Hope’s Windows is to steel windows and doors what Coca-Cola is to soft drinks. They are the brand by which all the other manufacturers of steel windows are compared. After being a Hope’s agent in the NYC area for about 16 years, I came to understand the company from the inside out. Several truths come to mind as I analyze what makes them so ubiquitous.
- Years in Business
- Product Quality
- Industry Support
- Short-term Memory
HOW LONG HAS HOPE’S BEEN IN BUSINESS?
Hope’s history overlaps with Crittall Windows of the UK. The Henry Hope Company predates Crittall Windows, dating back to the earliest days of hot-rolling steel bars in 1818.
The Henry Hope Company set up distribution in Jamestown, NY, in the early 1900s. After some ownership changes, the factory that is today called Hope’s Windows remains in the old facilities. Several other U.S. rivals came into the market, but few are still alive today.
Hope’s products were taught in architectural schools and their standard sizes and configurations were then adopted by the industry. Hope’s, in its many forms, has continued to survive for a very long time and that is a value unto itself. There is something to be said for being around for such a long time.
Overall, the product that Hope’s has produced is of the highest quality in the industry. Many of the advances in distribution, finishing, weatherstripping, and packaging came from or were promoted by Hope’s.
For years, before 2Fold Doors ever existed, I was an installer, in addition to being an agent, for Hope’s. I sold their products, so I also understand that they are not perfect. My field guys would regularly complain that the mullion holes did not match the sashes, glazing beads did not fit up nicely, and other irregularities slowed down production. These irregularities were problematic, however, the archaic engineering and layout procedures that they employed made this hard to control.
Steel windows went from being mass-produced in standard sizes in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, to being used in unique, private residences where almost every window was custom sized.
When shop drawings were finally approved, they needed to be hand detailed: every bar had to be dimensioned with the respective holes called out. That detailing paper was then used to hand mark the actual bars for hole punching, one-by-one. When you consider that process, it is a miracle that so many projects came out well.
PHOTOGRAPHY’S IMPORTANCE IN ARCHITECTURE
Hope’s has always been a leader in the field with stunning photography, marketing brochures, and website design.
Architecture is largely visual, and pictures sell. When an architect is trying to defend their decision to spend significantly more for Hope’s windows—to make their design work—they better be fueled with great examples of how this vision is likely to turn out.
The Steel Window Institute (SWI) is the association of hot-rolled steel window and door manufacturers. It was single-handedly established by Frank Farrell, the president and owner of Hope’s Windows, until his death a few years ago.
Hope’s has always provided most of the financial support for the organization.In the 70’s and 80’s, aluminum windows were kicking the butts of steel windows with thermal technology and much lower prices. The aluminum guys had the AAMA (American Aluminum Manufacturers Association), where more recently the second “A” became Architectural. Banding together to tout the merits of steel windows became very important.
Later, formed-steel sections started coming into the country from Europe to compete with hot-rolled steel bars. Again, the issue was one of cost and they were considerably cheaper and faster to manufacture. Hope’s lead the effort at the SWI to keep formed-steel sections out of the association. They fought to keep architects from allowing specifications, which called for hot-rolled steel sections to be substituted with formed-steel ones.
During the 90s, Optimum Windows, another leader in steel windows and doors, found a way to beat the system. Substitutions weren’t challenges, so they used formed-steel windows and advertised them as hot-rolled in the NYC market. Frank Farrell was quite upset, and rightly so; these are two very different products. The lesson here is, be careful what you ask for.
Optimum went on to make true hot-rolled steel windows and doors. They are currently a member of the SWI and so they have feet planted on both sides of the argument.
IS A PRODUCT RELIABLE IF COMMUNICATION AND DELIVERY AREN’T?
The short answer is no.
When I took over the NYC territory for Hope’s in 1990, there were two things that needed to change,
- Communication and
- Delivery reliability.
I realized that Hope’s was largely dysfunctional.
They frequently used the excuse “well you didn’t tell me that (fill in the blank with things like muntin alignment, etc.) was important to you,” rather than clarifying clients’ needs beforehand.
I loved the company and wanted to change that narrative. So, I positioned my people and myself between the architects, contractors, and Hope’s personnel.
My team and I took the consulting approach of assuming responsibility for ensuring that the architect’s intent was understood and clearly communicated to Hope’s engineers. We created a solution for the communication problem and saved a lot of heartache and headache that way. Hope’s has always had just about the longest production cycle in the world. Unfortunately, eliminating delivery failures was a problem we unable to solve.
SHIPPING MISHAPS AND DELIVERY FAILURES
When things ran smoothly, Hope’s would ship within 16-18 weeks—after all the shop drawing approvals were complete. However, there were far too many occasions where, around week 16, we would contact the production control team to confirm the shipping date only to find that it would be delayed four to five weeks.
The engineering department dealt with inefficiencies while producing shop drawings and frequently misinterpreted architectural intent. So, the reality of the matter was that the shop drawing process could go on for months with redraws and delays. Vitriol would commence from the architect, owner, and contractor to little or no avail.
Ultimately, the architect who had pushed for this product, the most expensive of all window and door solutions, was embarrassed. In some cases, they were fired over the failure to live up to clients’ expectations.
The architect in question would swear to never, ever specify Hope’s products again. Yet, almost every one of them came back to Hope’s within a few years. This pattern of conduct was a mystery to me. The only possibility I could imagine was that at that time no product could compare to Hope’s, in terms of quality.
This was part of the impetus to create 2Fold® Doors.
In 2004, I was disassociated from Hope’s. I represented other companies and designed other products that I have since taken to market.
IS THERE A PRODUCT THAT COMPARES TO HOPES??
The short answer is yes, 2Fold® Doors.
2Fold® Doors holds all of my attention these days. I am more passionate about it than any other product I have sold or created. Why? It is a better steel window and door system custom made from hot-rolled steel sheets and it is delivered quickly!
In most cases, the products are finished and ready to be installed in 8-10 weeks AND they have better thermal insulation. When it comes to service 2Fold® Doors has the competition beat. We ensure that the architect’s intent and the product’s exact functionality is fully understood by all parties involved.
How do our operations run so smoothly?
Our shop drawings process removes the middleman, so there is a single chain of command in the communications loops. This eliminates miscommunications and allows our production team to operate at the highest level of efficiency, meaning: the deliver on their commitments on time. Both our product and the experience of getting them are first-rate . . . every time.
The best part of the 2Fold® Doors experience is that it IS NOT one-size-fits-all. You don’t have to plan a project around the steel window and door system. Instead, you can have the product customized to fit your project