In 1955, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, gasoline cost about 23 cents a gallon and Basco Manufacturing went into business.

Gas hasn’t been that inexpensive in a long, long time, but Basco is still making custom shower doors at its 250,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and headquarters in Mason.

The company, the largest national manufacturer of custom shower doors, employs 300 in Mason and its glass tempering operation in Fairfield and recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Don Gamble, executive vice president of sales and marketing, talks about the family-owned company’s history and place in the market.

How did the company get started?

The business was founded by Bill Rohde, the father of current president and CEO George Rohde, on three principles: innovation, quality and service. They still drive our business.

Bill’s family was in the funeral home business in Cincinnati, and when he came out of the service there wasn’t room for him in the business. A friend of his father-in-law was getting into the shower door business in California and was looking for an East Coast distributor. Bill flew out and learned the business. He started with just a couple employees in Norwood and it grew from there.

Over the years Basco has been responsible for a number of industry firsts.

One of the most significant was the adoption of tempered glass (in 1963) long before it was mandated by the government. People were afraid of glass shower doors because if the glass broke it could be dangerous. The adoption of tempered glass substantially reduced that danger. If there is a breakage it shatters into tiny pellets and not large shards. Bill was introduced to the technology early on and he was the first to bring it to the shower door industry. It led to selling to Montgomery Ward, the company’s first national customer, and put Basco on the map.

Basco has also been an innovator in shower door manufacturing.

There have been a number of innovations but what really separates us in the marketplace is the ability to customize our product. Consumers are looking for a door that accommodates their specific space. In many cases, they can’t buy it off shelf. We’ve been able to develop a program to make any custom door, in any size or configuration in any glass or finish we offer in five days or less and ship it. 

What new products are you bringing to market?

Part of what did this year for our 60th anniversary was to relaunch our premium RODA brand of frameless, heavy-glass custom and semi-custom products. We developed this new segment of doors of three-eighths or half-inch glass with some adjustment in them. It gives consumers who may not be able to afford a custom application a custom look with a little more metal for adjustability at a more competitive price point. 

Are Cincinnatians aware of Basco’s story?

I’m not a Cincinnati native, but I’ll tell you in the eight years I’ve been here wherever I go in the area, people know Basco. It’s not just in Mason. People ask where I work and they say, “Oh, I have their shower door in my home.” It’s amazing how widely known the brand is.