SELMA – It’s been nearly four decades since Kerry Daniel first stepped into the large, silver metal warehouse at 2044 Third St. in Selma.
“I was a kid in 1979 when I worked for the man who owned Monarch Glass, Pete Wilkin. His son and another friend of ours from high school worked there,” Daniel said. “Pete taught me the business. So much happened in between but in 1990, we had the opportunity to buy the business so we did.”
After Kerry married Debbie Daniel in 1986 and the couple had two children, Whitney and Jeremy, they decided to become strictly a family-owned business.
“We raised both our kids in the office,” Kerry said. So while Debbie’s managed the customer’s orders and books, and pitched in with installation on occasion, Kerry’s been busy installing glass on everything from tractors to businesses and homes.
On Jan 1, however, all of that has come to a halt.
“We have been temporarily closed since August, so my husband can undergo cancer treatments,” Debbie said. “The recovery time will take much longer than we expected.”
Kerry Daniel said it was about a year ago that he had a sore tooth removed. By April, his dentist took X-rays and could see it was more than that. Antibiotics helped but after a visit with a maxillofacial specialist, Kerry received life-changing news.
“A tooth came in 20-something years ago and it broke a couple of molars coming in sideways. I had those molars pulled over the years. So now, I just thought it was a bad tooth. They pulled it out, sewed it up and I went back a week later to take the stitches out. They said they had bad news and had done a biopsy and I had cancer.”
Kerry underwent a maxillectomy and had part of his jaw removed in August. Two weeks later, more bone was removed underneath his eye. He’s been undergoing radiation treatments but lately that’s been affecting his eye.
“It’s possible there’s radiation damage, so he’ll be seeing an eye doctor soon,” Debbie said. This diagnosis was especially hard to bear since she herself had to deal with breast cancer and reconstructive surgery nearly five years ago.
“When you’re told you have cancer, your mind just stops. You’re not even hearing what they’re telling you because you’re in total shock,” she said.
Before this diagnosis, Kerry ran the full-service glass shop and said over the years the business evolved.
“When I started, there were five of us working. We were doing storefronts so it took more people to do the jobs we did. When I bought it, within a year I was doing all the work myself. My dad taught me to work. Then the work turned to auto glass and I did a lot of Quinn’s tractor work. In the end, 80 to 90 percent of our business was installing Milgard replacement windows,” he said.
Debbie recalls the work varying from large jobs, such as installing mirrors and shower doors, to tracking down small sections of glass to repair windows. Kerry even created custom mirrors for special occasions such as a fundraiser for their children’s school, Immanuel, or mementos such as the mirror with hearts and ribbons for their daughter’s wedding.
“I remember when he fixed someone’s showcase where they had a stuffed animal. I remember bringing some of the kids from school to show them what he was fixing. It was a taxidermist's case.
He could fix anything,” she said.
Kerry said he must have had a guardian angel that’s kept him from injury as there have been some close calls involved in the sometimes-dangerous work.
“Over the years, I’ve had stitches and I’ve been in situations that could have killed me but I didn’t. Once, I had a piece of glass I was carrying sideways and when I went to set it down, it turned and split in half. It was waving back and forth. Another time, I had a piece where I was putting it in a rack and it broke and hit the back of my head and slid down my back!”
But what he especially recalls are all the customers who feel more like friends and family now. After tracking down an odd little piece of glass, Kerry said he’d just trade it for his favorite drink, a Pepsi. They’d wind up with 24 packs in their refrigerator. And now during this health crisis, customers are stepping up with checks, offers to help clear out the warehouse and organizing benefit dinners in their honor.
“A lot of customers have left messages on our phone, ‘When are you going to open back up?’ Another just wanted to find out how he’s doing,” Debbie said of the support.
“We had one customer just send us checks and another paid my rent here,” Kerry said of their space at the Valkommen Village. “I’ve told people that you go through life not realizing who you’ve touched. But it’s been amazing. We’re faced with the reality that I can’t work and Debbie’s going to have to find a job somewhere. And that’s not easy.”
Aside from their customers’ support, the Daniels said they’re grateful for the support from their church and family. They’re also grateful for the help they’ve received from local cancer support groups in Selma and Kingsburg.
“We’ve had help from people we didn’t even know. It’s like everybody just came together and rallied around us. It’s incredible all the love and support we’ve had,” Debbie said.
For now, the Daniels plan to clear out the glass shop, update the bathrooms to meet ADA requirements and lease out the property. Even that task won’t be easy as their energy is being sapped by their medical conditions, they said.
“I’m not in that great of health but I’ll have to be the one there to say ‘throw this out or keep this,’ Kerry said. “People offer to help you but I’ll have to be the one deciding.”
For now, it’s one step at a time as Kerry says he’ll have to put his health first.
“Not too many families get hit with [cancer] twice,” Kerry said. “Nobody’s prepared for this. Again, being self-employed and having our own insurance, it’s only our own savings. Everything’s on us. When something like this comes along, it’s full stop right now.”
But in the midst of this, the Daniels said, it’s family and friends that are helping them tackle one day at a time.
“We didn’t realize how many people loved us. Thank you and we appreciate the love. There have been so many people helping,” he said.