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Mar 7, 2022

Glass Houses: Lowcountry Shelving and Glass, and the father-son team at the helm, celebrate 30 years in business.

Barry Kaufman

Photography By

M.KAT Photography
The year was 1992, and Mike and Jane Rivers were waking up for the first time in full control of their destiny. Mike, the Ridgeland native, began his career on the island at Sea Pines 20 years prior, like so many others had back then, and had spent the ensuing decades forging a name for […]

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The year was 1992, and Mike and Jane Rivers were waking up for the first time in full control of their destiny. Mike, the Ridgeland native, began his career on the island at Sea Pines 20 years prior, like so many others had back then, and had spent the ensuing decades forging a name for himself as an expert at glass and shelving.

For 20 years, he had been building other peoples’ legacies. On that day in 1992, he and Jane began building their own.

“It was tricky at first, we ran the business from our Hilton Head Plantation den for the first five years. Then we moved into a warehouse that didn’t even have a bathroom,” said Rivers with a laugh. “We just busted our tail, started slow and had good growth.

Thirty years have passed, a span of time that has seen competitors come and go. The company they started that day, Lowcountry Shelving and Glass, has ebbed and flowed with the changes in the economy, weathering the downturn of 2008 and basking in the resurgence of the last few years. And for the last 14 years, they have been lucky enough to share this adventure with their son Robert.

“When he came on board, I breathed a sigh of relief,” Mike said. “Before he came along, we didn’t really have anyone who had our backs.”

The next generation

Before he officially became part of the team, Robert had already earned his sweat equity with the company, working on the job site in one capacity or another since he was 12 years old. “I worked with every different crew to learn all of our products and installations inside and out,” Robert said. “I went off to Clemson knowing I was going to come back and work with my parents.”

Armed with a degree in financial management, Robert returned to the island eager to join Mike and Jane in building the legacy of Lowcountry Shelving and Glass. That it happened at the peak of the economic downturn turned out to be a perfect trial by fire.

“When I started here full time, we were probably down to five or six people. We did whatever it took to keep our doors open,” Robert said. “There are 19 of us now, and it’s a tight-knit group of people. There’s no one person who can get this done. Not me. Not my dad. It takes all of us.”

It takes each of those people to handle the massive workload that the company has enjoyed over the last few years as Robert has consciously expanded their customer base. “We probably work for 130 different contractors and remodelers around here,” Robert said. “We’re blessed with those relationships, but that means about 25 jobs a day. It’s a lot of moving pieces.”

And Mike and Jane are thrilled with what their son has done to expand the company. “We’ve probably doubled in size over the last 10 years. It’s a team effort,” Mike said. And with that expansion comes one of his favorite parts of the job. “Nothing makes me feel better than driving down 278 and seeing one of our bright white trucks.”

A passion for quality

We said it’s one of Mike’s favorite parts of the job. By far, the greatest pride in his work comes in seeing the craftsmanship that their installers put into each job. “We stress quality,” he said. “It’s all about believing in ourselves and knowing we can deliver a quality product. And returning phone calls. I hate an answering machine.”

It’s a work ethic that Mike passed down to Robert in the most organic way possible. Not by telling him how things should be done, but by showing up. “You do whatever it takes,” Robert said. “I grew up watching him get up in the wee hours and go to work.”

That still holds true. While Robert is generally in by 5 a.m. to get started on the day, he’s usually greeted by his dad, who has already been there for an hour. “He showed me how you have to put in the work. Don’t let anyone outwork you. And take care of your people.”

That dedication to quality shows in each job, whether it’s a frameless shower, a beautiful and functional closet system or even some of the more esoteric jobs they’ll take on such as crafting a wine room. Regardless of the project, it’s going to be installed with the utmost attention to quality and a job done right.

Perhaps most important, in this era of supply chain shortages, it will actually get done. Foreseeing the issues down the road, Robert and Mike were able to bulk up their inventory and seek out other vendors to make sure they had product on hand.

It’s dedication to a job done right that comes from two generations of leadership. Parents and son—Mike, Jane, and Robert—have carried their business forward on a foundation of hard work, dedication and service. For 30 years, it has transformed Lowcountry homes. And that legacy will continue, carried on the Rivers family name.

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