The nation’s oldest art glass factory, Kokomo Opalescent Glass, has changed hands.
New owner Jeff Shaw stands Wednesday at Kokomo Opalescent Glass, which he purchased last month.
New owner Jeff Shaw, who purchased the business on Sept. 18, said in an interview with the Tribune that he has an engineering background and has worked in manufacturing management his entire career, adding that he is excited to continue production in Kokomo and explore new growth.
“My plans for the future are to continue producing the products right here,” said Shaw, who added that he lives just west of Indianapolis. “I think there’s a lot of value in the heritage of the company. They’ve been here since 1888, being on the original site, the original building, the original manufacturing processes. I think there’s a lot of value, I think the marketplace respects that, I think our customers appreciate that about us, so I would not want to do anything that disrupts that.”
Departing the company is Kokomo Opalescent Glass CEO John O’Donnell.
“As for myself, I will be leaving the company to pursue other business interests,” O’Donnell said in a statement emailed to the Tribune. “KOG President Dick Elliott will be staying on to assist Jeff with production operations. I wish Jeff and the entire Kokomo Opalescent family the very best. Thank you everyone for the friendship and support you have given us over the years. I hope that you will continue your support of KOG into the future.”
O’Donnell also said that he and Elliott have been looking for a new owner for the past year and a half, and expressed confidence that Shaw is the right fit for the company. Elliott said they have been looking for a new owner as a means to secure its future leadership, and said they were “delighted” to have Shaw on board.
“I think we’ve got a clear path going forward for the company at this point,” he said.
Although he has abundant experience in manufacturing, Shaw said he’s new to the art glass industry, calling his time in the company “an ongoing educational experience.”
He’s talked with other employees about new areas to explore with their production, including houseware and architectural products, he said.
“There’s a lot of these ideas that are kind of organic to the organization … there are so many potential ways to grow that the real challenge is just picking one and seeing it through before going on to the next,” said Shaw.
Kokomo Opalescent Glass produces more than 22,000 varieties and colors of opalescent glass, a non-transparent glass in which colors are presented by reflected light. Customers can purchase KOG’s paperweights, glass bowls, serving trays, suncatchers, glass vases, and many other items.
It has been in continuous operation at its current 1310 S. Market St. location since 1888.