Home Culture Inside Hoboken’s Oldest Glass Company on Clinton Street

Inside Hoboken’s Oldest Glass Company on Clinton Street

by Sarah Griesbach
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Hoboken Glass, established in 1972, is the Mile Square City’s oldest glass company. The neighborhood glazier shop at 805 Clinton Street is a workshop for the production of custom glass, mirror, plexiglass, and acrylic fabrications as well as an artists’ studio for Hoboken Glass founders Richard (Richie) Della Fave and Catherine Della Fave. Read on to learn all about the practical and creative projects, along with a few trade secrets, that hide in the old candy factory building that holds Hoboken Glass Company.

A Family Legacy

Hoboken Glass is one of few local businesses to endure more than 50 years in this city that has changed more than it has remained the same. At some time in the 1980s, a very cute map highlighting all of the small independent businesses of Hoboken was made. Founders Richard Della Fave and Catherine Della Fave hung the illustrated map on their office wall and, through the years, marked out the neighboring businesses with an X as they closed. When Richie died in 2019, his family continued to meet the ever-growing demands of the business he started. Today, nearly all that remains of the businesses celebrated by that now historic map is Hoboken Glass.

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Artisans in Demand

The January 2024 issue of National Geographic highlighted what it called a glass revolution. Thomas Della Fave, Catherine’s son, took note of the story but he was not surprised by the attention his occupational medium is receiving. The family has experienced a massive shift in his industry due to advances in glass alloys that have led to an increase in the material’s strength and flexibility and, consequently, in its demand. As glass has become less expensive and more practical to use for decorative features, his specialized skill set — such as cutting laminated safety glass quickly and precisely — has become essential to meet the demands of Hoboken Glass’s customers. Many builders are using more glass than ever and custom glass cutting is not an easy task. The work requires extensive training to safely manage. The precision involved depends upon exact measurements and careful execution. Simply lifting and transporting the materials is a feat.

The Station Hoboken
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Thom and Catherine found that the many repairs and replacements that Hoboken Glass contracts to perform increase predictably with economic downturns, times of raucous civic celebration, and whenever the weather is wild. People break windows — falling tree limbs do too. The work is constant and the demand is somewhat unpredictable. Everybody wanted plexiglass during the height of the COVID lockdown era, Thom and Catherine remember.

Zap Fitness

Walking around Hoboken, the Della Fave’s often spot glasswork their family’s company has installed for iconic local buildings. Thom recalls finagling a way to climb ladders up the bell tower of Saint Peter and Paul Church on the corner of Hudson and Fourth Streets while hauling on his back the glass that his mother had cut for him to install. His mother, Catherine, is responsible for all of the stained glass work. It is she who completed the grids of blue glass squares that adorn il Laboratorio Del Gelato at 400 Washington Street, once the Daily News building.

 

 

Building Broken Skateboards

Thom finds the creative aspects of his work especially enjoyable. He enjoys the focused state that etching allows him to reach as he stands with a razor blade for hours, perfecting each cut. These days, he is working to find time for a purely creative project. He is building his custom brand, Broken Skateboards, as a creative outlet as he helps the company meet the nonstop demands of getting glass repairs and fabrications to the company’s many regional customers. The idea for the boards fomented out of both his love for the sport and his 30+ years of work shaping exactly the kinds of materials he’s now using to build his boards. There are commonalities between these two loves — both are dangerous and require years of practice to perform well. And in Thom’s life, both play out on the streets of his beloved city of Hoboken.

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Thom constructs his skateboards from materials he saves from landfills. He tests various thickness ratios of the materials he sources for a perfect balance of flexibility and stability. His current stock of boards is constructed from a material that he acquired as the old Lincoln Tunnel toll booths were getting replaced. There is a long history of artists displaying cool art on skateboards and the construction of the boards is only one dimension of the satisfaction Thom gets by designing his. He finds that the smooth design of his Broken brand boards welcomes creativity. He sees each of his skateboards as a canvas.

The third generation of glaziers has also taken an interest in the project. Thom’s daughter Skylar, age 11, helps her father with the art for his boards. Thom says that she’s great with color. She’s his art assistant as well as a student of the art of glass cutting. His son Tommy, age 10, enjoys learning how to handle glass too. Thom, himself, began working in the glass shop when he was only 12. It was definitely work, not play, for him back then. He does his best to make sure that his children experience the glass shop as fun and safe.

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