Glass, screen service resumes at new location“There aren’t too many people who do it anymore,” said 76-year-old Erne Koukal about cutting glass and making screens, “especially windows and screens.”
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
“There aren’t too many people who do it anymore,” said 76-year-old Erne Koukal about cutting glass and making screens, “especially windows and screens.”
Koukal began work again last week in the lower level of 102 S. Main St., the Custom Framing and Art business owned by Pat Hammarback.
The two used to be working neighbors -- he cut glass and made screens inside the hardware store; she created frames and ran her business from a building adjacent to Lund’s.
In early December Hammarback moved from her old building to Main Street -- just after the hardware store property was sold and just before its buildings were razed.
Since then she’s been settling into the space -- the former retail space of The Route bicycle shop.
Hammarback and Koukal had talked about the idea of him providing services from her new location.
So early this year, she began creating a workspace in the lower level of the building that includes a workroom and storeroom for all the different kinds of window-screen mesh, glass, screen corners and clips, slide bolts, metal and rubber splines and other assorted parts.
Hammarback uses the space to cut glass for framed items. Koukal uses it to cut glass for windows.
He said he’s an early morning person and that he’s usually come and gone before noon each day.
People can drop off their custom or standard glass-cutting and window-screen projects anytime during Custom Framing and Art’s business hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Koukal said people may also want to know he sharpens knives, paper cutters, scissors and lawn and garden tools.
He said about Hammarback business expansion, “She’s going to carry just about anything Lund’s did.”
Koukal said those services are generally hard to find.
When he was working inside Lund’s he’d get people coming not only from River Falls but also Ellsworth, Hudson, Hammond and other locations.
He remembers that dogs, cats and landlords drove a lot of window-screen business.
Some customers are glad to learn there’s a type of screen engineered to withstand a dog’s or cat’s wear and tear.
He’s excited about the business potential of drawing more people into downtown.
Asked about unusual projects people bring him, he says he’s done windshields for a motorcycle, Plexiglas pieces for tractors and back windows for pickup trucks, as well as odd-shaped replacement windows for a barn. Koukal said he usually gets a project done in about a day’s time.
He jokes with people who are in a rush, showing them his sign that reads, “If you wanted it today, you should have brought it in two weeks ago.” Though the sign is for laughs, he said he seriously tries to help people with whatever they need, however quickly.
Koukal explains that he and Fred Benson, owner of the former Lund’s Hardware, got to know each other when Koukal and his wife, Jean, were building a house and doing most of the work themselves. They had moved to River Falls from St. Paul Park in 1986.
Benson would talk to him about the project and when the house was finished, told Koukal that Lund’s could use a good glass cutter.
And so began a 20-year venture that included glass cutting, as well as many other items that Benson and others would plunk on the counter and say, “fix it.”
The glass-work pro said he cuts all his glass freehand. He’s developed a reputation for having a good eye for a straight line and the steady hand of a surgeon.
Koukal said he’s always enjoyed meeting and helping people.
Retired, Koukal said he and Jean, who have been married 53 years, keep busy dancing, playing tennis, riding horses, playing golf and visiting with friends.
His humorous business card says, “Retired: When I get the urge to work, I lie down until the urge passes.”
In all seriousness, Koukal said he’s glad to help people and that the work gets him out of the house when Jean is busy.
He’ll also be mentoring someone in the finer points of glass cutting, screen making and tool sharpening so that it’s a service people will find in River Falls for the long-term future.