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Fenton Art Glass celebrates centennial

February 16, 2006

 

By MELINA HUDDY

The Parkersburg News, Progress Edition, Parkersburg, WV

 

WILLIAMSTOWN - In a year marked by the loss of its founder's first son, recognition by the U.S. Senate and a visit by the governor, Fenton Art Glass celebrated its centennial then turned toward the future.

Throughout the year, Fenton produced a variety of pieces commemorating its 100th year, published a coffee table book of the company's history in glass and held special family signing events at the top 100 retailers around the country.

A local celebration held in May for company employees was attended by Gov. Joe Manchin. The public celebration was held July 29 - Aug. 2 and attracted more than 17,000 visitors.

"There were special tours, glassmaking and decorating experiences for visitors, a live QVC show. Collectors were here, tents in the park and West Virginia crafts from around the state. It went very well," said George Fenton, president.

A highlight of the event was a resolution from U.S. Senators Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller congratulating the company and recognizing its contribution to the state. The following month, the same public figures who celebrated with the company expresses their condolences when Frank M. Fenton, son of founder Frank L. Fenton, passed away at 89.

"The last few months of the year were spent working to improve yields, reduce scrap, become more efficient and we've made positive improvements in those areas. Now, as we move in to 2006, we're working on several different marketing areas," Fenton said. "Of course, you can't talk about 2006 without mentioning gas [natural gas]. We will spend a million more dollars in gas in 2006 than we did in 2004. So, we have to look at reducing costs. Increased transportation costs effects the cost of materials directly and other expenses indirectly."

A combination of reduced cost and expanded markets should herald the beginning of a new century as successful as the last. Programs are being developed for florists, jewelers and Internet partners.

[PHOTO CAPTION ABOVE]

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III, left, stands with George Fenton of Fenton Art Glass at the Williamstown Welcome Center. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)

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Visitors to Fenton Art Glass will find a spacious Gift Shop and a pleasant museum. Free factory tours (M-F 8:15am to 4:00pm) take small groups of guests right out to the factory floor to see glassmaking "up close and personal." Friendly, knowledgeable tour guides explain all aspects of the operation. The Fenton tour has been ranked among the "top 10" factory tours nationwide by USA Today. In addition we have been named Rand McNally Best of the Road for 2006. For a factory tour schedule, click here. For a map, click here.

 

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