Art, Utility and Passion Yield Sustainable Burlington Business
Glass Blowing Operation Utilizes
Vermont SBDC Advisor Support
Combining art, utility and passion into a viable business can be a serious challenge. Few know that better than Rich Arentzen and Tove Ohlander, owners of AO Glass LLC, a production glass studio in the heart of Burlington’s Pine Street arts district. Still, they decided to tackle that challenge “in order to take a passion and turn it into a sustainable business,” Arentzen said.
But they didn’t have to do it alone. Arentzen and Ohlander looked to Vermont Small Business Development Center Area Advisor Steve Densham “in order to blow glass while making a living,” Arentzen said. The company needed better planning skills and better focus on core business matters and “existential goals,” Arentzen said. They also sought a better understanding of accessing capital, business growth and business life cycle, he said.
The business owners and Densham worked together on these matters, and with diligence and time were able to overcome the challenges of practicing the dynamic craft of glass blowing while still providing value to AO Glass clients. Arentzen described his time working with Densham as “enjoyable, educational and inspiring.”
“I like to say that ‘all roads lead to Steve Densham,’” Arentzen said. “Steve’s entertaining and insightful mentorship has been instrumental in helping us transform our passion for our craft into a growing and sustainable business,” he said.
Today, AO Glass is the premier east coast manufacturer of lighting glass and design components. The company’s unique size enables it to provide clients with ample manufacturing capacity coupled with a focus on design and quality. The company ‘s capabilities include free-blown and mold-blown designs, glass casting and glass pressing. “We pride ourselves on fostering local and global partnerships with like-minded designers and clients,” the company website says. Current AO Glass clients include Ben & Jerry’s and Hubbardton Forge, among others.
“Our shop is a veritable jungle of tools, furnaces, and jigs, collected and refined over several lifetimes of mastery. In the summer, our 800 square foot workshop can reach 140° fahrenheit (60° celsius). Our hot shop is the beating heart of the Burlington arts district. Music and laughter echo from the garage door we keep wide open year round — summer and winter. The local artists and residents gravitate to the warmth and excitement of the place; hanging out, drinking coffee, and contributing their creativity,” the website says.