“Uncle Bob called it Maude & Bob St. Clair’s House of Glass. When Maude died in 1985, Bob ceased operation. He died in 1986, and we (Joe and his late wife Merrilee) bought the business the next year, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Joe takes extraordinary pride in continuing his uncles’ business and preserving the St. Clair family legacy.
“I’m the only one around who’s worked for any length of time with the St. Clairs,” he said, adding that he feels it’s his place to protect the integrity of stories about his family. “There’s been a lot of misinformation.”
He’s also proud of just how far some of the items produced at his factory have traveled. In fact, he has a favorite story.
“Our first order back in 1987 was for a former Elwood High School foreign-exchange student from Japan,” he recalled. “When she learned Uncle Joe and Bob had passed, our first order went to Japan. It was for 250 small, white bells.”
In addition, glass items produced by Joe and his family can be found at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, and the Corning Museum in Corning, New York; while many others have traveled to much further destinations, such as France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, and Croatia.
Besides where Joe’s and his family’s pieces have landed, there also is the who aspect.
“Over the years, the queen of England had some pieces made for Princess Diana,” he said.
Others, he mentioned, include sports world legends Gene Keady, Bobby Knight, and A.J. Foyt.
Oftentimes, as he pointed out, “the story that goes with the glass is really more valuable than the piece of glass. The story lives on.”
However, despite the high esteem glass art has enjoyed over the years, Joe is convinced the public’s interest in collecting it is waning.
“Nowadays, young people would rather have an experience than a roomful of things,” he said. Besides that, he added, “People of the age of collecting are downsizing.”
Downsizing is something Joe has been considering for himself as well.
“I’m 67 and am transitioning toward retirement,” he admitted. “I’ve made about a quarter million pieces of glass, and I want to play with the grandkids.”
Exactly when the transition might be complete, he isn’t certain. In the meantime, he invites the public to stop by his factory and look around.
“My favorite thing is seeing multiple generations of people, sometimes four generations, coming through,” he said. “To me that’s the most exciting part – helping people find something they enjoy.
“My thing is to wake up every day and bring joy to people’s lives.”
Joe Rice’s House of Glass is located at 7900 E. State Road 28. The showroom is open noon to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday. Please call (765) 552-6841 to book a tour for five or more people. For more information about the House of Glass, please visit its website: www.thehouseofglassinc.com.