On the cutting edge

In the Vancouver workshop of Sanders Reproduction Glass, classic cars are the name of the game but current technologies are what make the business grow.

The company makes custom glass pieces for clients with show cars, hot rods and auto restoration projects. Clients include auto shops and custom car professionals, but most of them are hobbyists.

“The majority of our customers are people working on their own cars,” said Co-owner Trace Phillis. “They spend hundreds of thousands on their cars.”

He and his brothers, Troy and Tyler Phillis, bought the business from Bill Sanders in 2004, 26 years after Sanders established it in Wheaton, Ore.

With the trio at the helm, revenue doubled in both 2005 and 2006, and grew 46 percent in 2007. The company is on track to hit at least $250,000 gross revenue this year.

 “When we looked at Sanders, we almost instantly saw potential,” said Tyler Phillis.

The brothers are the sole employees for now, but they said an investment in technology has allowed them to do the work of about 10 people since 2006.

A computer-programmed water jet cut labor time by 85 percent, cutting glass at 60,000 pounds per square inch. And a semi-automatic glass edger has sliced production another 85 percent while increasing the precision of their work.

“From piece to piece, they’re identical,” said Trace Phillis.

“It was very easy, like falling off a chair, to understand the benefits” of the technology, said Tyler Phillis. “Then it’s just understanding the expense.”

That equipment cost about $200,000 total.

“Using (technology) to improve the process is something we learned from our father,” said Trace Phillis. “If there’s a tool to make it easier or better …”

“… You make use of it,” Troy Phillis finished.

On the administrative side, revamping the company’s website and polishing its image has increased its customer base 45 percent since July 2007. The brothers spent $20,000 for a communications expert to research their potential customer base and develop a brand tailored to that crowd.

This fall, Trace Phillis plans to hire two employees in the glass shop while Tyler and Troy Phillis will put their energy into opening two Midas auto shops in the Vancouver-Portland metro area. Each site is expected to open in October with about four employees.

Sanders Restoration Glass

Troy, Tyler and Trace Phillis, owners

12317 N.E. 32nd St., Vancouver



Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com.


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