company announced that it was
shutting down its traditional glass-making business.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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