Three time’s a charm: Third-generation Mammens keep family business prospering

By Anna America
November 1, 2004
COMMERCIAL, FABRICATION : MANAGEMENT

More than 30 percent of all family-owned businesses survive into the second generation, according to an article written by Joseph Astrachan, editor, in Family Business Review. Twelve percent stay in the family hands in the third generation, while only 3 percent make it in the fourth  generation and beyond. So, family members at Mammen Glass & Mirror must be doing something right.


The Irving, Texas, company operates under its third generation of Mammens, President Chris Mammen, the grandson of the company’s founders. And after nearly 50 years, Mammen Glass is healthier than ever, touting two facilities, 47 employees and a thriving mix of commercial, residential and custom work.


“I’m really proud of how we satisfy customers’ needs,” says Mammen. “We can’t point to a skyscraper in downtown Dallas and say, ‘That’s ours,’ we don’t do that kind of work. But inside the buildings there may be all kinds of things we have done, from a beautiful structural shower to a piece of furniture glass that incorporates a new idea.”

James R. Mammen, John L. Mammen, and Chris Mammen.
The company operates out of a 20,000-square-foot headquarters that includes a showroom, offices, production facility and service center. The property was originally the Mammen family farm in Irving’s pioneer days. A 4,000-square-foot Austin office, opened in 1996, and includes a showroom, offices and a fabrication area.


Mammen Glass has carved out a niche with its design and fabrication of specialty glass products, including leaded glass windows and art projects such as custom glass shapes or sandblasted designs. The company also does typical glass work, including fabrication and installation of glass doors and windows, shower stalls, framed mirrors, mirror walls, display cases and shelving and  cutting glass and mirror to size for the do-it-yourselfer.


“Utilizing computer-aided design and computer numerically controlled equipment, we can provide our customers with virtually unlimited choice of glass shapes and sizes in any quantity,” Mammen says. “In addition to traditional polished and beveled edges, we offer specialty products like Ice Glass, laminated glass that looks shattered, and Rock Edge, a hand-fabricated edge treatment.”


Customers can bring in any pattern and have it scanned and formed in glass to create one-of-a-kind tabletops or windows. At times, that has meant modifying equipment to meet a need. “Tackling a challenge from a customer and coming up with a solution, that’s what makes every day new, and that’s what we really enjoy,” Mammen says.


Mammen’s father and company vice president John L. Mammen says the special products are possible because of the company’s investment in reliable, high-quality glass-processing equipment, including glass drills, bevelers and polishing machines, and a state-of-the-art computer-controlled glass-cutting system. Keeping all fabrication in-house, he says, helps them maintain quality control, and reduces lead times.


David Mackey, sales manager of Bottero Flat Glass Inc., of Nanuet, N.Y.—part of Bottero S.P.A. Flat Glass Division of Genova, Italy—has sold Mammen Glass fabricating equipment for more than a decade, and says that while Mammen’s custom work wouldn’t be possible without the technology Bottero provides, the reason for the company’s success goes much deeper.


“Their CNC machinery enables them to produce tighter tolerances and better quality to satisfy the most demanding customers,” he says. “But machinery and staff are only part of the story. It all starts at the top. [Employees at] Mammen Glass are always looking forward and they are passionate about what they do.”


Linda Marasco, outside sales consultant for the North Texas Region of AFG Glass based in Kingsport, Tenn., has supplied materials to Mammen for more than 20 years. “What they are doing is very exciting,” she says. “They have taken a fresh look at our industry and are doing some very unique things. Their growth and movement has certainly been beneficial to us.”


Despite its successes, like most other American glass companies, Mammen Glass faces some challenges, including the threat of cheap foreign competition and the tough task of finding qualified workers. “With the raw product being so cheap, we are seeing a lot of jobs going overseas, and that is something we are going to have to deal with as an industry,” John L. Mammen says. Mammen Glass buys American-made glass, produced by Pilkington Libby-Owens-Ford in North Carolina and by Guardian Industries in Texas. The mirror is produced by Gardner-Culler Industries in Huntsville, Texas.


On the employment front, while Mammen Glass doesn’t have it any easier than anyone in finding good help, the creative opportunities on the job and the family atmosphere have helped retain good people once they are hired.

Operations Support Administrator Matt Green started in 1977 at the age of 16 as general shop help and has worked his way up. The opportunities to learn and do new things and the laid-back environment have made it a great place to work, he says. “They have really treated me like family, and I think that one reason they have had success is they treat all their employees like family.”


John Mammen, who served on the board of directors for the National Glass Association of McLean, Va., for six years and was the first president of the Dallas area Metroplex Glass Dealers Association, is a believer in the benefit of networking with trade groups and industry counterparts. That’s a value he passed on to his son, Chris Mammen, who is a member of the Glass Professionals Forum, a relatively new national group of peers who gather quarterly at each other’s businesses to share strategies and solve problems.


“We have all benefited tremendously from each other,” Mammen says. “It really helps to know you have a network of people available to you. I know that is something that will continue to be an important asset for us.”


In general Mammen says, the strategy at Mammen Glass is to keep doing what has worked so well so far. “Right now we are very happy with the way things are going. … we’ll continue to invest in the high-quality innovative equipment,  we’ll continue to treat our employees well. I think there is a lot of growth potential in our markets without any major changes in the next four to five years,” he says.


There is one other thing they’d like to see unchanged. The Mammens know they have already beat the odds, in terms of keeping a family business going, but there are prospects of taking the streak even further. Chris Mammen notes that James R.  Mammen, his uncle and company secretary and treasurer, has a 15-year-old son who recently started “doing a little work here and there.”

 

“I have three sons of my own. They are all under 6, so it’s a long way off, but you never know … they already like coming down here to the office,” he says with a laugh. “I want them to do whatever they want to do, but we could end up doing something only a handful of companies ever do, and pass it on to another generation.”