OWOSSO TWP. — An on-the-job accident spurred Doug Morence to start his own business, Doug’s Lock & Glass, 30 years ago.
Morence, 61, was then a young man working for Hodge Glass in Caledonia Township. The job was at a tall building that needed new windows. One day, Morence had to climb a flight of stairs in order to bring an industrial elevator down from the second floor.
As the elevator began its descent, the chain holding it up snapped and whipped him in the face. The elevator plunged to the ground.
Morence emerged hurt but alive, suffering a broken jaw and ribs, and a closed-head injury. He said he doesn’t remember a thing from that day. He spent the next few months recovering — and thinking about his frustrations working for someone else, as well as his desire to operate his own business.
“I decided to go out on my own,” he said during a talk at his business, 2110 W. Main St. (M-21). “I was 31. Time has absolutely flown since then. It’s astounding. It’s been a flash.”
The name has remained Doug’s Lock & Glass since 1989, but locations have changed three times. Morence worked out of his home for about a year, then moved to a facility on Stewart Street for four years. At that point, he purchased a vacant lot on M-21 and constructed the 2,000-square foot building in which his business is still housed.
His very first customer was Scott Gewirtz, an employee in the body shop at Young Owosso. Morence still keeps the invoice for the job — a side mirror for a vehicle costing $8.50 — under the glass counter in the reception area.
That small project and another valuable connection, Ed Lukas, led to many other jobs for the Young dealership, which hosted a 30th anniversary luncheon for Doug’s Lock & Glass on Tuesday.
Blending the celebration with the dealer’s annual pig roast for employees, the event featured helium balloons emblazoned with “30 years” and cookies frosted with the Doug’s Lock and Glass logo and broken windshields. Morence paid for the pig.
“Young has been wonderful,” Morence said. “It’s a terrific company to do business with that helped my business grow and maintain for 30 years. They make me feel like I’m part of their family.”
Young co-owner Lori Young-Rowlison said it’s the quality of Morence’s work and service that keeps those jobs coming in from the dealership.
“When you call Doug’s Lock & Glass, you don’t have to worry about anything,” Young-Rowlison said. “He comes right out and is an incredibly hard worker. He has great relationships with the people here. He really makes our lives easier.”
Morence said he is fortunate enough to enjoy similar relationships with other dealers: Slingerland in Caledonia Township, LaClair Auto Sales in Chesaning and Graff Chevrolet in Durand.
Morence’s career started at Owosso High School in the fall of 1975, his senior year. He accepted a position at Hodge Glass through the school’s co-op program and ended up working there for 14 years.
Cutting and installing glass isn’t something everyone can do. Morence knew he was part of that rare breed of people who could work with glass, despite the risks of injury, and complete jobs correctly.
“It was comfortable to me,” Morence said. “I could cut glass readily, and I especially liked working on auto glass. I trained about 20 guys while I worked at Hodge, and only three or four were naturals.”
His own natural talent is one of the reasons his business has thrived for three decades. He said he encourages people to watch him as he installs glass, to observe his methodical approach and his attention to detail.
“They are usually my repeat customers,” he said. “I’ve been told it’s like watching a concert, with everything done in a particular order and meticulously.”
Customer service, he said, is another “huge” reason Doug’s Lock & Glass has thrived, and honesty. He has employed as many as four people at a time, but for the past several years he’s been running solo.
With dealers forming the largest share of his customers, Morence has narrowed his focus, working exclusively on auto glass instead of locksmithing or the flat glass used in windows. He installs 30 to 40 windshields per month.
“I’m a one-man operation, and I absolutely love it,” he said. “I like the control.”
He plans to keep Doug’s Lock & Glass going for at least another six years, when his wife Andrina Morence plans to retire as a college professor at Olivet College. Then the pair hope to move to Dallas, Texas, home of several of her grown children and grandchildren.
Doug Morence has no plan to stop working, however. He said he’s going to start out operating his business from their house, just as he did in 1989.
“I’m going to start all over again,” he said with a laugh. “I love the work, and it keeps me fit.”