Despite being founded during the Great Depression, Louis Auto Glass has remained a staple business in the Whatcom County community for 90 years.
Founded in 1929, the business has grown and adapted through four family generations. The founder, Louis Adelstein started the business as Louis Auto Parts & Glass. In the early days, it operated as a wrecking yard but overtime transformed to become more specialized in auto glass.
After Louis passed away in 1954 his son Mel Adelstein became the owner. The business went through huge phases of growth in 1962 when the Seattle World’s Fair brought visitors to the Pacific Northwest and again in 1986 when Vancouver, British Columbia hosted the fair.
Bellingham began to expand by leaps and bounds as more and more people discovered paradise said Rick Adelstein, current president of Louis Auto Glass. In 1988 Louis Auto Glass opened its second location in Lynden followed by their third location in Mount Vernon in 1993.
They have grown to employ 34 people and diversified to offer services such as residential glass, boat glass, mobile-home glass and the Final Touch Auto Spa located at 1916 Iowa St. Rick recognizes community involvement as one of the keys to being in business for so many years.
“Staying in business for so long is really a win-win situation because we are a community supporter,” Rick said. “We enjoy giving back to the community.”
Throughout the years Louis Auto Glass has supported several Whatcom County organizations such as Interfaith Coalition, the Boys and Girls Club, Northwest Youth Services and a handful of Whatcom County schools. In 2011 they won the Chamber of Commerce large business of the year award for their contributions in Skagit and Whatcom County.
Another key to staying in business for so many years has meant keeping up with advances in technology, Rick said. Rick and his children, Carrie, Lindsey and Ari have worked to bring the second oldest, family-operated, glass company in the country up to speed with technology incorporated in today’s modern automobiles.
Drastic changes in windshield technology are what prompted Louis Auto Glass to recently open its calibration center. Being the only glass companies north of Seattle to offer calibration in house has kept things extremely busy, Rick said.
Glen Teckley is a calibration technician for Louis Auto Glass and helped get the calibration center up and running in recent months.
Most new-age automobiles feature several cameras that communicate with an onboard computer, Teckley said. One of the main cameras is located at the top of the windshield. The camera acts as the eyes for the computer and controls safety features such as Lane Departure Warning, Heads-Up Display and Adaptive Cruise Control.
When the windshield is replaced the camera is removed and often needs to be re-calibrated before safety features will work properly. Using targets, computer software, lasers and mirrors, Teckley can recalibrate the cameras on any make or model of vehicle.
A third key to remaining successful throughout the generations is high caliber customer service. Since starting in the shop at 16, Carrie Adelstein has been working to ensure that the company stays at the top of its game. Carrie has gone from doing behind the scenes work to becoming a prominent leader in the company.
“There are a lot of other glass companies out there but I want to make sure that when people come in here they have a really good experience,” Carrie said. “We like to do things one way the first time and that’s the right way.”
As the current vice president of the company Carrie plans to continue building on the strong customer service that her great-grandfather, grandfather and father put forth.
“I didn’t think I wanted to go into the family business at first but I decided it would be neat to be a fourth-generation business owner because not many businesses make it past the second or third generation,” Carrie said. “If you want to keep growing you need to keep changing with the times.”