Portland art glass manufacturer Uroboros just announced that the company plans to close the plant that it has operated on North Kerby Ave. in Portland for more than 43 years.
In a letter to customers and the business community, the company attributed its decision to close to the fact that its business model and location have “lost viability for the long term.” Uroboros intends to phase out production of sheet glass by late November and continue making some specialty products until mid-2017.
Company president and founder Eric Lovell cited a variety of factors that shaped the decision, including market conditions, the value of real estate near its central location, and costs related to new environmental, fire safety and seismic regulations. He also referred to his own impending retirement as a consideration.
In May, another West Coast leader, Spectrum Glass in Woodinville, Washington, announced its closing. Its assets sold in September to Oceanside Glasstile, a California company that will produce using Spectrum's equipment and formulas at its manufacturing plant in Tijuana, Mexico. Spectrum cited new EPA regulations that would require significant capital outlays in order to meet new air emissions standards. The manufacturers that still survive in the U.S. have spent millions on capital equipment needed for pollution control.
Some see Uroboros’ closing and the larger decline of the industry as a blow to users of specialty glass.
San Diego artist Cathy Coverley has worked with glass for 42 years and specifically with Uroboros products for more than 30 years. Coverley said she was “pretty floored” when she read Uroboros’ announcement. The closure, she says will “leave me hanging. It’s pretty terrifying.”
Coverley feels that the regulatory steps may be politically motivated but adds “the environmental concerns are there for everyone ... You can’t discount that.”
Lovell declined to be interviewed but noted in his letter that he is trying to arrange a sale of Uroboros in hopes the company can restart production in a new location, although “nothing is certain at this time.” Lovell expressed gratitude to the hundreds of employees and many customers who supported the company over its history.
“Our closure,” Lovell wrote, “will be with pride in a job well done.”
For OPB’s full coverage of art glass and air quality, click here.