Growing up in the small town of Cairo, West Virginia, Dean Six has been on the search for a story — his own story. 

As a child finding and selling glass bottles for cents on the dollar, Six stumbled upon a discovery: An antique bottle worth $15. With fresh entrepreneurial eyes, he found himself thrust into the historical story of glassblowing. After more than 50 years within the industry, he now seeks to continue its illustrious heritage. 

Six is a graduate of WVU and has written numerous books, articles and scholarly monographs on the topic. His published material and recognized work includes WVU Published Guide to Art and completed architecture on WVU Campuses. He is the owner and manager of America’s Oldest Five and Dime store and has served as the Vice President of Blenko Glass in Milton, West Virginia, for the last seven years.

Blenko Glass is one of the oldest glass companies in West Virginia, a state that boasted nearly 475 factories. Now, with only four factories remaining, they are one the last. 

Glassblowing has become a hidden art, but in its heyday was commonly referred to as a form of alchemy. 

“If you can turn sand into glass,” he said, “there must be something magical going on.”

Blenko is a 128-year-old company, 100 of which have been in Milton. Their clientele once stretched from New York to Dallas to the stained glass windows in the famed Heinz Chapel of Pittsburgh. While the glass industry has taken some hits over the years, Six is hopeful for another 100. 

Glass, unlike other materials, is a biodegradable product. He often assures anxious parents that children are free to handle their glassware. “If they break it,” he says, “we can make it new again.” Like their product, Six longs to recover a new spirit for the old history of glassblowing. 

Boasting the most colorful glass in America, Six is desirous that more will “come and see the alchemy.” 

If you’d like to keep up with Blenko Glass, you can visit Also, be sure to check out The Washington Post’s op-ed on Blenko’s history.

Listen to the full podcast here:


  • RECOMMENDED RESOURCE: Mid-Century Modern Glass in America, by Dean Six.
  • PIECE OF ADVICE: “Find and follow your passion.”