Crystal Clear Solutions
Eastern Solar Glass enhances, protects views with window films
The folks at Eastern Solar Glass, based in West Berlin, New Jersey, know how to problem solve. That’s why commercial companies and institutions turn to the window film provider and installation company for solutions to some of their biggest problems.
The University of Pennsylvania, a return customer, called on the company to help after a 5-foot by 13-foot section of glass was installed on campus. The expensive glass appeared dirty but was later discovered to have a burn mark between panels.
“That would have cost a fortune to replace, so to be cost-effective, we suggested installing a University of Pennsylvania logo on the glass as a custom piece of artwork,” says Brian Ashcraft, owner and operator of Eastern Solar Glass. “This way, no one walks into the glass and you don’t see the burn mark. The cost savings were a big plus.”
Eastern Solar Glass has an extensive client list, including schools, governmental institutions and Philadelphia International Airport. The company has installed film up to, and including, the executive levels on the 56th floor of The Comcast Center in Philadelphia. The company also created the Philadelphia skyline print on glass in front of the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s buildings.
Ashcraft says that the window film installation company can install any type of glazing surface film on new or existing glass. The firm started with solar control window tinting but has expanded into custom graphics, security and safety film, privacy film, anti-graffiti film and more. “If it goes on glass, we can put it there,” Ashcraft says.
Window film and glass coating provide a variety of benefits. It can reduce the amount of sunlight coming into a building. It can reduce heat and glare as well as reduce the effects of damaging light. Safety films can add a level of security to the glass, Ashcraft says. One of the films that Eastern Solar Glass applies holds glass together in the window frame in the event that the glass is broken by an accidental bird strike or a rock from a lawnmower, for instance.
“It will also keep the people around the glass safe,” Ashcraft says. “Security film is the same film we use for other purposes, but we add an attachment system that has a strong structural adhesive around the edge of film to the frame. It’s a structural sealant and not something that will tear away from the frame.”
Ashcraft says that windows can break because of accidental impacts, severe storms or even an intruder. “Burglaries and active shootings are an unfortunate reality, but you can help protect students and schools, storefronts and offices from outside dangers by installing security window film,” he says.
A gun store owner hired Eastern Solar Glass to install its security glass. A would-be burglar attempted entry by striking the window with a hammer in about a dozen spots. The criminal couldn’t break the glass to get into the shop so he left before he was caught by police, Ashcraft says.
“The films go beyond being solely decorative,” he says. “The goal of most films is to create privacy and beauty. …There are a variety of options to make a space unique while creating an upscale look with a colorful tint and at low cost.”
A film printed with custom artwork or a logo can promote a business, he says, and frosted, dusted or textured film can create privacy in meeting rooms.
“If a customer can think of it, we can do it,” Ashcraft says. Eastern Solar Glass performs the installation but contracts with designers to create the artwork, which then goes to a printer and cutter. Ashcraft maintains partnerships with product lines such as 3M and about a half dozen other high-quality manufacturers.
From One Family to Another
The firm started in 1980, led by Ashcraft’s father-in-law, Gene Borden. Ashcraft was dating the boss’s daughter, Lori, when he started working there in 2002 in sales and management. The couple married and over time purchased one half of the company as equal partners. In 2014, they took over the remainder of the company ownership.
The family-owned company has seen a lot of changes in its almost 40 years. Among the biggest is the move to performing more commercial and institutional work than residential.
When Ashcraft joined the firm in 2002, the ratio of jobs was about 70 percent residential to 30 percent commercial. Today that number has flip-flopped, with about 85 percent of work being commercial and 15 percent residential. He’s relied on satisfied repeat customers to keep the commercial business strong.
While the workflow may have changed, Ashcraft says, dedication to customer service hasn’t.
“Customer service is key,” he says. “I want my customers to be happy with what we’re providing them. If there is an issue, we address it. If we’re not meeting a customer’s expectations, we’ve got to figure out why and fix it.”
Ashcraft says that he’s turned jobs away because he knows the product is not going to do what the customer wants it to do. They don’t always leave empty-handed, though. Ashcraft and his staff may advise prospective clients to seek a different product, even offering a list of vendors who can provide it. “We listen to them about their concerns and make sure we give them good information,” he says.
Eastern Solar Glass has four full-time installers and three sales representatives—Ashcraft, Mike Fanelli and Jill Dankel.
He would love to see the business double in size with more installation technicians and salespeople, which depends on finding the right people for the work. “Having a great team in place is part of the quality, honest customer service we provide,” Ashcraft says. “Following through on promises is something we instill in everyone who works here. It all goes back to being treated right.”