Dale Schenian, a veteran of the auto glass industry known for his business acumen and altruism, died last Friday, Aug. 25 at the age of 82.
Schenian founded St. Paul, Minn.-based City Auto Glass in 1990, expanding the company to more than 30 locations across Minnesota, western Wisconsin and northern Iowa.
He was also a renowned horse owner who, along with two partners, bought the defunct Canterbury Downs outside of Minneapolis in 1994 and reopened it as Canterbury Park.
Beyond his entrepreneurship, Schenian was known for his generosity of spirit and lifelong commitment to his family. He was married to his wife Bette for 64 years, and together they had one son, Mike.
“For me, he was bigger than life. He was a force,” says Mike Schenian, who has been in the auto glass industry full-time since 1978 and is now the president of City Auto Glass.
“Running the glass company for years was obviously a big challenge, and Canterbury Park has been successful,” says Mike, reflecting on his father’s achievements. “He always had an idea to turn something around and give it another chance, was fully immersed in whatever he was doing, and always thinking. He was very shrewd, a visionary.”
His Own Businessman
Dale Schenian began his career in the glass industry as a glazer in 1960. He started Twin City Glass in 1968 before selling the business to Safelite in 1985.
When his contract with Safelite expired in 1990, he started City Auto Glass and later sold the company to his employees. “That was his idea to reward those who made us successful over the years,” Mike says.
In the late 1970s, Schenian was among the founders of the Minnesota Glass Association, serving as its president for the first two years. He also served on the board of directors for the National Glass Association.
In 2001, after 41 years in the glass industry, Schenian was inducted into the Glass and Metal Hall of Fame, organized by USGlass magazine, AGRR’s sister publication. Shortly after his induction, he was interviewed by AGRR magazine and offered counsel for a successful career in the auto glass industry.
“Never worry about the competition. Focus on providing your customers with good service and competitive pricing.” he said. “If you know that you are doing the job well and to the best of your ability, then don’t worry about what the other guy is doing.”
One of the earliest examples of Schenian’s independent thinking came after he started Twin City Glass and was advised to file for bankruptcy.
“He said he wouldn’t do that, and look how he persevered. He is very resilient,” Mike told AGRR magazine in 2019.
The auto glass industry allowed Dale Schenian to travel across the world, including stops in South Africa and China. His heart, though, always remained in the St. Paul area, where he had resided since high school.
As a successful businessman, he dedicated himself to giving back to his community—and left behind a legacy of altruism.
He and Bette were founding members of the South St. Paul Education Foundation, which last year handed out more than $400,000 in scholarship money. They also supported a local program called Neighbors Inc., which provides food and other services to people in need.
Schenian’s philanthropy extended to folks he encountered in daily life. Mike recalls his father meeting a bartender who explained she was taking her daughter to Disney World. Dale responded by extending a $100 bill to her.
On Saturdays, Schenian would sometimes find himself in the offices of City Auto Glass with one or two employees and their children. Sensing the kids may want a snack or some walking-around money, he would stick a $10 bill in their hands.
“He had a very generous heart,” Mike says. “He always had time for others, and that was true for his peers in the industry as well as everyday people.”
Editor’s note: For those who wish to send condolences to Dale’s wife, Bette, she can be reached at 8921 Crown Colony Blvd., Ft. Myers, FL 33908.