Adding Light and Beauty to Buildings for 20 Years

1st Choice Glass

Over the past 19 years, 1st Choice Glass (1CG), with corporate headquarters in Monroe, North Carolina and satellite offices in Charleston, South Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia, has emerged as a trusted partner of general contractors and developers in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee, and on occasion as far afield as New York, Florida, Alabama, and Ohio.

The company, which specializes in glass for commercial and public properties of every size, provides interior aluminum framing and heavy glass walls, field-glazed window walls and curtain walls, and unitized glazed walls for commercial and public buildings.

1CG focuses on the highest quality service which begins with estimation and project management, moves on to in-house fabrication, and finally to weather and water testing and installation.

“It went from two men and a truck in 2005, to 65 employees and a $50 million a year business in 2024, with a lot of hard work and perseverance in the years between,” is how Paul Dustin, 1CG’s Vice President of Business Development describes the company founded by “two men in a truck!”

In the first year of business, the guys brought on two more, both of whom are still with the company today. They operated their own fabrication shop since day one, a department 1CG is proud to showcase to its customers. It’s uncommon for large commercial glaziers to do their own fabrication when they do 50 million-plus in annual revenue, and 1CG says it is committed to continuing to keep this in-house, as it gives the company a competitive edge.

“They cut their teeth by working alongside a general contractor who was helping with Wachovia’s expansion—but that wasn’t all they did, because they did incorporate other projects of the same size and were already into schools when I joined in 2009,” says Dustin.

“When work was so abundant in the early 2000s, some companies had turned up their noses at schools, but after the economic downturn in 2008, when private work went away, (and Wachovia, the nation’s fourth largest bank, was acquired by Wells Fargo), we were growing, having done work on schools for a couple of years.”

That attitude of not ‘turning up their noses’ at small projects has stood 1CG in good stead. Even though much of the company’s work in recent years involves showcase projects at universities, hotels, and mid-rise commercial buildings, the team has recently taken on a project retrofitting the windows at a former Navy hospital which is being converted to a much-needed multi-family residence.

1CG started with 5000 square feet of office/fabrication/warehouse space in Monroe; now it has a 25,000 square foot indoor space in two side-by-side buildings on a 4.5-acre lot which Dustin describes as “busting at the seams.” The good news is that the company has just been approved for a construction loan to expand its operations facility.

In 2020, Paul Dustin, with his wife Michelle, company Accounting/HR Manager, opened the first satellite office in Charleston while a second satellite in Atlanta opened in 2021, which covers not only the Atlanta area but also the Nashville, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama regions.

Appointed Vice President of Business Development this past November, Dustin and his family will be returning to company headquarters when their children finish the school year, leaving the staff of five they’ve hired in the past three years to run the office in Charleston.

“We have found that satellite offices have been a game changer for us. We had managed the Charleston and Atlanta areas from our main office for years, but having local management does amazing things for developing relationships and for being able to visit job sites, and that’s what we’ll continue doing,” says Dustin.

He points to several factors, starting with “our captain. His philosophy, perseverance, and drive helped the company achieve steady growth and an excellent reputation.”

He describes the company as “a quality contractor from start to finish, and management-heavy. From the beginning, Mike emphasized the importance of putting energy into each department, from sales to estimating and project management, all the way to our execution and our financial management.”

Dustin notes that each department has its own Vice President, with three of the five, like him, having entered the company at low-level positions early on and worked their way up. Now they collaborate at an executive level and build processes based on feedback from each level of their own departments, streamline communications, and ensure that if mistakes do happen, lessons are learned and mistakes are not repeated.

“We try to put quality into every aspect of the contract because we don’t want to sell something only to have the customer say, ‘these guys don’t know what they’re doing and are doing a terrible job at estimating or installing,’ so we focus on every aspect.”

In the interests of complete transparency, 1CG’s website offers a field labor management chart, showing how each project is carefully planned at a meeting attended by all levels of management, from Regional Construction Managers and General Superintendents to safety and quality control, to financial departments. It illustrates how the software in which the company has invested, such as ProContractor and the ExakTime tracking system, can monitor costs and hours and how information flows in a circular way, from the project manager to the superintendent to the field labor division and then back from the field labor division to the superintendent and the project manager.

1CG’s in-house, state-of-the-art fabrication facility, where fabricators cut and assemble metal frames, has played a crucial role in the company’s success from the beginning. It continues to do so with the recent acquisition of its third, fully automated Rhino 1350 CNC machine, which allows for precision cuts to the framing systems.

In-house fabrication benefits clients, since it allows 1CG to have full control over the quality of the craftsmanship, and also allows the company to accelerate production schedules should a building project move ahead more quickly than anticipated. Then, as the work is completed, the materials to be installed are loaded onto 1CG’s fleet of trailers, ready for on-time delivery, which means the general contractor doesn’t have to find space to store the glass on site until they’re ready to have it installed.

“We do a lot of blast and hurricane impact work,” Dustin says, “and all of our shop drawings are engineered and very specific on how the systems need to be built and installed, what anchors should be used, what spacing—all of that pertinent information has to be communicated to the installation subcontractors to make sure it’s done accurately.” This is the responsibility of Adam Tsiukes, who manages the installation, safety, quality control, and testing, and ensures manpower is available to execute the job.

It’s not easy to find the outstanding glazers 1CG requires, who are both good at what they do and ready to work hundreds of feet in the air, Dustin says, “but once you find them, you do whatever it takes to keep them around. We have several subcontractors that we use repeatedly, and we do everything we can to keep them working for us.”

Another factor that has contributed to the success of 1CG and certainly shouldn’t be overlooked is its family-oriented culture and a policy of promoting from within. Employees who see a future for themselves within the company take pride in their work and happily volunteer for projects such as supplying boxes of toys and food at Christmas to a “community where the kids don’t otherwise get much,” as well as being title sponsor for Teal Diva, an organization that offers emotional support to cancer patients and their families.

As Vice President of Business Development, Dustin says, “Part of my job is understanding the market and the growth in different types of construction, seeing what developers are doing and where they’re spending their money. We have our eyes on a few towns where we might open satellite offices, but that can change, depending on growth,” he shares.

“There’s no office yet in Tennessee, although it’s on our radar. We have hired a project manager who lives in Nashville and works out of our Atlanta office as we try to break into the Nashville market. It’s a saturated market with a lot of construction, and it’s competitive, but as we complete jobs and show the kind of service we can provide, our reputation for quality service gets out and will help us reach our goal,” he says.

“We want to become a $100 million a year company. We don’t know if that will take five years or 20, but we’re working toward that, and satellite offices will be central to achieving it.”



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