New stained glass business finds success during pandemic

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Not many new businesses opened during the pandemic, but six months ago a Sioux Falls man decided it was now or never.

After many years at Dakota Stained Glass, which recently moved to Garretson, Brian Bethke decided it was time to go out on his own. He opened Sioux Falls Glassworks on 42nd Street just off Western Avenue.

He does stained glass on commission, like a recent project for Governor Kristi Noem. He also teaches classes and was surprised at the wave of customers wanting to learn a new craft during the pandemic. It’s become clear that teaching others is the way to grow his business.

Bethke says there are 14 steps to making a stained glass panel, the first is picking a pattern and eventually you get to cut your pieces.

First, you score the glass with a special blade.

“Then you take your running pliers and you just take this apart and that’s what gives you your pieces of glass,” Bethke said as he snapped pieces of glass apart.

Bethke moves from a cutting table to a lighted table when he needs to see the colors and put the pieces together. Eventually, he will solder the pieces together into one piece.

“I’ve been kind of an artist my whole life, mostly painting drawing that sort of thing, but glass it just seemed to grab me,” said Bethke

He says it’s the look and feel that attract him to certain projects

“This is a plating technique that I’m working with when you hold this out of the light this is actually a carnival plate and it’s iridized so at night you’re going to see this. But in the day when the sun comes through it gives it a whole new look,” said Bethke.

Teaching others to make stained glass panels has been his biggest joy.

“Coming to work here, I’ll get here in the morning and I’ll look at the clock and oh my gosh it’s time to go home already. I’ve never had a job like that, this is by far the most rewarding job that I’ve ever had,” said Bethke.

According to Bethke, there’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to owning your own business, but he’s glad he took the chance.

“You know I’ve heard many times that stained glass is a dying art, it’s not at all,” said Bethke. “It’s mind-boggling how many people come in here, ‘oh I have a studio in my basement’, I have a studio in my garage.”

Bethke admits he’s been surprised by the number of younger people walking into his shop.

“It’s hard to say what the future holds; every month that goes by, I just see more faces, and that’s great,” Bethke said.

As the pandemic hopefully winds down, Bethke is already making plans with his landlord to expand.

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