Not a lot of businesses in Mission can claim family run success over a 45 year period, but Abstract Glass can.
We spoke with owner Sheryl Mitchell, accompanied by her daughter Nicole Norden and her son, Nathan Mitchell.
Nicole has been working in an administration position with Abstract for 13 years, while Nathan, a trained glazier journeyman, has been employed with the business for 23 years.
“We opened in 1975. Dave had been commuting back and forth in to Vancouver. He was away from the family all day, every day.” Sheryl shakes her head as she looks back on the sacrifices they made. “We took out a $10,000 loan against our home and started Abstract Glass.”
Why the name ‘Abstract?’
“We wanted to be first in the phone book,” Sheryl explains with a sneaky smile. “At the time, our only competition in town was Adam’s Glass, so Abstract seemed like the perfect solution.”
Their original location was on Railway, below Melinski’s meats and beside the old Belle’s.
As a business in Mission, they have definitely had their share of challenges. Technology is constantly advancing and it can be a struggle to always keep up to the point where they are familiar with how everything properly functions. They have to constantly prepare themselves to be ahead of the game. While Abstract Glass prides itself on sticking to smaller projects, as opposed to streamlining, they have seen almost everything over the years.
They have jumped to the call to fix many a smashed windshield before the wife or husband discovered the damage. They have rapidly replaced windows and glass coffee tables after teenage house parties, before the parents got home. They have made efforts to satisfy customers with requests to cut bottles and even Moonshine jugs.
“We’ve watched customers attempt to drive off holding on to the sides of their large glass panels teetering on the tops of their vehicles.” Nathan says, recalling some of the strangest requests and occurrences at the shop. “I had a young guy come in years ago. He had borrowed a friend’s truck, attempted a jump over with his dirt bike, but ended up skipping off the front of the truck and smashed right through the windshield.”
Nathan was offered the dirt bike in exchange for a new windshield, but respectfully declined the offer.
“Our phone number used to be the same as the Abbotsford non-emergency line. The only difference being the city code prefix.” Nicole went on to tell us, elaborating on the entertaining memories the family has collected. “At the end of each workday and on the weekends, my parents would call forward the business line to our home. My dad often had to filter domestic phone calls in the middle of the night from drunks thinking they’d called the Abbotsford police station.”
The family laughs remembering the incidents. “It was long before 911. Sometimes he would have to endure long winded intoxicated ‘my side’ stories before he had the opportunity to let them know they had dialed the wrong number.”
Over the past 45 years, they have seen the disappearance of small neighbouring businesses, such as the Nursery and Lumberland, only to be replaced with huge corporations like Superstore and Walmart.
“It’s discouraging that convenience has become more important than local shopping,” Nicole points out. “While we appreciate that time saving is paramount, it’s unfortunate when it outweighs personal one-on-one interaction.”
That being said, Abstract Glass has become such a staple in the community that it often turns in to an unintentional social meeting point. Old friends and neighbours are continuously running in to each other in their office and subsequently catching up on their lives. Regardless of any challenges met, the Mitchell family consider themselves lucky.
“Mission has been good to us,” Sheryl boasts. “We have sponsored sports teams, community events and we feel the love always comes back in the loyalty of our customers. It’s phenomenal.”
They have closed their doors during this difficult time, for the safety of their family. They ask the community to bear with them for projects that are not deemed essential or urgent, and they will be up and running again as soon as possible.