WATSONVILLE —When glass designer Annie Morhauser moved operations 20 years ago from a 3,000-square-foot footprint in Santa Cruz to a cavernous warehouse more than five times that size, there was still enough room inside to accommodate her son’s skateboard party.
“It was a place to grow into,” Morhauser said, recalling the arduous move of the Annieglass headquarters, design studio and manufacturing to South Santa Cruz County.
To celebrate two decades in the largely agricultural community — 33 years in business overall — Morhauser is holding a communitywide open house with live music and dancing, local food and drink vendors, glass artistry, factory tours and a silent auction to benefit Digital NEST, a local tech program for young people.
Annieglass, known for its unique, thick glassware with 24-karat-gold or platinum painted trim, undulating edges and draping fluted sides, “was busting at the seams” in the Santa Cruz Sash Mill when it made the move. The growing company needed a particular type of working space that could accommodate frequent 2-ton crane deliveries of glass measuring the size of a queen size bed.
So they moved everything, including about 10 ovens into the 16,000-square-foot building. Blocks of glass could come in one end of the building and final products went out the other end. Walls made of parachute material initially divvied up the space.
Since then, the company has doubled its sales, Morhauser said. About 70 percent of the business is wholesale and includes a host of high-end distributors such as Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales and hundreds of boutique retailers, hotels and restaurants. She maintains about 500 pieces in her collection.
Last year, Morhauser closed her downtown Santa Cruz location and launched her first store in the upscale Santana Row development in San Jose.
Today, the building houses 30 ovens, small retail and seconds shops, a wine bar and, in the parking lot, an organic farm stand. A couple of hundred pieces may be crafted in a day, depending on size.
“I had very simple goals,” Morhauser said. “It’s been beyond my wildest imagination. That’s for sure. And, it’s because of all those people in Santa Cruz and Watsonville who are very loyal customers.”
Elegant dining ware looks better accompanied by local wines and chocolates and olive oil tastings.
The community has been “extremely welcoming,” said Morhauser, who frequently collaborates with other local businesses to serve tour groups and create new events. “It’s like a hometown feeling here. I love coming to work here and seeing this vibrant community. We are surrounded by growing things.”
Morhauser said she plans to participate in the Farm Bureau’s progressive dinner and is working on an event with local breweries.
“She’s starting to create a hub of different venues in which visitors can go and see things that are produced here locally,” said Jess Brown, executive director of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau. “It was such a different concept of the type of business that she was bringing here, but she had the vision. I think she was at the forefront of a good thing that’s going to be beneficial for the community.”
Annieglass is another example of great things happening in Watsonville, said Jacob Martinez, founding executive director of Digital NEST, a Watsonville-based nonprofit.
“What she’s doing as well as other companies and Digital NEST is showing people that the community of Watsonville is a major economic driver and has potential to be even greater in the future,” Martinez said.
What: A glass design and production studio with retail locations in Watsonville and San Jose as well as showrooms in Dallas, Atlanta, New York City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
History: After debuting her trademark Roman Antique thick glass plate with a widely painted rim of 24 karat gold, which was dishwasher-safe, glass artist Annie Morhauser founded the company in 1983 with her then-husband, the late-Michael Reinholdt who focused on marketing and sales.
Customers: Products are sold at Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdales and boutique retailers, and are used at high-end hotels and restaurants. Items are also on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Corning Museum of Glass in New York and the Glasgow Museum of Modern Design in Scotland.
Employees: 24 locally, plus 27 national reps.
Headquarters: 310 Harvest Drive, Watsonville.
Information: 831-761-2041; annieglass.com.
What: Annieglass open house and silent auction, celebrating 20 years in Watsonville and 33 years in business.
When: Noon to 4 p.m. July 30.
Where: Annieglass Watsonville, 310 Harvest Drive, Watsonville.
Entertainment: Music by Coastal Connection and El Cuarto Verde, hip-hop dance performances, glass-making demos, factory tours every half hour.
Food: Fired Up Fresh, Kickin Chicken, My Mom’s Mole, Pastime Meats & Eats and SweetSurf Catering.
Drink: Wrights Station Vineyard & Winery, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, Santa Cruz Ale Works, Discretion Brewing, Santa Cruz Cider Co. and Martinelli’s.
Cost: Free to attend. Refreshments sold. Raffle tickets.
Benefit: A fundraiser for homegrown Digital NEST, a nonprofit, high-tech training and collaboration space for young people.
Parking: Limited space in Annieglass lots, plus on Harvest Drive.
This article is published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.