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Heart of glass

image Reena Papanickolauou Morris with husband Jim Morris, owners of Century Glass & Mirror

DALLAS/FT WORTH - In its second half century of operation, Century Glass is steeped in Dallas history.







    Jack Haley started Century Glass in 1945. He got his start back in the 1930s by working at United Glass on Swiss Avenue. At that time, this was the hangout area of noted Dallas “personalities” like Bonnie and Clyde and Benny Binion.
    Haley had a partner in a business called Standard Glass. They split up, and Haley formed Century Glass. He had a friend who had Century Lumber and liked the name “Century.”
    In the 1950s, Haley moved Century Glass to its present location on Washington Avenue. His stepson Jim Morris worked for him throughout high school and college. Once Morris graduated from Rice University and made some money as a general contractor in Houston, he “decided that office work wasn’t for me,” so he bought two-thirds of Century in 1978. He inherited the other third when Haley passed away.
    Morris remembers his stepfather fondly, saying, “I learned a lot more from him than I did in college.”
    The main concentration at that time was high-end residential homes. Morris said they did “some of the fanciest homes in Dallas.”
    Speaking of high-end residential, do the names Michael Dell in Austin and Jerry Jones in Dallas sound familiar? The glass above Jerry Jones’ shower is so fancy that Morris had to go to New York to have it made. “It was [a] very ornate and tough job,” he said.
    But, when it comes to taking care of the glass needs of the rich and famous, Morris laughs and says, “God bless ‘em. It keeps me from having to get a real job!”
    On the commercial side, Morris said his company started working on them in earnest in the 1980s. Today, Century Glass & Mirror’s commercial résumé reads like a who’s-who in Dallas: Dallas Power & Light; Aston Martin showroom; Edgemere Retirement Center; Jesuit College Preparatory; Santa Fe Terminal Building, just to name a few.
    And if that were not enough, how about the governor’s mansion in Austin?
    Century Glass has gone as far as New York City to do work, and to Florida to do a beach house. The interesting thing about the beach house is its windows and glass had to be approved of by the state so as to - this is for real - not confuse the turtles.
    Morris has seen a lot of changes in Dallas. One thing that hasn’t changed is how relationships are the most important factor in the construction business. “I’ve done half a million dollar jobs and no one ever thought about having a contract,” he said.
    The advancement in the glass industry has been in doing edgework. Doing edges by hand was very labor-intensive. Now, by using a CNC (computer numerical control) machine, edges are done more quickly and efficiently.
    Morris has enjoyed moving on from being a general contractor to a glass subcontractor. Instead of worrying about and being responsible for the whole puzzle, he’s just responsible for his piece of it. “Less moving parts,” he said.
    The plan for the future is to have his son take over the family tradition. He was an architectural design major in college and is also doing general contracting work. Some day, Morris will pass his stepfather’s business on to the third generation.
    Hopefully, Morris will pass on to his son not just the family glass business, but also the rich history of Dallas his family has been a part of and. That’s the real heart of the matter.
    Century Glass & Mirror is a glass contractor in Dallas. -dsz

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Author Info
Dan Zulli dan@constructionnews.net