All in the Family
By Melissa Mendonca
Moule's Glass is Four Generations of Family BusinessStory: Melissa Mendonca Photos: Alexis LeClair
If you’ve heard the radio spots for Moule’s Glass, they’ve no doubt stuck with you. Two sisters, Liz Forsberg of the Red Bluff store and Laura Ware of Redding, offer service with a smile and offer a hint on how to pronounce their name – it rhymes with owl.
While 60 seconds can convey that the businesses are owned by sisters, there is no way they can tell the story of a family endeavor that now offers opportunities to a fourth generation and has roots going back to a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in the Philippines.
“My dad was an adventurer and he thought he could make good money working in the Philippines,” says Bill Moule, Jr., father of Laura and Liz. Bill is the eldest child of Bill and Margaret Moule, who had nine boys, three girls and a spirit of adventure big enough to pack their ever-expanding brood off to the Philippines in 1940 in search of fortune.
Unfortunately, trouble started brewing not long after their arrival and the at-the-time small family found themselves running from the Japanese as war was breaking out in the area. Malaria slowed them down, and young Bill and his parents ended up in a POW camp. Bill was 8, and had a head of flaming red hair that was a curiosity in the camp.
“That changed his life forever and gave him a different perspective,” Moule says of his father. “He learned from going through the war that you have to have a trade.” After a pause he adds, “I defied him by going to college and becoming a teacher.”
The family survived their experience in the Philippines and landed safely in Grass Valley, where the elder Moule was given money by a stranger to buy a paint store that eventually incorporated glass into the offerings. This set the stage for a family business that would expand throughout Northern California, offering opportunities to each of Bill and Margaret’s nine boys, eventually including the defiant young Bill Moule who had gone off to college.
While Moule took work teaching and coaching at Pleasant Valley High School in Chico, he did glass jobs in the summers. There seemed to be a lot of work in Red Bluff, and he eventually moved his family there and opened his own store.
“When we moved to Red Bluff we all had to work there,” says Ware of the glass store. Moule, who had four children of his own, made sure to teach each child the ins and outs of the glass business, from glass cutting and installation to customer service.
Just as Moule had decided to defect from the family business at a young age, so too did Forsberg and Ware. “We try to say no but we keep coming back,” says Forsberg with a laugh. “All of dad’s four children own or work in a glass shop.”
Forsberg had a 10-year career in the Air Force before coming home to Red Bluff and eventually buying the store from her dad in 2003. Ware went to work full time at the Red Bluff store as the bookkeeper/accountant at age 25 when her mother died in a rafting accident. She bought the Redding store on February 14, 1994, at age 34. “I was a single mom when I bought mine,” she says. “Then my window salesman showed up and I married him,” she adds with a hearty laugh.
The family business that started out moving from the elder Moule to his nine sons is now transitioning to female ownership. All three transitions to third-generation owners are female. “I think we have an edge because we are female and we have finally proved ourselves,” says Forsberg. She and Ware agree that the details they attribute to their gender make a difference. Their showrooms sparkle. They have their installers dress professionally and clean up after themselves when out on the job. They closely follow home design trends.
Today, there are Moule’s family businesses in Grass Valley, Auburn, Truckee, Orangevale, Shingle Springs, Elk Grove, Red Bluff and Redding. The various owners developed Moule’s Purchasing and Investment Co. to allow them to purchase in bulk and therefore offer better prices. They pride themselves on offering quality products that are made in America.
Forsberg was 8 when her parents opened the glass store in Red Bluff. Her dad was in a POW camp when he was 8. Today, Forsberg’s daughter Lynsey is an 8-year-old who, along with her 11-year-old sister Emma, is learning to cut glass and tend to customers at her mom’s side. Ware’s daughter is her office manager and her son is the foreman.
“It definitely puts a thumbprint on us,” says Forsberg. Adds Ware, “It’s a true family business that has been passed down.”
Moule’s California Glass 815 Industrial St., Redding (530) 221-5100 www.moulescaliforniaglass.com
Moule’s Tehama County Glass 515 Sycamore St., Red Bluff (530) 529-0260 www.moulesglassredbluff.com