Jim Gaylor wears the story of his 50 years in business on his arms, flecked with white scars that encapsulate a simple lesson: West Texas never stops running out of broken glass.
And Gaylor figures he won’t stop replacing it.
The 77-year-old Odessan founded Permian Glass in 1965, after a stint at another longstanding local company, Odessa Glass, owned a by a group of businessmen in the region.
“Most of your windows guys have worked for me, and I’ve trained most of them,” Jim Gaylor said in a recent interview.
In the beginning, Gaylor was in his late 20s, and glass had been a second dream to working at the Shell Oil Company gas plant in Notrees.
But he figured that he knew enough to make his own way. He started out small in a shop on Eighth Street with help from a business colleague in El Paso. Ultimately, his first big job would be replacing 400 windows on the Notrees gas plant after a storm.
“Once I got that done, it’s like I heard a voice that said ‘See what you would have gotten if you got what you wanted,” Gaylor laughed in a recent interview.
Today, Permian Glass remains a small operation at 2324 E. Eighth St., of only about eight employees, including Jim Gaylor, his son and daughter-in-law. The business handles glass jobs at businesses, homes and for vehicles, focusing on a blend of replacement and new installations.
His son, Shannon Gaylor, runs the day-to-day of the business now. Jim Gaylor set up Shannon with his own business, Gaylor’s Glassworks, at age 12. Gaylor’s Glassworks focused on making 3-by-5 inch sandblasting masks (and, of course, Jim Gaylor still helped).
“We still cut them by the thousands,” Jim Gaylor says today.
“I would take sandblasting masks and I would charge them 25 cents apiece,” Shannon Gaylor said. “Sometimes they would order 1,000.”
But he was making the masks with glass. Facing demand for plastic masks, “I kind of went out of business for a little bit,” because of the higher material cost, Shannon Gaylor said.
His father’s Permian Glass never faced that level of hardship. Jim Gaylor said they managed reigned in costs during the bust of the 1980s and other downturns, with few employees and relatively low labor costs, along with a base level of demand for repair jobs that remained through troubled times in Odessa’s history.
“You still have broken glass,” Jim Gaylor said, likening the business to a trade like plumbing that customers still have to call on when need arises even if budgets are tight.
Some of the customer relationships span decades, like the partnership with the Sewell Family of Companies across the street, which uses the business for jobs on car and truck windows.
“Not only have we been friends — and we have been family friends for 30 years — but we’ve been business partners,” said Collin Sewell, president of the company today. “And it’s just been a great two-business partnership for that entire time … Obviously, if you’ve been in business that long, you have to be doing something right.”
Officially, Jim Gaylor said he retired in 1999 after a spate of serious health ailments including a heart attack. But he still shows up every morning, running the half of the business that focuses on home installations, hand cutting glass for table-tops, mentoring younger employees and so forth.
“I’m retired — I just work.” Gaylor, still a co-owner of the business, said in a recent interview. “I don’t make decisions. I don’t take complaints. I’m too old.”
Jim Gaylor reflects on the milestone pointing to no single explanation for the longevity of Permian Glass.
He is deeply religious, working various stints as a preacher at local churches and traveling several times to Israel. So he attributes part of it to his spiritual health. But alternately, Jim Gaylor describes a drive to satisfy his customers (known to refund jobs if they aren’t happy) and putting in the work himself every morning.
“It’s been a good journey. They say liking your job is half of it, and I love my job,” Gaylor said “… It’s one thing to want to do it, but it’s another thing to learn all the tricks.”
Shannon Gaylor, who specializes in the auto side of the business, handles most of that, along with his wife, Sylvia Gaylor (who recently was planning mementos to commemorate the Fiftieth).
A newer employee, Alfredo Armendariz, said glasswork is a surprisingly interesting field, with different people and places and surprising challenges.
“I would have never thought about it,” Armendariz said.
Now the glass business is vinyl frames and double-paned windows filled with inert gases and a popular new style of showers that calls for all glass and a complicated cutting job. Sometimes, the business isn’t even proper glass but Plexiglas or Lexan, a practically bulletproof polycarbonate popular in the oil patch and other places demanding security.
“It’s really different today than it used to be, when you got out and cut a piece of glass and put it in,” Jim Gaylor said.
The decades of work filled him with all sorts of knowledge about glass in West Texas, like how the sun wears down certain plastic liners, or which properties have older single-pane windows. It’s remains a surprisingly complicated trade, Gaylor said, and 50 years in he is still learning.
“I come to work, cut myself,” Gaylor said. “And then I go on.”
Contact Corey Paul on Twitter @OAcrude on Facebook at OA Corey Paul or call 432-333-7768.
This article was written by Corey Paul from Odessa American, Texas and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.