In April 1978, when Dave Groendyk approached his wife, Shari, about starting their own glass business, he was met with a bit of resistance — Shari thoroughly enjoyed her occupation at the time as a reference librarian at the Kalamazoo Public Library.
“He dragged little Shari kicking and screaming out of the library,” she jokes, laughing. “We started our business, and the rest is history.”
Dave learned about the glass business working alongside his father, Henry Groendyk, who was a foreman at the former Koerts Paint & Glass, on Portage Street in downtown Kalamazoo. After working there for 10 years, Dave realized that they could operate their own glass business.
“We had nothing (monetarily),” Shari says. “But we both have work ethic and we know how to persevere. I mean we’re just persistent, disciplined people.”
The couple started Dave’s Glass inside of a garage and, after that, rented a farmer’s storage building. Their big business break came because of an act of nature.
“It’s sad to say it,” Shari says, “but it was the tornado of 1980.”
To replace all of the broken glass in area buildings, the couple, along with Dave’s dad, worked 20 hours a day seven days a week from May 14 until the end of November of that year, replacing glass damaged by the tornado. They also hired temporary workers to do some of the carrying and cleanup.
“The economy at that time was in a recession,” Shari says, “and there were men in trucks driving around town asking if they could be hired.”
On weekends, the Groendyks’ children, then-6-year-old Derek and then-4-year-old Stephanie would tag along “to be helpful in small ways.” “Maybe that’s when they began to learn a work ethic,” Shari jokes.
Eventually, Dave’s Glass rented a building at Texas Corners that had housed a hardware store and needed much repair and renovation. When Dave brought Shari to view the space, she was not pleased.
“He took me down there to that spot and I just thought, ‘Is this what we’ve come to?’” she says, grimacing. “It was so depressing. It was horrible!”
But she pushed past her initial reluctance, and they “begged and borrowed” enough money to purchase the building and renovate, Dave says. Dave’s Glass remained in that building for 30 years, until last January, when the company moved into a brand new building behind Texas Corners Plaza. Their son, Derek Groendyk, runs the business now with wife, Erica Groendyk, who helps in the showroom and handles the bookkeeping.
“It’s been a great ride,” Shari says, admitting that’s why she and Dave haven’t quite been able to fully retire yet. Then she chuckles and says of Derek and Erica, “Sometimes I’m sure they’re also thinking, ‘Why don’t they go away now?’”