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Light seems to catch every color, contour, surface, shape, and shade of stained glass as you walk into The Glass House in Decatur.

Owned by Steve and Marilyn Trebacz, this unique craft and gift retail store has been a mainstay in this central Illinois city since 1985.

Basically, it was a hobby gone haywire. My wife needed a hobby and I said, ‘Hey, try some glass.’ I was exposed to glass making early on. She took a class, and things got a little out of hand from there,” said Steve.

What started as an unknown adventure 39 years ago turned into a beloved retail venture for Steve and Marilyn. The couple says The Glass House has the largest selection of stained-glass supplies in the Midwest, with more than 800 colors and textures of glass in stock.

I love glass because it is one of the most versatile materials on Earth,” explained Steve. You can make things that will last for centuries. There are windows in Europe that are hundreds of years old. Glass has a permanence to it that very few man-made materials have.”

The Glass House specializes in all things glass, whether it be repairs or supplies for craft enthusiasts.

We do all kinds of things related to glass. We do sandblasting and traditional stained glass. We do glass fusing, glass etching, and about anything having to do with glass,” stated Steve If you are wondering where we get our sheet glass, it comes from all over the country and some manufacturers are all over the world. It comes in large sheets, in wooden crates, and then the crafter will cut it with a pattern to make projects. We have all sorts of molds we sell to people who do glass fusing and the firing of glass in kilns. Plus, we have bevel glass and other parts and pieces used to make a project in glass.”

“Some people look at our store and go, ‘Hey, it is a craft store for glass.’ I say, ‘Well, that is this part of it.’ But we have all kinds of gift products, which is essentially finished pieces we bring in,” says Steve. They are primarily glass items from all over the world, studios all over the country.

Steve has come to embrace his own creativity and ingenuity when it comes to this unique art form.

I look at things in a different way sometimes and I go, ‘Hey, you know what? I could represent that in glass,’” explained Steve. “There may be a need for a tool or a mold or something to make a different shape and maybe I can come up with it.”

But as creative as Steve may be, he understands The Glass House would be a fragile enterprise without turning a profit.

I don’t like to think of myself so much as a glass artist. I like to think of myself as more of a businessman because glass artists sometimes don’t do as well over the long term. They tend to be starving artists,” Steve said with a slight grin.

Steve acknowledged that his longevity hinges on his ability to evolve and iterate the business.

We taught stained glass classes here dealing with traditional stained glass and other techniques since the day we opened,” explains Steve. “Then COVID-19 came along, and we could not do in-person classes. At that point, we had to find something else to do. We had a website and it started taking off. We started selling to people in other areas of the country where their local glass store had closed. We developed that part of our business, and it has kind of taken over what we do nowadays.”

There is always going to be a need for hobbies, and the art of working with glass and stained glass is one of them. It is worthwhile. You can make something that has value. It is time consuming yet rewarding.

I like coming to work because every day is a challenge. We have people coming in with needs, whether it be they are looking for a gift for a family member or they have a question about a technique they are trying or needing glass for a project. Every day it is about meeting customer needs. It is making people leave with a smile; that’s a big part of my business,” explained Steve.

Retail is very important. There are a whole bunch of us out there. We do a lot of hiring, create entry level jobs, and give people experience. I like to think we are the backbone of commerce in Illinois,” says Steve.

“The Glass House matters as a business because we fulfill a need at a low level.  We provide customer service.  Everybody talks about the big box stores and the online retail, but they do not carry your purchase to the car. We will do that for customers. We wait on them. People are talking to customers, and a lot of people like that shopping experience.” said Steve. You don’t get that in the big stores.

This is a fascinating way to make a living. Something different all the time. If you decide you get tired of making flat work and windows, you can make lampshades. If you get tired of that, you can get into glass fusing. It is limitless what you can make out of glass.”

Central Illinois

Whimsy Tea

IRMAApril 15, 2024

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