More than 60 years after Jerry Kartak founded a small glass-installation shop in the Puget Sound region, his son, Kevin, still marvels at the man’s acumen for business, as well as his ability to evolve with a changing industry.
“My father was a maverick through and through,” explained Kevin, who succeeded Jerry as CEO of AAA KARTAK Glass & Closet in 1985. “He was a true craftsman who always loved to work with wood as well as glass. His father emigrated from Sweden, bringing lots of Old World craftsmanship. He and my father were very close, and I think this love for craftsmanship was passed on in this way. He found and filled specific needs in construction.”
Started by Jerry; his wife, Joanne; and Jerry’s brothers in 1956, the company’s beginnings were lean — a small operation that opened in Seattle, relocated to Bothell, and eventually settled in Everett — but have grown to include three showrooms, two production facilities, four distribution centers, and more than 100 employees.
Today, AAA KARTAK Glass & Closet offers storage solutions for home offices, laundry rooms, garages, bedrooms, and kitchen pantries, as well as glass shower enclosures for custom homes. On the commercial side, business owners turn to the company for storefront glass and curtain walls, soundproof windows, exercise studio mirrors, and glass-enclosed offices and conference rooms.
Expanding its breadth of services is one reason the company has survived for so long.
“The construction market has had several dramatic shifts, and our company has had to adapt to changes in demand in order to survive,” Kevin explained. “Each big change challenged us to become something better. As construction advanced, we needed to step up and advance with it.”
For example, when the company saw an opportunity in the late 1980s to fold closet installations into its business offerings and remain competitive, Kevin and his staff spent six months researching the craft. When a competitor offering similar services went out of business, AAA KARTAK Glass & Closet rolled out its closet-installation service, gaining most of its shuttered competitors’ customers along the way, according to Kevin.
When the company’s customer base began to move south, AAA KARTAK Glass & Closet followed, opening a showroom in Renton in 1998, then relocating it to Auburn in 1999, and finally settling in Tacoma in 2009. Similarly, the company opened a showroom on the Eastside, in Redmond, in 2016.
It’s a point of pride for Kevin that, in today’s world of corporate acquisitions and takeovers, AAA KARTAK Glass & Closet remains a family business that is locally owned and operated.
Kevin joined the company in 1984, the year before Jerry retired, and led it for the next 34 years. Kevin’s son, Cameron, grew up working in the business starting in the 1990s. “He started in marketing around age 5, helping me apply labels to brochures,” Kevin said. “He sorted parts, swept up, and worked at home shows as the cute kid handing out AAA KARTAK bags to attendees. We set aside much of his earnings for college.”
In fact, Cameron was appointed CEO in January 2018, following Kevin’s decision to semi-retire.
Kevin said Cameron is an excellent strategist, and he’s confident the future of the business is in good hands.