Industry Legend Joe Kellman Turns 90
January 7, 2010

Though Joe Kellman (shown here in a 1993 file photo) long ago retired from the auto glass industry, his legacy is one that continues to impact the way the industry operates today.

Legendary auto glass entrepreneur Joe Kellman is celebrating his 90th birthday today.

Kellman got his start in the glass industry at the age of 14 when he worked at his father's small glass shop, Globe Glass. When his father died, he and his brother Maury took over the manufacturing division of the business and Kellman was given two small retail glass shops. The two shops grew into what was at one time was the country's largest privately owned auto glass chain.

The company also created what many say was the first nationwide auto glass network, the Chicago-based Globe Glass/U.S. Glass Network.

Kellman has long been credited for seeing the emergence and eventual domination of the insurance industry as a business driver in the auto glass industry. His relationship with insurance companies, Allstate in particular, changed the way auto glass industry operated in the United States and was very controversial.

Perhaps the most famous manifestation of the controversy occurred when he spoke at the1991 National Auto Glass Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., and alleged to the audience, "Don't waste your time denying what is happening. You can't expect to put in three or four windshields and then go to the ballgame or play golf. You'll have to put in eight or nine of them,'" he recalled saying at the conference during a 1993 interview with AGRR publisher Debra Levy.

Kellman also said he felt the insurance industry had been overpaying the auto glass industry for years.

"I believe they overpaid, not by millions of dollars, but by billions of dollars," he said. "Let's face it, folks, we've been giving dealers and body shops and those who shop price a better price than those who don't. They buy a fraction of what our best customer buys. Our best customer, the insurance industry, gets the worst prices. We all took advantage of them …"

Globe Glass merged with Windshields America in 1996, creating Vistar, which merged with Safelite in 1997.

Kellman and his wife, Lou Anne, have retired to San Diego and are still active with many charitable organizations, including the Better Boys Foundation and the Joe Kellman Family Foundation.

Though Kellman's 90th birthday is today, he celebrated a bit early with a gathering in December 2007 at the newly opened Kellman Community Center in the North Lawndale section of Chicago—an area he has supported for many years with his participation in the development of the Better Boys Foundation and the Kellman Corporate Community School. Approximately 300 people, including sports figures such as Gayle Sayers, Richard Dent and Mike Pyle, attended, along with a roster of well-known politicians and businessmen and long-time auto glass industry executives, including Dale Schenian, Gary Turner and former Globe employee Gladys Lazar.

CLICK HERE for full text of AGRR's 1993 interview with Kellman.

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