Heart of Glass - Blenko Glass

Blenko Glass is a West Virginia treasure that spans generations. Nothing symbolizes the state of West Virginia better or more beautifully than Blenko Glass. We will discuss current and former craftsmen and designers and how important it is that Blenko and West Virginia glass be appreciated and valued by the younger generation.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


Friday we had a leisurely visit to BLENKO GLASS in Milton, West Virginia.

Blenko is beautiful this time of year. The ducks and geese are on the pond. The Cherry trees are are loosing their blooms, everything is a lust green, the perennials and annuals are bright and cheerful.

The Glass Garden has never been lovelier. This day Doc and Randy Riders' Son (forgive me I can't remember his name) were weed eating and pulling weeds in an effort to have everything looking ship shape for the FESTIVAL OF GLASS - Aug 22-23.

The economy makes this a very difficult time for all business and most especially the glass arts which rely on natural gas. The cost of natural gas, the minerals used for the glass and water continue to increase at percentages unheard of a decade ago. The cost of doing business - workers compensation premiums etc continue to increase....its difficult. I've spent a lot of time speaking about 'Imports from China and India' but this is only a part of the problem. Is there a solution to this - - we're like Scarlett O'Hara " Tomorrow I'll think of some way . . . after all, tomorrow is another day." Its overwhelming.

I did learn the following things today at BLENKO.

1. The PRICES are going to INCREASE - so if you have your eye on an item - buy it NOW!

2. Blenko needs our support, we would like to have everyone make a phone, or in person visit and purchase for $100 or more within the month. Fenton Glass was declared DEAD and the customer base kept the plant running - with just this small amount of support. Each person
in the online groups agreed to purchase. Don't put this off. Sign on line - get out the card, make the purchase.

3. The Glass Classes will fill up quickly - pre register asap!

4. Bring your entire FAMILY on Augs 22 -23 It will be a great Family EVENT lots of unadvertised GLASS SPECIALS!

5. BLENKO continues to be an American FAMILY Owned BUSINESS Located in West Virginia employing your neighbors and friends.
SUPPORT Locally Owned Business!


Anonymous said...

Well my friend and I both did as you ask, we went to the Visitors Store and we bought a lot of things.
Margie Hale

Anonymous said...

Yes, We can all do our part to support Blenko, and Discover knows I have tried. Now we need for Blenko to advertise outside of West Virginia. Have a marketer visit some of the major department stores and push this beautiful glass. Now is the time people are looking to buy things made in the USA. A major place to hit is Cracker Barrel Headquarters, Blenko should be in every Cracker Barrel. I have a ton of ideas.

Anonymous said...

Price increase. Each time I go
the price has increased. Cheaper now to buy the old stuff.

Anonymous said...

do you have an 'in' at cracker barrel?
suggestions? should we ask can you get Blenko waterbottles? this could take forever.
i often do ask for blenko, in places where it isn't sold. proud of hilly?

Tim said...


Ideally Blenko would have a marketing team or company representing them, but unfortunately those days have passed. With stiffer competition abroad from the Asian markets (where they have very cheap labor costs and subsidies) Every US company competing must squeeze every nickel out of all expenses except possibly production, leaving very little or no monies for promotion or marketing. That is the reality. Make no bones about it Blenko is fighting for it's very survival. Why did all of the other glass companies go under? Pilgrim? Rainbow? Kanahwa? Fenton is fighting a losing battle. It's already gone down once. Can it do so again? Were these companies less smarter than Blenko? Probably not, but they were doing the equivalent of living pay check to pay check. The problem arises when something unforeseen happens and there is nothing left to fall back on. There is no simple answer.

In spite of the bleak situation all is not lost. Blenko has seen bad patches before like a little thing called the Great Depression. They are doing everything they can, we as collectors must do everything we can. If you have a connection or an "in" with someone pass it on. If you see a shop that would be a great place for Blenko pass that on to Blenko as well. I know several collectors who have done this. Every little bit helps. I hope to see you all at the Glass Festival.


sweetdoc said...

The prices are getting too high.
When is the increase? Should I shop early for xmas?

Anonymous said...

Blenko does have marketing teams representing them at the various gift market/shows across the country thanks to the hard work and extensive travels of Katie and others.

Blenko returned to the Atlanta gift show in January 2007. Katie, Christy and Mary worked hard getting Blenko back in front of the buyers and their hard work paid off when they were able to get in The Weikel's Group showroom as one of their product lines. This wasn't easy as the Weikel's had represented Fenton for years and Mr. Weikel wouldn't talk to Katie in an effort to remain loyal to Fenton. But when Fenton announced they were closing they changed their minds and Blenko became a regular at the Atlanta shows with a sales team to help promote their stuff out on the road also.

Fenton Art Glass is now made up of two divisions, Fenton USA and Fenton International. While they are still producing some glass in Williamstown, most of their sales are coming via imported glass and ceramics. The Fenton International items sell much cheaper than the Fenton USA items. While I have never cared for Fenton, I have to say that if Blenko goes down the importing route, I'll only buy US made items and vintage stuff.

Americans should be looking to buy American, but as Tim stated here and I did on another post, all of this is easier said than done. Buyers, those who are buying for the retail market are timid about buying American made products when they wholesale at a much higher price. Imported glass items can wholesale at three to four times cheaper than Blenko. When an imported vase wholesales at $15.00 and its Blenko counterpart wholesales at $55.00 to $75.00, many buyers will not buy the Blenko piece no matter if it was made in America or not. With times so tight buyers are afraid to tie up capital if they have a fear that what they are buying will not sell well. That is where we can encourage many local gift shops to give Blenko a chance.

The sad truth about the times today are that most people don't really care about American made products enough to spend the extra amount that American made products cost compared to the imports. This can be seen in the furniture and textile markets. Price is what matters. Many American made products can't be marketed to the average American, because price is the major reason that the average American opts to buy things.

IMHO, Blenko is only going to turn around in today's economy by a grassroots campaign of its loyal customers and it fans helping to get their name out as much as possible. The marketing at Blenko has really picked up, but no matter how well Katie and Blenko does, Blenko is competing with the much cheaper imports. It is going to take us opening the eyes of everyone we can, including local shops, at what a wonderful product Blenko is and how they can improve their product lines by adding Blenko.

Tim said...

The prices are higher because the cost of all petroleum products/Natural gas have gone through the roof. Blenko has no choice but to pass on those costs on to the consumer. My advise when it comes to buying Blenko. Buy early, buy often.

bridgett said...

Ok I phoned everyone on my calling circle and invited them to attend the Festival of Glass and emailed info. While I won't be there perhaps someone will, and if not perhaps they'll buy glass.
Now if we all do this, the numbers may increase.
Also our friends may decrease.