There’s one thing I’ve learned during my brief time covering the door and window industry – surprising, fascinating stories are around every corner. IMG_2765

I found another one this week in Queens, N.Y., where I rounded a lot of corners to get to Crystal Window & Door Systems’ remarkable 215,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.

This fast-growing company does almost everything inside the three-level plant – it extrudes vinyl, cuts and insulates glass, and fabricates doors and windows. There’s also space for a showroom, a customer-service desk, offices, warehousing and much more, such as an on-site testing facility and a 3-D printer that makes advanced prototypes of door and window components.

“Most process-flow engineers who visit us are quite amazed at how we make this work,” says chief operating officer Steve Chen.

Like I said, it’s remarkable to see so much manufacturing activity in such a tight space in one of the most densely urbanized areas in the country.

But equally remarkable is Crystal Window’s back story.

The company, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, was founded by Thomas Chen, a Taiwanese immigrant who moved to New York City in 1982. With little formal training, he started making windows by hand in a small garage near LaGuardia Airport.

Today, this nationally recognized family-owned business (son Steve now runs day-to-day operations) is one of the largest door and window manufacturers in the country, with facilities in New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Riverside, Calif. It employs nearly 600 workers across the U.S.

However, this all-American success story hasn’t come without challenges – one of the biggest being the inaccurate perception that because it’s a company owned by Asians, it must sell nothing but products imported from Asia.

Steve Chen enjoys debunking that fiction.

“That’s a constant perception I have to fight all the time,” he says of his company, whose products all prominently display a “Made in the U.S.A.” sticker. “One of the main things we take great pride in is that everything is made in the U.S. We fabricate everything in the U.S. That’s why we encourage our dealers and distributors to come visit our facilities across the country.”

We’ll be taking an in-depth look at Crystal Window & Door Systems in an upcoming issue of DWM magazine. It promises to be an interesting and inspiring story, so look for it in the coming months. For now, check out this video the company commissioned for its anniversary:



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