You Bet Your Glass: August 2011
The amazing career of Bernie Leaman Part 1
August 17, 2011 By Frank Fulton
In our business, occasionally you will come across people who have made a real impact on the industry.
In our business, occasionally you will come across people who have made a real impact on the industry. If you were in the glass business in Ontario sometime in the last 40 years, you either knew or knew of Bernie Leaman of Commercial Aluminum. Bernie is that type of guy you’re happy you had the opportunity of meeting. He always greets people with a smile, is quick to laugh, personable, and fun to talk to . . . a very charismatic gentleman. We caught up with Bernie recently and thought you might be interested to hear a bit about him.
Bernie Leaman started his working life as an office clerk with Marcad Printing way back in 1953 at the age of 17, moving on to Robin Hood Flour a while later. While at Robin Hood, Bernie met a gentleman and co-worker by the name of Bill Millington. As it happened, Bill had a few brothers in the glazing business, and convinced Bernie it would be a good idea for him to leave Robin Hood with him and go to work for Millington Brothers Glass. That’s how Bernie found his way into the glass and metal business in 1955, doing the books, estimating, inside sales, and anything else that needed taking care of in the one-man office, while the Millington brothers were out taking care of jobs. That was his start to a long and rewarding career in our industry.
As is typical of young guys starting out, Bernie moved around a bit in his early years, putting in time and gaining experience at Jack’s Glass, and later working for an owner he considered to have very questionable ethical and moral fabric at Builders Glass, getting a first-hand education of how not to behave in business. This baptism by fire would serve Bernie well in his future endeavours.
In the mid ’60s, Bernie and a few of his co-workers at Builders decided to put their entrepreneurial spirit to the test and started their own subcontract glazing company, going under the name of Capital Glass. They got off to a pretty good start, getting their share of work, until Bernie had a near crippling back injury on a job site from which he was fortunate to recover. That pretty much spelled the end for Capital, as, according to Bernie, the other partners had more interest in booze and women than they did in growing the business.
As it happened, while Leaman was learning the ropes of the glazing contracting business, a gentleman by the name of Barry Reading whom Bernie had got to know over the years, started up a small aluminum door and fin tube shop called Commercial Aluminum. “It was a very small industry at the time. Everyone knew everyone.”
Commercial became part of the Indal group in 1965 and, a few years later in 1969, Reading, who had stayed on as president, enticed Bernie Leaman to join the company and run the office for the princely wage of $55 per week. Commercial had 12 employees at the time, and Bernie was once again in charge of a one-man office, doing all the estimating, inside sales and order processing.
Unfortunately, Barry Reading took seriously ill in 1972, made a brief return to Commercial a year later, and retired permanently shortly thereafter, leaving Bernie to take the lead role in the company. Realizing the talent they had, Indal appointed Bernie Leaman as general manager. At the time, another renowned industry man, Ian Moore, was the president of Indal Products, making aluminum storm windows and doors. Commercial Aluminum was put under the Indal Products umbrella, and Bernie reported directly to Ian Moore. At the company Christmas party in 1976, Ian announced that Bernie had been promoted to president of Commercial Aluminum. By this time the company had grown to 25 employees.
In the next edition, we’ll look at Bernie’s years at Commercial Aluminum and his involvement with the Metro Toronto Glass Association.
Frank Fulton is president of Fultech Fenestration Consulting. He has
been in the industry for 30 years and can be reached via e-mail at
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