Bernard and Katie Katz are a classic example of a mom and pop shop. There’s just one small difference: They’re in the business of one-of-a-kind glass sculptures.
“We mostly cater to those who are seeking the artistry, luxury and beauty of Bernard’s sculptures,” said Katie Katz, business manager and wife of artist Bernard Katz. “I think the one thing that keeps us growing strong is that I really believe in his work.”
The two currently live in Roxborough. They met in 2000 and say they were drawn together because of a common interest in art. Bernard studied at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and Katie studied at Moore College of Art and Design.
“I was really impressed by the artistry of his work,” said Katie, “we just fit well together.”
The two operate their hot glass studio and art gallery, Bernard Katz Glass, from a large Manayunk warehouse a few blocks from Main Street.
The road to sculpture
When his car broke down in the early 1990s, Bernard says a friend suggested he make and sell art pieces in order to raise funds for a new ride.
He says he may have been out of cash, but he wasn’t out of creativity.
“It was something that grew,” said Bernard, “I started out making functional glass pieces like vessels and bowls. Now, I’m crafting sculptural forms.”
By 1995, Bernard Katz Glass was born. Bernard, who grew up in Williamsport, Pa., says he draws inspiration from nature for his sculptures, which vary dramatically in color, size and height.
“Each piece is different,” said Bernard, who specializes in custom designs.
With over 20 years in the hot sculpting business, Bernard has exhibited in top art shows in the United States and has designed projects for the Fountain Restaurant at Philadelphia’s Four Seasons Hotel, the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Hong Kong, China and many other facilities around the world.
Building-up the business
As business manager, Katie’s job is selling the hand-blown glass sculptures to galleries, art consultants, design trade, and private collections worldwide.
“Originally our world was small and we attended a lot of trade shows, but now, we’ve expanded. I enjoy the challenge of it,” said Katie, “you never know what’s going to happen.”
She says her key strategies are social media and learning from fellow business owners.
“We’re on every social media platform from Pinterest to Facebook,” said Katie. “I also attend classes for small business owners and that gives me new perspectives on the business.”
Bernard says social media is a great tool for connecting people.
“Social media gives us a chance to be like that 1950s door-to-door salesman who visits your home and has a conversation with you,” said Bernard. “People like to get to know who they’re buying from, they don’t just want a cold product.” Katie agrees that it’s their personalities and humor that shines through on the web.
“We’re showing that we’re human, we tell jokes, we have a kid,” said Katie, “There’s more to us than this business and people connect with that.”
Advice for future “mom and pop” shops
The Katz couple says that new independent business owners should prepare themselves for the day to day workload of being your own boss.
“It’s all up to you, you’ve got to have a passion for what you’re doing,” said Bernard. “You’ve got to wear many hats and learn how to do everything – accounting, taxes, sales, marketing – it’s a lot to think about.”
The couple agrees that sometimes they need to remind themselves to take a break from the business.
“We say: ‘It’s time to shut it off,’ and we take a break from it,” said Bernard.
Their plus-side to having their own business?
“The sky’s the limit,” said Katie. “We love that feeling of knowing that we can try new things and reach new goals.”
To learn more about the Katz’ business, visit www.bernardkatz.com.