Glass guys

Carter and Mike Rigby from Sunshine Glass and Mirror in Penticton with some of the glass products they’re installing at businesses to protect staff from COVID-19.

As a former NHL prospect, Carter Rigby knows all about Plexiglass – he spent thousands of hours smashing into the stuff while playing Canada’s game in hockey rinks across B.C.

He’s once again surrounded by the stuff at Sunshine Glass and Mirror, where he works for his dad, Mike.

Since reopening May 11 after a seven-week shutdown, the shop’s phone has been ringing off the hook with orders from local businesses looking for glass products to serve as barriers between staff and customers in the COVID-19 era.

Demand has been so great that the company, located on Industrial Place in Penticton, had to switch suppliers to keep up.

“We did Plexiglass before this and did motorcycle, motorhome and ATV windshields, but since COVID, business has gone through the roof,” said Carter, who’s also head coach of the Osoyoos Coyotes in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League and a former star winger with the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Hockey League.

“Whether it be restaurants, cab companies, gas stations, various businesses downtown, we’ve sold to everybody. There’s really no limit to what you can and can’t do with this stuff.”

For the uninitiated, Plexiglass is just a brand name for a transparent plastic. But despite being a household name, there’s now a superior product called Lexan that is in even higher demand. Lexan, a compressed glass product, is stronger, doesn’t bend or break, and lasts much longer than traditional Plexiglass, although it also costs more, too.

“You can’t tell the difference side-by-side, but if you want a better and longer-lasting product, you definitely want to look at Lexan,” said Carter, who noted it’s also the new standard for Canadian hockey rinks.

But for businesses owners who are still getting back on their feet and need to pinch pennies, Plexiglass “will still get the job done in the short term,” added Mike.

He’s beginning to think demand for protective glass products will be permanently elevated.

“The world will be different after COVID-19, and maybe having protective barriers in place in schools and businesses might not be a bad idea,” said Mike

Due to concerns relating to the virus, his staff are adhering to new protocols, such as wearing face shields, masks and gloves, as well as constant washing of hands, wiping down surfaces and social distancing measures with customers when selling and installing products. It’s what’s needed to provide what has really become an essential service.

“We’ve been really busy and it’s because local support has been outstanding,” said Mike.

“We like to think we serve the South Okanagan very well. This business has been open for more than 30 years in this location, so people know who we are and what we do, so we’ve been very busy, which is great news after being given no choice but to close down for almost two months. We’ve been very fortunate.”