Kusak is region’s best family business

Mary L. Grady
Mercer Island Reporter

  • Monday, November 24, 2008 9:00pm
  • Life
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Kris and Chuck Kusak are pictured in the showroom at Kusak Cut Glass Works in the Rainier Valley last week.

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Kris and Chuck Kusak are pictured in the showroom at Kusak Cut Glass Works in the Rainier Valley last week.

Mary L. Grady
Mercer Island Reporter

When Chuck Kusak answers the phone at his family-owned glass and crystal shop in the Rainier Valley, his first words are, “How can I serve you?”, summing up in just one sentence the philosophy of the Kusak Cut Glass Works, Inc.

The company long known for its fine products and commitment to family and community is being honored once again for those values. The 94-year-old company is the 2008 recipient of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Seattle District Office Family-Owned Small Business of the Year award for Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. The award honors a family-owned and operated business that has been passed on from one generation to another.

Kusak Cut Glass Works was established in 1914 by a young glass cutter, Anton C. Kusak Sr., who arrived in the United States with just a few dollars in his pocket. He was a trained freehand glass engraver who learned his trade in Austria during the early 1900s. The business is now run by Kusak’s grandson, former Mercer Island resident, Chuck. The glass works is located in the Rainier Valley of Seattle. Its single facility hosts both retail and manufacturing operations. Their high-end products include crystal stemware and barware, decorative vases and chandeliers, and commercial awards and trophies that are sold throughout the United States and on the Internet.

Since its inception, the company has remained a family-owned business. Many of its employees have worked for the company for decades, their longevity a key part of the success of the business. Chuck Kusak has been involved at the shop since he was five, he said, leaving one to imagine the outgoing man as an exuberant kindergartner in a shop filled with delicate glass.

The business has retained even wider family ties to its suppliers in Czechoslovakia and its ties to the local community. The company has had the same insurance agency for 40 years.

Kusak, a 1965 graduate of Mercer Island High School, is past president of the Rainier Rotary and has been involved with the Boy Scouts of America, the Leukemia Society, Children’s Hospital and other organizations.

The store and factory just off Rainier Avenue South, has seen nearly a century of change. The family business has had to remain nimble to keep up with changing tastes in glassware and the realities of economic booms and busts. Several years ago, the company turned to making glass trophies and corporate awards to boost its income.

There has been a series of challenges over the years, Kusak acknowledges, but “we are proud of the fact that we continue to make a beautiful product at a fair price.”

The goal, he said, is “to keep the product classic, yet always look for ways to re-invent yourself.”

You have to listen and pay attention, he continued.

Finding out what people want and seeing how he and his company can respond has proved to be a good model. A story tells why.

One day, a woman called from Arizona to ask if Kusak made pineapple vases. When he said no, she was amazed. Why would a well-established, reputable family business that made fine objects not have pineapple vases, she wondered? Kusak didn’t know. He did some research and found that the pineapple is an important touchstone in many cultures, signifying home, happiness and good fortune. The Chinese translation of the word is “luck has arrived.” Representations of the giant fruit are often given as wedding gifts. Certainly, they were an excellent metaphor for what Kusak glass represented, he concluded.

The businessman went to bed that evening thinking about a pineapple vase. He decided that his company should make one. He got out of bed, sketched a few designs and sent them off to Kusak’s production partners in Czechoslovakia. The vase was a hit. The company continues to make them in three different sizes.

The addition of light rail has brought in another wave of change to the Rainier Valley, now a center for many immigrant communities. But Chuck Kusak is unfazed. It is his life, it is his neighborhood. A few years ago, Kusak bought back his grandfather’s house in the Mt. Baker neighborhood. He walks to work each day. His mother, now 90, still lives nearby in her home at the North end of the Island. He relishes his life.

When asked what his grandfather would think about the award, Kusak has a ready answer — the family legacy never far from his thoughts.

“I know that he and my father are smiling,” he said. “They are glad that the family name lives on and our integrity is intact.”

And what was the award that the company received for their latest honor? Why, it was a fine Kusak trophy, of course.

Kusak Cut Glass Works is located at 1911 22nd Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98144. Their Web site is www.kusak.com.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@mi-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.mi-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Life

2022 Mini Cooper S 2-door. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2022 Mini Cooper S 2-door

By Larry Lark, contributor They don’t come around very often, but when… Continue reading

2022 Infiniti QX60 Autograph
Car review: 2022 Infiniti QX60 Autograph

By Larry Lark, contributor If you want your SUV to make a… Continue reading

2022 Telluride Nightfall Edition
Car review: 2022 Kia Telluride

By Larry Lark, contributor Big, bold and boxy, that’s the newly tweaked… Continue reading

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland
Car review: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland

By Larry Lark, contributor With almost 30 years and four generations under… Continue reading

2021 Honda Ridgeline AWD Sport
Car review: 2021 Honda Ridgeline AWD Sport

By Larry Lark, contributor Honda’s Ridgeline is the perfect vehicle for anyone… Continue reading

2021 Genesis GV80 Prestige
Car review: 2021 Genesis GV80 Prestige

By Larry Lark, contributor Genesis is branching out. With the introduction of… Continue reading

2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum hybrid minivan
Car review: 2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum hybrid minivan

By Larry Lark, contributor Minivans. They were at the top of the… Continue reading

t
Covenant Living at the Shores chaplain releases new book

Special to the Reporter The Reverend Greg Asimakoupoulos of Mercer Island has… Continue reading

2022 VW Taos
Car review: 2022 VW Taos

By Larry Lark, contributor You know a market category is “hot” when… Continue reading

2022 Ford Bronco Sport
Car review: 2022 Ford Bronco Sport

By Larry Lark, contributor Enough time as past, since the OJ slow… Continue reading

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA35
Car review: 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA35

By Larry Lark, contributor The new 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA35, the eighth model… Continue reading