NEW INFO: Blenko Glass Set to Emerge From Bankruptcy

By: WSAZ News Staff, The Associated Press Email
By: WSAZ News Staff, The Associated Press Email

UPDATE 12/14/12
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- More than a year after Blenko Glass Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a judge has approved a reorganization plan.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ronald Pearson in Charleston agreed to the plan this week.

Company attorney Steve Thomas told the court the reorganization plan should be effective within 70 day and that all creditors who voted on the plan approved it.

The Milton-based glassmaker filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2011, listing debts to at least 50 creditors. The top listed debt was to Big Two Mile Gas Co. of Charleston.

Under the reorganization plan, the company will receive nearly $44,000, compared with its claim for $709,000.

Blenko has been making hand-blown products since 1893, including glass for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.



UPDATE 8/6/12
MILTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Blenko Glass Co. is rebounding after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2011.

Vice president Katie Trippe says that the Milton glassmaker has benefited from a recent drop in natural gas prices and a surge in sales.

Trippe says the company is making a strong effort to move forward.

Blenko has been making hand-blown products since 1893, including glass for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

The company held its fifth annual Festival of Glass during the weekend. The festival included glass-making workshops and tours of the factory. It drew Blenko fans from Ohio, Texas, California, Missouri and other states.



UPDATE 5/13/11 @ 1 p.m.
MILTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- More money problems for a local glass company.

Thursday, Blenko Glass, in Milton, W.Va., instructed its attorneys to file a petition for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, according to a press release.

In April, Big Two Mile Gas garnished Blenko's bank accounts in a dispute over billings and charges for natural gas it supplied to Blenko.

n March 2009, WSAZ.com reported that Blenko owed the gas company $700,000. Blenko halted production for six weeks in 2009 due to the gas issue

According to the Friday's release, Blenko believes the bankruptcy filing will allow it to continue operations as usual. The company says no reduction in work force is expected. Currently 44 people work at the factory.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 4/1/11
MILTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Blenko Glass in Milton says that a creditor, Big Two Mile Gas, has “garnished and emptied” the company’s bank accounts.

According to Katie Trippe, the company vice-president, the action goes back to a dispute over billings and charges for gas supplied to Blenko by Big Two Mile.

Trippe says Big Two Mile did the same thing just over two years ago and that nearly caused the company to collapse at that time.

In March 2009, WSAZ.com reported that Blenko owed the gas company $700,000.

Trippe said Friday that 13 of the 49 company employees were laid off this week, and another 28 will be laid off next week.

Trippe goes on to say that following the action of two years ago, Blenko representatives met with representatives of Big Two Mile and proposed that the companies enter into mediation in an effort to resolve the problem.

Trippe says a lawyer in Charleston was selected as the mediator.

She says a number of meetings have taken place since then, and that in each of those meetings the Blenko representative stated the condition of the company.

Trippe added that she hopes Blenko can continue to operate and become profitable.

Blenko halted production for six weeks in 2009 due to the gas issue.

WSAZ.com has put in a call to Big Two Mile get their response to Blenko’s news release.



ORIGINAL STORY 3/16/09
MILTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The fires are burning, the glass is glowing and smiles are spreading at the Blenko Glass Factory in Milton.

The financially troubled manufacturer is back up and running after a recent shutdown. It's the people behind the art that make the glass so exquisite.

“What makes the perfect Easter egg?" asked Randy Rider. "Young kids picking it up and holding it. That's the perfect egg when they think it's the prettiest thing they've ever seen in their life.”

Rider can sum up his job as a Blenko artist in one word -- "pride."

“I couldn't sleep last night I was so excited about getting up and coming in here," he said. "I knew they wanted me to make Easter eggs for the visitor's center. I thought, ‘Alright, I'm needed ... feeling needed.’ That's the greatest feeling in the world.”

The factory halted production six weeks ago -- with no promise of reopening -- while the financially troubled company contemplated bankruptcy. It was a tough pill to swallow for folks like Randy -- a longtime veteran glass blower, as well as Blenko's director of manufacturing.

“This is all I've ever done for 28 years,” he said.

It doesn't take long to get up to speed. After just six hours of production, they've already produced more than 200 of those famous Blenko water bottles.

“Start here by cooling the glass, helps shape the glass,” advised Keith Forrest, who has been a master glassblower for 35 years.

“It's just a feeling I get when I go in different people's home," Forrest said. "I see items I made and can describe how I made them. The satisfaction from others is rewarding to me. There are very few in West Virginia. It's a dying art, and I'm very hopeful we'll be able to keep this in our area for a little longer.”

That's why James Woodson is working under these veterans, learning all he can. The second-year rookie is the next generation.

“A lot of people tell you you're going in the wrong direction, but I guess it's what you're passionate about, what you want to do,” he said.

And a burning passion and pride for the glass is what will keep this plant pumping.

The workers are thankful to the public for their tremendous show of support. The surge in sales during the shutdown boosted the company's bottom line, making it possible to reopen. Blenko officials said they are in talks with Big Two Mile Gas Company, trying to work out a settlement on the more than $700,000 it owes in back payments.

They have declined to talk details, however, as a part of the arrangement.


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