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  • Susan Dickenson

PORTRAIT: Lendell Glassco, Malanta Knowles, Vince Glassco, Paragon Picture Gallery & Propac Images

SIBLINGS LENDELL GLASSCO, Malanta Knowles and Vince Glassco are the owners of Albertville, Ala.-based Paragon Picture Gallery, award-winning manufacturer of framed prints and giclees, mixed media, canvas transfers, original oil Paragon Propacpaintings, mirrors and metal sculpture. With business partner Dan Teal, they also own Propac Images (short for Promotional PrePacked Images), a lower price-point range of framed prints, metal wall pieces, canvases and mirrors.

Lendell, Malanta and Vince represent the second generation of a family business started by their parents, Wendell and Bonnie Glassco, called Carousel Decors, which began in 1970 as a provider of decorative accessory packages to the manufactured housing industry. In 1981, the Glasscos launched Paragon Picture Gallery to fill a need for more well-designed and affordable framed art in the wholesale gift and furniture markets. The three siblings joined their parents' business in the early 1980s, and over the next decade the company expanded into higher-end wall décor - decorative mirrors, canvas transfers, oil paintings, decorative wood plaques, wrought iron and framed objects. Propac Images got its start in July 1990 as a way of recycling Paragon's drop-out materials. The first prints framed by Propac were promotional posters, sold in packs of 12.

As Paragon and Propac have continued their growth, so have the companies' assortments, designs and reputation. In 2005, Paragon moved into a new 166,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility and, soon after, opened showrooms in High Point and Las Vegas. In 2010, the company acquired high-end wall décor, lighting and accessory specialist Kinder-Harris to bring an added dimension of exclusive hand painted art to the line, and to provide lamps and accessoriParagon  Propaces. Also that year, a fifth ARTS Award earned Paragon a place in The ARTS Awards Hall of Fame, making it the organization's first wall décor inductee. Propac has been an ARTS Awards finalist for the past two years.

Today, Paragon's 100 employees domestically manufacture 85% of products sold to more than 8,000 accounts around the world. Propac employs more than 40, and operates out of a separate 50,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing and office facility in Albertville. Lendell Glassco is president of Paragon, Vince Glassco is president of Propac, and VP Malanta Knowles directs the marketing and design for both.

What is your biggest source of inspiration? We all can say whole-heartedly our parents who have taught us so many life lessons about faith, family, working and serving. They have always been an inspiration to us. The best things they taught us were to work hard and treat people the way that we want to be treated. We have always been a company of integrity, and this is something that will never change.

How similar or different are your tastes/backgrounds in art? Maybe surprisingly, none of us have a talent for drawing or painting artwork. Malanta: I have a collection of art that I have purchased from my travels. I usually prefer traditional, but have transitioned to contemporary. I also have portraits of my children in my hallway. Vince: We have a mixture of traditional to contemporary and lots of photos of the kids. Lendell: A transitional mix of wall décor and family photos fill our walls. There are tons of beautiful things in our collections to choose from, but I tend to custom design things for a unique look.

How have you seen the companies/industry change over the years? Our companies started out serving the independent retailer and small chains, and eventually began producing for all tiers - from work-at-home designers to the mega-retailers. Over the past 10 years there has been a significant decline in the number of retailers of all types in the marketplace. And the big retail players often try direct sourcing. So, we are always adapting to a changing customer base.
Quality expectations and design substance have been lowered somewhat due to a huge influx of lower-priced imported goods across the accessories industry. Back in the day, the majority of customers required that the components be domestically made, and of high quality. The trend for the past decade has been more about price and not as much about quality or style. In the past couple of years, however, we have seen the return of many customers who desire the fresh and different things we produce, and want their orders delivered complete with a short lead time. We pride ourselves in the value of domestically building a quality product that looks great at a fair price.

Who are some of Paragon's current design licensors? Candice Olson, Bobby Sikes, Mark Abrams, Vikki Weigel and Tim Burney. Candice's best selling pieces are her furniture sketches that are featured in her studio on the show. We purchased Bobby's paintings in print form for years; he now combines painting with photography. All of his images are exclusive to Paragon. Mark has a great eye for traditional but timeless designs. Vikki's unique style is a favorite for the young and young at heart. Tim has been an antique collector for years and he uses his collection of objects in his mixed media designs.

Anything new in the works you can share with us? We are always working on hundreds of new designs as both companies change out over 40% of their products annually. We just licensed another new designer that we hope to launch this summer, and Paragon recently purchased a vendor that supplied us with art on wood panels suitable for outdoor living areas. We hope to improve and expand this category.

AT A GLANCE

Where did you grow up? The beautiful mountain-lakes area around our factory in Albertville, Ala. is where Glasscos old photo
we were all born and have lived our entire lives. Our family has been rooted here for three generations.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Malanta: Hair stylist. Vince: Astronaut. Lendell: I have memories of playing and hanging out at Paragon since childhood and it's the only job I've ever had.
Highlight of your career thus far? Malanta: Traveling to different countries and getting to hear customers brag on our products and company. Vince: Watching Propac grow from an idea to what it is today. Lendell: Having Paragon be recognized as an industry leader and knowing that our team works hard every day to earn that respect.

How did you earn your very first paycheck? Malanta: Making plastic flower arrangements. Vince: Putting screws in the corners that were used to assemble metal frames for our first line of pictures. Lendell: Unloading trucks and packing boxes at the factory.

What are you reading right now? Malanta: Shades of Blue by Karen Kingsbury. Vince: I teach the High School Guys Sunday School class, so I am studying the lesson. Lendell: As an aircraft owner and pilot I am usually reading about flying

Complete the sentence: "I wish I knew how to..." Malanta: cut hair. Vince: fly helicopters. Lendell: win the lottery!

 

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