In 1988, our 2 year old son was tired of kittens- he wanted a hamster. Hamsters are usually kept in a 10 gallon tank, so I went to Walmart to buy one. They were pretty expensive, so I came home and told Tom the price. He said, “I have an old glass cutter – I can make one.” Which he did (but we never went back to get the hamster). Once he’d made one tank he announced, “That was easy! I can make more of these and SELL them.” The old get rich- quick story. Shortly after this we found someone in Texas who sold the frames. Remember, this was all before the internet. We took a trip down there and brought home a load of black frames in a minivan.
A few months later, we bought our first pallet (4000lb) of glass. Now we were big time! I kept the receipt for that pallet, and years later when our County complained about Zoning in our area, I was able to produce this old receipt and prove we had been manufacturing tanks here prior to County-wide Zoning changes.
I remember when we hired our first employee, who chose to work without a shirt. Every tank he made had a greasy spot in the center with the mark of a belly-button on it from when he carried a tank shirtless against his stomach. We went through lots of glass cleaner!
By 1990, we had begun displaying terrariums at various Reptile shows in the Midwest. The same minivan now pulled a trailer full of tanks. Even that trailer didn’t hold enough tanks for the demand and we soon graduated to a bigger van plus an enclosed trailer. That gave us enough room to do a show in Columbus Ohio, pack up and drive to St. Louis or Indianapolis the next morning, and start all over again. The van became a semi truck with a 53’ trailer full of tanks by 1991. Aquarium customers got used to meeting our truck to pick up their pre-ordered tanks. By 1992, we were driving 2 semis every weekend, and driving all night from New York, Florida, Texas to Chicago.
In that same year we purchased the die-press machine and frame molds from the man in Texas and began making our own aquarium frames in- house. A larger building for manufacturing was built. A new addition to that building was added on every few years.
Glasscages kept growing and in 2006 we bought a glass hole drilling machine, edge polisher, and huge glass washer machine.
The public interest in aquariums increased to a point that in 2012 we were making almost no terrariums.
Sadly, due to increasing sizes in aquariums and the need for tanks to be shipped further away, we had to end our own truck trips in 2017. Heavy aquariums couldn’t be easily unloaded by our customers, so we began shipping via commercial trucklines on pallets. Tanks were going all over the country, including Alaska, Hawaii, Virgin Islands, Canada, everywhere.
Joe and Todd owned and operated a glass distribution company. Glasscages was one of their first customers. One fateful day I called to order some glass. We discussed how Tom and I loved our company but wanted to step away from the day to day demands. Todd made a quick call to Joe, (short version) “Hey Joe! What do you think about making aquariums?” The rest, as they say, is history.
Tom and Beth