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Rising Stars: Meet Sam Gladstone

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sam Gladstone.

Hi Sam, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I grew up in St. Louis City in the 1980s. My mom was a single mom also raising my brother, sister, and nephew. They all kept her busy enough, so as the youngest son, I was left to fend for myself mostly. I love St. Louis City, but we didn’t live in the safest neighborhood, and by high school I had been robbed with deadly weapons several times and also been hit by a car, so my mom moved us all to Shrewsbury and I attended Webster High. Growing up with one small income and never being into school, college wasn’t even a real option for me. I started working as soon as I was able to get a worker’s permit. I worked full time, saving my money until I was able to rent my own apartment in South City at the age of 17. I continued to live on my own and work full time and graduated from Webster High in 1999.

Around this time, I met the love of my life… my wife Cynthia. I asked her to move in immediately. She said yes, and after living together a few months, we decided to spend some time seeing what all the USA had to offer. We spent the next decade moving around the country, seeing new places, meeting cool people, and working different jobs.

I had always wanted to run my own business, and Cynthia always supported this. After several years of working hard, building our credit, and saving money, we were in a position to make that dream a reality. I had grown up working for Imos and was comfortable in the restaurant business, so we bought an already established pizza restaurant that we thought we could improve. We spent the next two years doing so, until 2009 when the economy crashed. Business went south and we eventually decided to close and head back to St. Louis.

We rented a house in Dogtown and I started working a full-time job until one of my oldest best friends, Grady Breidenbach (Hilljack Glass), offered to show me around on the torch.

I had never considered myself an artist but I had been interested in the functionality of pipes since I was an adult, so with my wife’s support, I decided to give it a go.

I then spent the next two years honing my skill and (with my wife’s help) building Gladstone Glass from the ground up while working full time and raising a family. In 2012, I was able to quit my day job and fully support my family with my craft. I’m so very grateful to say that I have been doing so since and my work is now available at all major St. Louis head shops and is distributed all over the USA by GlassEx.

When I’m not working, I spend my time with Cynthia and our three kids, practicing archery, hiking, and making sure my functional art functions perfectly.

We currently split our time between our residence in Dogtown and our property in Southern Missouri.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Definitely not. Closing our restaurant was hard. The area we were in was hit really hard. We watched all of our friends and fellow small business owners lose everything. We lost everything.

We were grateful to make it through the situation with each other, but we were still pretty devastated and it took quite a bit of hard work and time to recover.

We also lost our son, Desmond. He was born still in 2016. When you’re a small business owner, especially a manufacturer, you can’t stop. Not even for a tragedy. Not even the worst kind. You either figure out how to keep going or you lose everything else too. To say we struggled is an understatement, but our little family managed to pull through with each other and our business.

Another hard time was of course, this past year. It was such a scary time for everyone, and as small business owners with zero income for a couple of months, we were no exception. We were lucky in many ways though. One way was that we were able to open back up as soon as travel bans were lifted. Many others were shut down or affected much longer. We know what that’s like, so Cynthia decided to add the Support Small page to our website, where we feature a different small business, artist or musician every month. A small way we could try and help boost others in our community. It’s been going strong for over a year now (and is 100% free so if you’re interested in being featured please contact us).

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a professional glassblower who works with borosilicate glass using a torch and a kiln. I make my own glass tubes, heat them, and then blow into them in various ways creating different forms and shapes.

I create functional glass art using the vacstack technique. This means I make everything from ornaments, to jewelry, to beakers, to urns, to light fixtures… anything you can think of probably. But I specialize in glass pipes.

I am known for my attention to functionality and color combos.

I am most proud of my family. I’m so proud of my kids and the life Cynthia and I have built for them.

I’m also very proud to be a St. Louis small business in the cannabis community. A few of my collectors have reached out letting me know they are struggling with various medical conditions and that they use cannabis to help ease their symptoms. I’m proud to make functional art for all smokers, but knowing I’m bringing a little beauty into the world of someone struggling through medical conditions really makes me proud.

What sets me apart from others is probably my work ethic. And also my ability to work around challenges. For example, I make a living creating art… and I’m color blind.

We all have a different way of looking at and defining success. How do you define success?
I define success by the happiness I produce and by the happiness I enjoy.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Cynthia Nicholle

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