John Petchonka, the co-owner of Ridgefield Glass, is all smiles when he looks in the mirror.
Despite the gloomy economy, the establishment, which has made high-end custom glass home accessories since 1974, is experiencing a 20-percent increase in sales over the same period last year, said Petchonka, who took over the business in 2005 with Robert Sassone, a former custom molding designer.
"We're surprised by our performance so far year-to-date," said Petchonka, whose business last year declined 12 percent from a slowdown in the home construction industry. "We were expecting a decline of 20 to 25 percent."
Home building has seen a slight uptick recently, but Ridgefield Glass' success is mostly from taking a bigger share of the market by focusing on customer needs, said Petchonka, a former construction engineer.
"I think we have a good product, but when you're dealing with high-end, it's the customer service you have to focus on," he said, adding that the business has seen an increase in renovation work as many people are looking to spend less money.
Ridgefield Glass is most likely benefiting from both greater market share and a recent increase in high-end home construction because of a wide perception that prices have stabilized and interest rates will start going up soon, said Bill Ferrigno, past president of the Home Builders Association of Connecticut.
"People might be saying it's the right time," he said.
Ridgefield Glass, which also does some commercial installations, early last year expanded its operations from a 1,000-square-foot shop and showroom at 4 Danbury Road in Ridgefield with the addition of a 2,400-square-foot shop, warehouse and showroom at 12 Backus Ave. in Danbury.
"This enabled us to combine warehouse and shop under one roof," Petchonka said.
There are also plans in the works to move the Ridgefield showroom this summer into a nearby 1,500-square-foot storage building and use the current showroom as a repair facility, Petchonka said.
Ridgefield Glass employs six technicians to make and install custom projects costing as much as $400,000, including glass partitions, counters and floors, Petchonka said.
"A lot of work we do is with builders," said Petchonka, who decided to go into the business while designing glass partitions for a pharmaceutical company. "A lot of times, designers know what they want, but the link between design and reality is not there, so that's where we come in."
Ridgefield Glass' most popular item is a frameless glass shower door that can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $12,000 Petchonka said.
"It's two-thirds of our revenue," he said, adding that the company installs as many as 1,000 units a year and completes more than 2,500 projects a year overall. "It's more of an elegant look than a shower curtain, and it gives an open look that allows clients to enjoy their very expensive tile work."
"I think more people are nesting," she said. "Out with the old, in with the new."