Feature Photograph: Chad Lafleur, wife Danie and Richard and Carrol Lafleur celebrate 40 years at Guaranty Glass. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin)
Richard Lafleur had experienced the situation before, but his solution 40 years ago required a different approach.
His employment prospects at the time were shaky and Lafleur had a young family to support.
However Lafleur then 37 years-old, had acquired leverage to combat the situation. He had a skill set that made him a specialist in his craft.
As he watched co-workers being off at Dixie Glass Company in Opelousas, Lafleur decided it was time to take a daring step that over time has proven correct.
Lafleur recalled on Friday afternoon his decision to join with others, the family-operated Guaranty Glass Company in 1983 on West Vine Street.
Since then the company has continued to grow and current Guaranty Glass operates from several locations including Ville Platte and Church Point.
Lafleur celebrated his independent business anniversary with 24 employees, wife Carrol and their family at the location several blocks east of where Guaranty Glass originally began.
His first real employment Lafleur recalled was at a Del-Mart general merchandise store where he worked for 12 years before becoming co-manager.
Suddenly Lafleur remembers that he had to reset his career choice.
“I was looking for a new job. Del-Mart, which was on Natchez Boulevard, was closing, so I went to work at Dixie Glass. For another 12 years or so, Lafleur learned the business at Dixie Glass. Before long Dixie Glass started eliminating positions, so Lafleur decided to make a bolder move.
“I had learned a lot about the glass business over the years and after awhile (with Guaranty Glass) I was able to gradually buy the business partnership and build it after the others either left or retired,” said Lafleur.
Dixie Glass was still an established operation at the time Guaranty Glass began seeking business.
“It was something that we continued to pursue. We knew a lot of people and we began getting more customers, as we began to grow,” Lafleur recalled.
Lafleur and his employees specialize in all different kinds of glass, including storefronts, residences, vehicles and commercial.
At this point Lafleur, who graduated in 1963 from the Academy of The Immaculate Conception High School, has no plans to retire.
When he does Lafleur plans to turn the operation over to his son Chad.
Continuing to operate a glass business on a proficient level Lafleur said, has been difficult.
“It’s a profession where there is no trade school or college that will prepare you to work with glass. Everything you have to learn is learned on the job. What’s been so discouraging recently is finding workers who are competent. It’s not like other professions where you hire someone who is already trained,” said Lafleur.
Glass companies are also engaging in price war with insurance companies over how much to charge for replacement glass.
“The insurance companies now dictate what they will pay for glass, so that is going to drive the cost higher for what we do,” said Lafleur.
Guaranty Glass has been working for several months on redoing the windows and frames at the St. Landry Parish Courthouse.
“It’s probably not our most difficult job, but we’ve had over 200 windows and window frames to replace. Our workers have had to get on lifts and work at putting in all the new windows, sealing them inside the frames. Once we finish the Courthouse is going to better insulated,” Chad Lafleur said.
Chad Lafleur, who was still an infant when Guaranty Glass was formed, said the glass that is being created now is more tempered and a lot safer.
Richard Lafleur said he has no idea when he plans to turn the operation over to his son.
“All I can say right now is this is a great way to make a living without having to work,” said Richard Lafleur.