Faith in Glass
Copperstate Glass and Mirror sports glazing growth in Arizona
To its owner, Copperstate Glass and Mirror (Copperstate) is a clear representation of success accomplished when a team believes in its work. The Phoenix-based company is a commercial and residential glass repair and replacement firm.
After working for Copperstate for eight years, Ron Simmons purchased it from the original owner in 2020. “It’s been a journey that’s required some faith,” he says.
That faith has helped grow the company revenue in the first year by 50%, while building customer and contractor relationships.
Working His Way Up
Simmons’ journey at Copperstate started in 2012, the year he joined the firm, after working in the trucking industry. The business’s main concentration is on commercial windows, storefronts and other glass components in buildings, such as the virus-protection borders between employees and customers that have become ubiquitous since the COVID-19 pandemic. Copperstate constructs customized glass for ground-up and renovation projects and also repairs existing materials.
“When I started, I knew nothing about the glazing industry,” the 57-year-old, who is also a United States Air Force veteran, recalls.
What Simmons brought to Copperstate from his prior experience was management and operational experience. During his peak at trucking company J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., he oversaw and coordinated 100 drivers, six dispatchers and two administrators.
“Running that business for someone else prepared me for this,” Simmons says.
It was not a seamless transition, though. Simmons decided to move from J.B. Hunt to another trucking company, but that enterprise ended up going bankrupt, and he was left unemployed. Seeing an opening at Copperstate, he took his chances and learned as much as he could about the business.
“I would have a problem one day, ask God how to fix it, and the next day I would have an answer for it,” Simmons says. “I just kept looking for the right signs and messages.”
After eight years learning the glass business at Copperstate, the sign he saw was a business opportunity. The founder of the company was looking to sell, and Simmons wanted to make the purchase. In 2019, Simmons put his financing together with a $1.1 million loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, got his contractor’s license and created ICU Industries Inc., which is the entity that purchased Copperstate in January 2020.
Growth From the Get-Go
Copperstate was making $800,000 annually in gross revenue when Simmons joined the company, he says. In 2019, after Simmons had put in seven years as head glazier, it increased to $1.1 million, due in large part to his desire to help Copperstate grow. In 2020, gross revenue increased to $1.2 million, after getting more connections with general contractors, and in the first six months of this year, the total was $1.1 million.
Meanwhile, the firm had six employees at the time of Simmons’ purchase, and that total has since reached 15. Copperstate operates four trucks, double the amount before the company changed hands. The firm, which operates throughout the state of Arizona, is about to open a second office in Tucson. Darla Kinion, Copperstate’s plainspoken Office Manager, who also joined the company in 2012, says she isn’t surprised by the company’s growth under Simmons’ leadership.
“He said he was going to do it, and he went and did,” she recalls. “Ron usually has a plan in his head before he starts a project, and he can articulate it well, so you know where he is going with it. Maybe it doesn’t always work out the way he thought, but he always finds a way around it.”
Simmons says that one key to pleasing his customers, and retaining them, is his constant availability. His policy is to answer the phone 24 hours a day all week to serve businesses that have glass emergencies. The Arizona franchisor of the convenience store chain Circle K was one of the clients Simmons inherited when he purchased Copperstate. Since those establishments are open at all hours of the day, often with heavy traffic, it’s vital to show up quickly when glass shatters because, as Simmons puts it, the shards “scare the hell out of people.”
“Ninety-five percent of the time, Copperstate is there before any Circle K representative is,” he says. “We jump up, we go and we take care of it.”
Simmons recounts an incident when a teenager accidentally rammed his car into a Circle K, destroying the entire glass storefront. He says the 25-foot-long by 12-foot-high frontage of the store was repaired by the Copperstate team in eight hours.
Beyond Circle K
When Simmons bought Copperstate, he already counted Circle K, as well as Starbucks franchises and Wells Fargo banks as consistent clients. But he realized the company needed to make additional connections to grow the business. Copperstate had a subscription to business directory DexKnows, but it wasn’t garnering any business. Simmons says he was spending $300 per month on a service no one at the company knew how to use. Then he says he learned about The Blue Book Building & Construction Network®’s services, subscribed and revenues started to take off.
“The Blue Book has doubled my business,” Simmons says. “It gave us access to so many different contractors and opened up a whole new world for this company.”
Through those new contractors, Copperstate now installs new customized glass for several different expanding retail and restaurant chains.
In Scottsdale, the company did the glass for Austin, Texas-based YETI Holdings, Inc., which is expanding its retail footprint of outdoor stores. Copperstate also does glass for other companies building new stores in Arizona, such as Oregon-based Dutch Bros Coffee; Salad and Go, of Gilbert, Arizona.; Miami-based Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen; and Black Rock Coffee Bar, of Portland, Oregon.
Even though these chains have store footprints that look familiar to consumers, the glasswork is far from uniform, Simmons explains.
“All of the Circle K’s aren’t the same,” he says. “Everything is custom. No Starbucks stores are identical.”
Copperstate also does work for local hospitals, such as St. Luke’s Medical Center and HonorHealth Medical Group. When the COVID-19 pandemic started rapidly spreading throughout the Phoenix area, virus-protection borders were needed in those facilities, as well as the commercial spaces where Copperstate works.
The shields have increased business by about 20%, and the glass-customization skills the company has performed on various buildings, such as the quick-service retailers and restaurants, have come in handy for their installations. Another plus, given the rapid spread of the pandemic, is the firm’s experience with responding quickly to emergency situations, so the team was able to do the complicated work quickly.
Copperstate must design the shield from scratch out of the glass. Every workspace that needs to be protected is designed differently, and no two areas are alike when it comes to points of contact between employees and patients. The high demand for these installations meant that Copperstate employees were working around the clock.
“We came to work every day, and we got the job done,” says Office Manager Kinion. “We gave the glory to God.”
The spike in new business would be problematic at a time when there is a materials shortage in the construction industry, with glass being no exception, but Simmons was prepared. When he purchased Copperstate, it already had a glass inventory to which he proactively added. That comes in handy when you have a 24/7 business and see major business increases during unusual occurrences, such as COVID.
“I have several cases sitting in my shop that I haven’t opened yet, and I’m not going to until I have to,” Simmons remarks.
Family and Faith
Simmons’ family is deeply involved with the company. His wife, Sherry, is Copperstate’s Chief Financial Officer, while one of his sons, Joseph, is the firm’s Head of Operations. Another son, Matthew, is Copperstate’s Chief Information Officer, with project estimation and management being among his duties. When Simmons retires in 10 years, Ron expects Joseph to take over the business.
As it is now, the older Simmons barely goes in the field anymore because he has too many responsibilities that require his time in the office. But now he has a team in place he can trust that accomplishes the on-site work.
Meanwhile, Kinion credits Simmons’ faith in God to his success with Copperstate.
“I am an older lady,” she says. “I’ve been around a little bit, and I’ve worked at other places where the people weren’t as caring toward their employees and customers. When you’re putting Him [God] first, you realize you can’t be a pleaser of God if you’re ripping people off. I do the billing, so I know.”
Kinion adds: “It’s Ron’s company, but all of us take pride in the ownership of the company’s growth.”
Copperstate does pro bono glasswork for area churches and does residential work for down-on-their-luck residents that Simmons learns of through places of worship.
“I may technically be the owner, but I am more of a shepherd for this company than anything,” Simmons says, “I just watch over it and help it go in the right direction.”