MPD Glass & Vinyl Graphics is a Winnipeg-based specialist in custom glass work and decorative glass design services. They started in 1990 as a small company offering decorative sandblasted glass and mirrors. Over the past 30 years, they have evolved into a leader in their industry, regularly serving the city’s builders, designers, architects, along with some of the province’s largest windows and doors manufacturers.
These days, MPD is owned and operated by Chris Kaleta and Michel Robin. Chris, for his part, is an artist with a background in graphic arts. He was actually a neighbour of the company’s founding brothers, and as the manager of a small sign shop, he ended up collaborating with them a fair bit. He recalls being taken in by their style of work right away:
“I remember walking into the showroom the first time and seeing all this etched glass and these designer mirrors on the walls,” he says. “I immediately fell in love with the look and the type of work they were doing.”
In comparison to the kind of sign-work he had been doing previously, Chris felt that decorative treatments on glass stood out. He’s since found that most people share that opinion:
“When people walk down the street and look at a storefront sign, if they like it, they’ll go ‘Hmm, nice sign,’” he explains. “You could have spent hours making it look like the Mona Lisa, but that’s probably all the reaction you’re going to get. On the other hand, you can spend 10 minutes carving a leaf into glass and people will look at it and think, ‘Wow, artwork!’”
“It just feels like an elevated form of design,” he says.
In 1995, after collaborating with the company for years, Chris was officially invited to join up, and he jumped at the chance. A few years later, one of the brothers was ready to move on – he sold his shares and Chris bought in. At that time, there were around six full-time employees. Since then, the company has grown to employ roughly 20 people, and has formed ongoing relationships with some of the province’s largest and leading homebuilders.
For example, the company started working with industry titan ‘Qualico’ many years ago. To this day, they still put a custom-etched pantry door in every one of their Winnipeg houses. They have similarly lasting arrangements with a several other big names in the region. Some of those customers they have been working with for more than 25 years.
“We’re very appreciative of that loyalty,” Chris says. “We’ve been working with some builders and some door and window companies almost from the beginning, since our inception.”
Chris credits that customer longevity to MPD’s ability to “customize” and “elevate” their pieces. He says there are a lot of glass companies that will install, say, a shower door – but MPD will turn that shower door into a piece of artwork.
“We’ll look at it and see if we can add privacy by doing textured glass, or by adding a decorative film treatment,” he explains. “We’ll consider things of that nature. That’s how we’ve built the reputation we have.”
Shower doors are just one example. Over their decades in business, MPD has incorporated designs into many different types of work, including: simple cabinet doors; tempered glass railings; mirrors; showers; exterior and interior doors and windows; dividers; signage; glass films, high resolution printed graphics; and more.
In response to the pandemic, the company also now offers safety shields, partition posts, Lexan and Plexiglass desk shields, and other dividing glass options to help protect people on the front lines.
“We’ve been doing glass partitions, barriers, and safety shields in glass for a long time,” Chris says. “But when COVID hit, we saw the opportunity to partner with some of our suppliers and offer some of those items in plastic as well.”
“We’d been rigid about not working with plastic before, but we decided to bend,” he adds. “We wanted to help out where we could.”
One way they have helped out is by approaching businesses and figuring out exactly what kind of safety glass and plastic they needed. Where other companies simply offered shields in standard sizes, MPD looked at a businesses’ specific layout and customized a solution to their individual needs.
“We did that a lot,” Chris recalls. “We did that with school boards, with restaurants – it was a very unique opportunity, and we took advantage of it. Hopefully we helped some people.”
Pivoting to the design and production of that kind of safety equipment was not all that difficult, he explains, because the company is always doing new things. Innovation is something MPD is known for. Many clients seek them out because of that ability specifically.
“We’re constantly doing unique projects,” he says. “Some of our most exciting jobs are when we get to work with another designer or an architect who has a vision that we can help realize. Sometimes that involves creating something from the ground up and sometimes it means taking their idea and making it tangible.”
A lot of those products, Chris says, have ended up in brochures and TV commercials. Many of them were designed for clients in Winnipeg, but others were designed for clients all over the country.
“That’s exciting for us,” he says. “It’s always exciting to meet new people and to have your product make it all the way across the city and even the country in some cases. It’s exciting to see your product make an impact.”
Openness and creativity
Among their staff, MPD Glass & Vinyl Graphics aims to foster an environment of creativity. They welcome input and ideas from any team member, no matter their role or title, and Chris believes that openness likely sets the company apart.
Chris also hopes that MPD is set apart by the empathy of their leadership. Michel started the company and has done many different jobs over the years. Chris, meanwhile, rose through the ranks from the bottom. Between them, they have served in virtually all possible roles, so they have been in the shoes of each and every employee.
“We’ve done all the jobs. We’ve installed, we’ve assembled, we’ve done production – and to this day, we still roll our sleeves up and get our hands dirty,” Chris says. “I think employees see that.”
“I think they see that we have a sincere regard for them, their lives, their families,” he continues. “And I think they see that we love what we do and the products we create. Hopefully that fosters creativity and encourages them.”
The company must be doing something right, Chris believes, because the majority of their staff is longstanding. He himself is a prime example – he joined roughly 25 years ago and is still there today – but he’s not the only one.
“We don’t have a lot of turnover,” he says. “One of my other partners retired four years ago after being here 20-plus years. We had another guy retire last year after being here 15 years. We have another guy who’s been here 13.”
“We take pride in that,” he adds. “That shows that we have a good environment. It shows that people are happy here and want to stick around. That’s important. People spend as much time at work as they do with their families, sometimes more, so they should have fun doing it.”
Moving forward, MPD wants their team to continue having fun, and to continue to produce custom glass work they can be proud of. They also want to continue satisfying existing clients and forming lasting relationships with new ones.
As for growth, Chris says he’s not opposed to it, but it’s not something he is actively pursuing.
“We’ve had our ups and downs over the years like any business,” he explains. “There have been times where we have been a larger company and times when we’ve had to shrink back down a bit. I think now it’s about finding the right size. We’re pretty content with the market we’re in and the reputation we have. We want to keep doing what we’re doing, and we want to do it to the very best of our abilities.”
For more on MPD Glass & Vinyl Graphics, their services, their past and present projects, and their culture – and to get in touch with Chris and his team – visit http://www.mpdglass.com/