Tayloe Glass hasn’t changed much throughout its 60-year history. Jeff Davis and Dariusz Karpinski joined John Kelleher in ownership five years ago, but the business, located at 301 South Blvd. and almost invisible, except from the Ridgeland Green Line station, remains the same. Glass, after all, hasn’t changed much over the years.

Founded in 1948, the company used to replace auto glass as well as plexiglass. But now they concentrate solely on residential and commercial. “We replace glass in the old wooden sashes of many of the windows in Oak Park and River Forest,” said Karpinski. “And we can order new windows, but we mostly replace broken glass and repair old windows or screens.”

“We’re old-fashioned,” said Davis. “We still cut the glass by hand.”

Glass doesn’t really have a slow season, but Davis said the months of May and June are hopping. “We are really busy in spring, when people are replacing cracked windows from winter, or there is damage from storms-and we also make screens.”

Davis said area residents are pretty handy as do-it-yourselfers. “Most homeowners come in with measurements and a sample of what they need, and install it themselves,” he said.

A glass floor?

Occasionally, Tayloe Glass gets unusual requests from architects. “We had one architect who wanted a 10-foot-by-10-foot clear glass panel to be used as a floor,” Davis recalls. “We gave him the quote, but we said we wouldn’t install it because we didn’t think a glass floor would be safe.”

Karpinski also noted they occasionally get requests for mirrors on the ceilings-usually the bedroom-but they don’t install those either.

“It’s too dangerous,” he said. “It could fall off and hurt someone.”

Many times people request large sheets of glass or mirror and haven’t thought about how the piece will get into their home. “If they want us to install it, and it is a large or unusual size, like on a staircase or in a basement, we will go out and look at the area first, to make sure there is a way to safely carry in the glass or mirror. If we install it and it breaks, it’s our problem; if they carry it out and do it themselves, it’s theirs,” said Davis. He has more than one memory of some tricky maneuvering.

Davis counts Dominican and Concordia universities and a number of significant homes in the area as clients.

“We were installing skylight panels at the Frank Lloyd Wright Studio on Chicago [Avenue] when some preservation people were there,” he recalled. “That made us nervous.”

Another architect was designing a glass-topped table for one of the newer multimillion-dollar houses near Dominican Priory and the Fenwick athletic fields in River Forest.

“This home had a waterfall in the basement and huge wine cellar,” Davis noted. “They wanted the tabletop for a home theater area-it was about $5,000 just for the glass top.” As when Tayloe creates bartops, this glass had a special design and required some custom work.

Tennessee born

Tayloe Glass traces its humble origins to Nashville, Tenn. The current owners have on display an old photo of the simple storefront. Not much is known about the early owner, or even how the store got its name.

“Many people think we are Taylor Glass, but it’s Tayloe,” said Davis. The store came to Oak Park and settled at 704 Madison St. in 1951. Another old black-and-white photo, compliments of the auto manufacturer, shows a brand new 1952 Tayloe Glass Studebaker truck loaded with a filled sheet glass carrier. While the Studebaker is long gone, the Tayloe trucks still carry glass in the same manner. The store has been located at 301 South Blvd. for decades.

Tayloe Glass stopped carrying plexiglass because the price of petroleum rose too high.

“Glass is cheaper than plexiglass,” said Karpinski.

They have access to many kinds of glass-from clear, to security, to glass block-but they do not handle leaded or art glass.

Davis got his start in glazing with John Curran, a master glass craftsman who owned a shop on south Oak Park Avenue. “I worked for him and did everything-including building complicated boxes to ship glass everywhere from Hawaii to California,” said Davis. “John Curran is truly a craftsman-he is one of the only people who can bend glass.”

Davis himself occasionally likes to dabble in craftsmanship.

“The other day I was at home and cut the top off an old Coca-Cola bottle to make a pencil holder,” he said.

Glass chips off the old block

When business is light, the workers play cards in the back of the traditional shop. “One time, they didn’t have poker chips, so they made one-inch poker chips out of some spare glass,” Davis recalls.

Barney Wise, a former owner, still drops by the store once a month. “He really is someone we have to thank for keeping the business running,” said Davis. “There are stories about how he would miss a paycheck or two in the slow times just to make sure employees were paid; he’s just a great person.”

Davis said the three owners do more than supervise or shuffle paper. They’re cutting glass along with a few other employees. Store hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon.

The company doesn’t advertise much, or run promotions.

“We’re pretty much a no-frills kind of shop-we focus on the work,” said Davis. “We’re pretty much the only glass shop in this area, and everyone seems to know us.”

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