Materio named retailer of the year for McMow Art Glass

LAKE WORTH —Shanon Materio, West Palm Beach city Commissioner and co-owner of McMow Art Glass, at her business in Lake Worth. Materio was recently named retailer of the year by the Florida Retail Federation. (Bill Ingram/Palm Beach Post)

Jesus was getting his hair done in Shanon Materio’s workshop.

Lying in Mary’s lap as part of a 12-piece Biblical scene, his hair needed the final touches before the entire stained glass window work was fired in a kiln.

The stained glass, commissioned by a Wellington Catholic church, was only one scene in Materio’s glass art shop this rainy June day. At the back entrance, a passerby stopped Materio for a price check on fixing his 8-foot rose window. In the classroom, a student worked on her own art. In the showroom, a patron paid for repairs on the French fireplace screen he found in a Stuart storage facility.

McMow Art Glass’ family atmosphere and durability are how the 37-year-old North Dixie Highway business netted Materio, a West Palm Beach city commissioner, the Florida Retail Federation’s retailer of the year award.

Materio beat out 47 nominees from across the state, impressing a panel with her community service and adaptability to industry changes, said the federation’s communications director John E. Fleming. The federation awarded her a trophy on June 20, admitted her as a member and gave her a scholarship to its $4,000, six-month program touring various retailers throughout Florida.

Her political title didn’t help her win and wasn’t on her application, Fleming said.

“Shanon stood head and shoulders above the other entries this year,” he said. “It exemplifies why we think retail is the best industry.”

Materio, 57, and husband Phil, 62, bought the 10,000-foot showroom and workshop space when they moved the business from West Palm Beach to Lake Worth nearly 20 years ago, later buying the adjacent classroom space. She counted designer Gianni Versace among her clients before he was killed in 1997.

Materio and her husband started the business, named for a colleague’s cat, in 1976 in a 700-sqaure-foot garage.

McMow employs 16 workers, down 10 from a peak in 2008 following a 40 percent decrease in business caused by the recession. But business has been on the upswing the past six months as more construction projects start and temples and churches are seeing more donations, Materio said.

The average pricing for a McMow product can reach $185 a square foot, she said. Clients include churches, temples, public buildings and private businesses and homeowners.

The glass art industry has shrunk since she started, Materio said, with Florida especially affected. She could remember three studios on her original store’s street in the 1970s. Now the entire area has only two.

Materio saw the rise of the Internet as a potential game changer. Her daughter Taylor helps bring a younger crowd to McMow through social networks such as Facebook.

McMow’s latest challenge is cheap Chinese and Mexican labor that allows other companies to offer poor quality glass at a lower price, especially exasperating in an industry that has no regulation or licensing, Materio said.

Steve Wilson of Vero Beach, owner of the fireplace screen, said he’s known about the business for a long time, but this was the first piece he brought in for repair.

“I would recommend this place to anyone,” the Lake Worth native said.

Taylor Materio, 28, nominated her mother for the retailer award.

Taylor began learning the family business when she was about 12. She returned to McMow after working nearly five years in Washington, D.C., and her parents made her a partner three years ago. Brother P.J., a Full Sail University student; sister Jenny, a lobbyist in D.C.; and their friends have also worked at the store since they were young.

The store’s known for a family atmosphere and passionate workers, Taylor Materio said. Working with glass art her entire life taught her patience and dedication.

“It’s been incredible,” she said. “I feel very blessed to have that experience.”

Shanon Materio said she hopes the business continues growing.

“It’s part of my DNA, I can’t give it up,” she said.“It’s just a fabulous, fabulous business.”

By Wade Millward – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer