St. Louis Business Journal Family Business Awards 2021: How these companies are making employees feel like part of the family

Winco Window Fourth-generation and beyond

Winco Window Co.'s roots were planted by a hard-working immigrant from Eastern Germany.

Johann Carl Otto Kubatzky immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1800s, working as a builder and developer. He became a licensed architect and received his first U.S. window patent in 1915.

With several patented inventions later, Kubatzky incorporated the Winco Ventilator Co. in 1935. The company’s first product was a ventilator — an operating projected window, which it built and sold to builders around St. Louis. For more than 85 years, Winco Window Co. has expanded its product portfolio and grown its customer base nationally.

Winco had about $4 million in annual sales in the 1980s, when the second and third generations were both still involved in the company. Woodrow and Theodore Kubatzky took over the family business from their father, Johann Carl Otto Kubatzky, in the 1950s after he retired. Woodrow, with his wife, Helen, later purchased Theodore’s portion of Winco. Then, the husband-and-wife duo ran the company until their deaths in 1983. Their three daughters, including Kory Miller, became owners of Winco.

Kory Miller married Gantt Miller III and the family business quickly began using his skillset. Gantt Miller studied architecture and construction — similar to the skills of the company’s founder Johann Carl Otto Kubatzky.

Since then, Winco’s best year netted nearly $50 million in sales. That number decreased during the pandemic, but the company has continued to expand its window offerings and added metal finishing. Miller, Winco CEO, has also aided the company in expanding production into thermal, tornado, hurricane, blast, and forced entry and ballistic resistant window products.

“We are probably the only window company in the country that can say we have conducted well over 1,000 live blast tests against products, using live explosives,” he said.

Winco has grown its physical space in the past few decades to accommodate the product expansion and staffing additions — moving from a 32,000-square-foot facility to a 400,000-square-foot facility. The company is focusing its innovations on energy-related development.

“Across the country, they are coming up with these building energy performance standards where they are trying to cut down the energy consumption,” Miller said. “We have developed dynamic windows and we literally sold thousands of them where shades can go up and down based on climatic conditions.”

Winco has encountered a variety of challenges over its 90 years. Kory Miller recalls her father getting a loan from her grandmother when cash was tight one year and the business was struggling to make payroll.

Gantt Miller III said expansion is always a challenge. They’ve worked closely with development authorities on expansion efforts over the years. A more recent challenge for Winco has been finding qualified candidates to fill job openings. In order to find and retain great employees, Miller said the company has been paying about 20% more on wages compared to a year ago.

In addition to Kory and Gantt Miller, several fourth generation family members have ownership and hold positions at the company, including: Gantt Miller IV, west coast sales; Woody Miller, vice president of operations; Brad Barnes, technical marketing; and Elise Macchi, supervisor of collections and accounts receivable.

St. Louis Business Journal By Megan Favignano

Oct 21, 2021, 2:00pm CDT

More about Winco Window Co.

Current owners: Gantt Miller III, Kory Miller, Brad Barnes, Elise Macchi and Kris Wimer

No. of family members involved: Nine

Full-time employees: 165

2020 revenue: $30 million