Glass may not be the first thing that one associates with Lake Tahoe, but just look around. Elegant two-story windows with scenic lake views, numerous indoor and outdoor shopping fronts, heavily windowed and mirrored casinos at Stateline; from time to time, all have required the services of a capable and committed glass shop.
Family owned and operated South Shore Glass and Door has been meeting those needs for 40 years. Originally from Klamath Falls, Ore., Bill Russell was in the glass business and moved his family to South Lake Tahoe in 1972 after learning about a glass shop in town being for sale.
"South Shore Glass was owned by some brothers from Reno," Russell recalled. "Another company in L.A. that delivered glass up here called me up and told me it was for sale."
Russell and his sons quickly established relationships with the town's casinos, as well as the celebrities that frequented them.
"We started out with a lot of work in the casinos, lots of mirror work and glass work," Russell's son Steve said. "We would do the stars' houses for the casinos. We did Liberachi's house on Kingsbury, used to repair the mirrors on his Rolls. We did a mirrored piano for him."
The Russells have worked with Harrah's, Harveys, Horizon, and Caesar's (now MontBleu) casinos. South Shore Glass and Door provided the glass for the construction of Sunnyside Resort, just one of its many high-profile projects in and around the Tahoe basin. The company has sent products as far abroad as Saudi Arabia.
Now run by Steve Russell and his wife, Donna, the company primarily does residential work around the lake, with the occasional job outside of the basin. Steve Russell noted that South Shore Glass and Door's business declined with the recent crash in the housing market.
"We used to do around 80 houses a year in Gardnerville," he said. "It's barely two or three now."
The state border running through the market is another hurdle facing South Shore Glass and Door.
"There are the bistate concerns," Steve Russell said. "With separate licenses, taxes, there are a lot of challenges."
Despite obstacles like these, South Shore Glass and Door has maintained a commitment to providing high-quality products and services to their customers.
"We've always had a showroom, we've always taken good care of people," Steve Russell said. "Our reputation has always been growing. It's just kind of snowballed."
To celebrate the 40th anniversary, South Shore Glass and Door will hold a number of events at its showroom at 1790 D St. in South Lake Tahoe. Monday will feature a variety of seminars and how-to demonstrations for both professional contractors and do-it-yourself home improvers. A number of sales reps will be have their wares on display from Tuesday to Thursday. Pricing specials will be available on many products all week long.
The Russells are also in the process of remodeling the shop, including new door, railing and shower displays.
"People really want that wow factor," Steve Russell said, indicating where a set of double doors would soon provide a new entrance display.
While South Shore Glass and Door has weathered its fair share of challenges in 40 years in business, one thing that doesn't scare Steve Russell is the risk of earning seven years of bad luck for breaking a mirror.
"That would have put us out of business long ago," he said.