Why this 104-year-old Seattle business is closing

Mar 25, 2018, 12:17 AM

cranes, West Seattle, kusak...

(File, MyNorthwest)

(File, MyNorthwest)

Kusak Cut Glass Works has ranked among the world’s finest glass and crystal artisans for three generations in Seattle. Owner Chuck Kusak has watched the company thrive his entire life.

Now, he will shut down the 104-year-old Emerald City business.

“This is a sad day, actually,” Kusak told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

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“It scares me because I think the part I will miss the most is the people,” he said. “I’ve always told everybody who works for me that the second nicest thing at Kusaks is the crystal. The nicest thing at Kusaks is the people … Some days, it does get to me.”

The neighborhood where the business is located — just off Rainier Avenue — has been upzoned. Kusak now faces the same challenge as many others in town. The 1954 building he operates out of is slated for demolition. A five-story apartment building will replace the site where world-famous glass art is made.

“We’re probably the best at it, certainly in the country,” Kusak said. “We have patterns that go back 100 years that we are still selling. In addition to that, we are the oldest importer of Czechoslovakian crystal on a continuum in America. We have a wonderful array of product that, honestly, will never be seen again. That breaks my heart.”

Kusak Cut Glass Works

At 71 years old, Kusak still uses the same tools and equipment his grandfather used — a Moravian immigrant who came to America in 1912.

“When he came here he didn’t speak a lick of English, but he had a tremendous talent,” Kusak said of his grandfather. “And he thought that if he could buy glass, and decorate it, with the beauty of it he could find somebody to sell it. His motivation was that he had two small kids, so he had to figure out how to do it.”

“It really was a man with a dream and a vision and he did whatever he had to do,” he said.

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Kusak’s craft is entirely done by hand, with stone lathes and engravers. He produces a range of work from chandeliers to glassware, candlesticks and artwork. But in recent years, glass awards for golf, tennis and similar events have become more popular. Kusak hopes they can downside the business. That way, maybe his daughter will continue the tradition of making trophies.

“I’m approaching 71 and the market has changed so much,” he said. “I keep the traditional stone wheel engraving going because it’s my heart and it’s the heart and soul of the company.”

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Why this 104-year-old Seattle business is closing