105 years is a long time—a really long time.
In the last 105 years, we’ve had two world wars end, recessions, depressions, times of great wealth and an unfathomable amount of technological advancements. And through it all, Fargo Glass and Paint Company, a company that started on a whim, has stood tall.
Fargo Glass & Paint Company History Timeline
The Fargo Plate and Window Glass Company was founded by EJ Schoenberg after he bought a railcar full of glass from Libbey-Owens-Ford Company.
The United States enters World War I and the draft takes all his employees except his secretary.
The company takes on Benjamin Moore paint and changes its name to Fargo Glass & Paint Co.
The company takes on Congoleum linoleum products and starts its flooring division.
Fargo Glass & Paint Co. purchases the building from Northern School Supply at 648 NP Avenue. Currently, this building is home to the NDSU Renaissance Hall for their Architecture program.
1929 – 1939
The company survives the Great Depression.
The United States enters WWII and, again, most of his employees are taken.
The company takes on KitchenAid appliances and starts appliance division.
The company purchases the Crane building at 644 NP Ave to use for their appliance division.
The company opens their Minot branch and adds it to the glass contract division.
The company takes on Viking Kitchen Carpet in their flooring division.
The company sells back the NP Ave building to Northern School Supply and moves into its existing home office and warehouse at 1801 7th Ave N in Fargo, ND.
The company purchases Vantine Glass Construction in Bismarck, ND and makes it a branch in their glass contract division.
The company starts its millwork division with residential windows, doors and siding.
The company purchases the Billings, MT branch from Boise Cascade and adds to its millwork division.
The company purchases the Sioux Falls, SD branch from Andersen Windows, Inc. and adds to its millwork division.
Billings, MT branch closes.
Sioux Falls glass contract is added to their glass contract division.
Becomes 100% ESOP Company.
The company changes window lines from Andersen to Sierra Pacific.
The company starts its TurnKey Solutions & Development Division.
The company takes on cabinet lines and adds to its millwork division.
E.J. Schoneberg, the Founder of Fargo Glass & Paint Co., didn’t grow up in the glass industry, nor did he come into the industry with a wealth of professional experience. In fact, he happened to enter the industry almost by chance.
The story, as told by the current Fargo Glass & Paint Co. employees goes as follows:
Schoneberg, a pharmaceutical product salesman from the east coast, was traveling on a train going to Sioux Falls, South Dakota when he met a man who was a salesman for a glass manufacturer. The two talked and apparently hit it off because they became business partners in 1913, starting a glass company in Sioux Falls before breaking apart in 1917. That same year (1917), Schoneberg moved to Fargo and founded his own company, called Fargo Glass at the time.
“When he came to Fargo, it was Thanksgiving and a glass salesman that he was supposed to speak with the day after invited him to their feast instead,” current Fargo Glass & Paint Co. CEO Dan Martinson said. “He asked E.J. what he thought he needed to start and he said, ‘I don’t know. But I’ll tell you this, I’m going to buy a rail car full of glass and if you get me the stuff I need to start this, I will buy from you for a long, long time.”
Schoneberg went on to do just that.
“[E.J. Schoneberg was] a man of strong character, unquenchable enthusiasm and boundless determination.”
-Stan Cowan, Former Inforum reporter and author of “The Friendly House,” a book about the early history of Fargo Glass & Paint Co.
Martinson maintains that the traits Schoneberg was known for having stayed with the company for the entirety of its existence— treating employees the right way has been at the forefront of everything they do, from the beginning to their transition to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan in 2019.
Although Schoneberg originally named the company Fargo Glass, he changed the name just two years later to Fargo Glass Company. Three years later, in 1922, the organization’s name was changed to its current iteration, Fargo Glass & Paint Co. in order to better reflect the products and services offered.
100 years later, after multiple locations were added as well as a plethora of products and services, the name has stayed.
“During different points in the company, like when we opened a distributorship in Billings, Montana, we have considered changing the name,” Martinson said. “We did worry about the optics of having a “Fargo company” in Billings. It was a real discussion for us. However, we finally decided that even though there might be some negative connotations with having Fargo in the name, our company is recognized very well, regionally, with our name. It’s the retail public that doesn’t always know what we offer.”
Even with additional locations in Bismarck, Minot and Billings, the Fargo Glass & Paint Co. has kept its name the same.
Bridget Gilbertson has been with Fargo Glass and Paint Company for 22 years. In her role as a Business Development Rep, she directs her focus on developing company product awareness along with doing consultations for our retail window and paint stores throughout the Fargo Moorhead and surrounding areas.
“As a Business Development Rep for Fargo Glass & Paint Co., I want our customers throughout our community to know that we’re not just selling glass and paint. We can do so much more! From window coverings to wholesale distribution to our valued retail business, we are a company that can and will provide you with the products you need to build or remodel your existing or dream home/business. We can also simply get you the best connections to make sure your project is done right. As a BDR, I’m also actively involved in the Chamber, United Way and the HBA and truly love networking and being that spokesperson for FGP.
So, retail public, these are the products and services that the Fargo Glass & Paint Co. offers:
- Residential Glass Service
- Custom Shower Doors S
- Specialty Glass & Mirrors
- Benjamin Moore Paint & Paint Sundries
- Alta Residential and Commercial Blinds and Shades
- Design Consultations for all Residential and Commercial Projects
- Sierra Pacific Windows & Patio Doors
- FGP Residential Entry Door Systems
- EDCO Steel Siding, Soffit, & Roof Systems
- Vista Rail Systems
- Custom Painting & Staining
- General Project Management for Hospitality Industry Projects
- Commercial Glass & Hardware Estimation, Fabrication, and Installation
- Automatic Door Estimation and Installation
- Ceiling Tile Estimation and Installation
“Some people know us for glass, some people know us for paint while others know us for windows. That’s somewhat limiting,” Nelson said. “We’re definitely growing outside of our name a bit, but it’s just a big part of our history.”
A Rich History and Culture
Dan Martinson, current CEO and former President/CEO, started at Fargo Glass and Paint 34 years ago as an accountant. Current Vice President Jeff Ficek started that same year as an accountant as well. Both have stayed over time because the company has treated them the right way while providing advancement opportunities they would have never thought possible. All of that is born from a rich history and culture of treating employees the right way.
In fact, Schoenberg used to commonly refer to the office as “The Friendly House,” a common self-given moniker for businesses operating in the yesteryears that denoted a welcoming workplace that employees liked to go to. When looking at most businesses, one would think, ‘yes, of course, this is a great place to work.’ However, at Fargo Glass & Paint Co., the proof is there.
“We have many employees that have been here 10, 20 and 30 years,” Ficek said. “It’s because of the way we treat people.”
Andy Nelson, the current President, hasn’t been with the company for nearly as long as Martinson or Ficek. However, he has embraced the culture fully and experienced his own rise through the ranks, starting as a department manager before advancing to several other positions. He is slated to likely become Martinson’s replacement when he retires.
“We started doing an event with our outside sales reps as a team-building event where we would go and do an offsite retreat at Dan Martinson’s lake home every summer,” Nelson said. “We bring the entire sales team in. We do some business—we go through a few things for three or four hours in the afternoon. Then, we talk about updates. It’s kind of a mid-year check-in on the business and a look ahead to what we see happening the rest of the year. Then, it shifts towards throwing some bags, pontoon rides and just hanging out in lakes country.”
Another big tradition at Fargo Glass & Paint Co. is parties. In particular, many of the long-tenured employees have a strong affinity for the annual holiday party and the annual dealer show, which they have done for 60 years.
“It’s more of an appreciation event than anything,” Martinson said. “It’s really nice to bring the dealers in and give them an opportunity to meet the people they talk to. It’s a great time where we get to swap stories and become friends.”
Becoming an ESOP and Changing With the Times
Tradition and parties are nice and all, but we all work, in part, for financial security and, ultimately, survival. That’s why Fargo Glass & Paint Co. has put its money where its mouth is by investing in employees and finally becoming an ESOP in 2019.
“This company has been run for the employees, really, the entire time that I’ve been here,” Ficek said. “We are very employee-centric. I’ve just been really blessed to have a place like this to go to every single day. I’ve had very few bad days and it has been fun to be associated with a company like this.”
According to Ficek, the company, in the past, used to contribute to the employees in the form of a profit-sharing contribution. However, 10 years ago, Martinson and the rest of the company leaders decided to make the investment in the employees more concrete and put in motion a plan that culminated with becoming an ESOP in 2019.
“Becoming an ESOP has been an impactful change,” Nelson said. “All of the employees feel like they’re part of something now.”
Did you know?
ESOP balances, on average, are 2.2 times higher than traditional 401(k)s
That change has also run parallel to the major shifts we have seen in the workplace since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“I grew up in the generation where you always showed up to the office at a specific time,” Ficek said. “Now we really try to accommodate people as best we can. That’s a good thing. There’s some working from home, which I myself like once in a while. I used to have to wear a tie, a dress shirt, dress slacks— the whole thing. Now, there are some Fridays I show up with a hoodie on.”
With a strong tradition, investment in employees and a willingness to change with the times, we would not be surprised to see the Fargo Glass & Paint Co. around town for another 105 years.