Donald E. Friese, Sr. has always described himself as being “in the business of people”—providing opportunities for those willing to do the work to change their lives, as well as assistance to those in need.
Since his retirement in 2018, Don has focused on continuing this same life-long commitment by providing mentorship to entrepreneurs looking to follow in his footsteps in the glass and glazing industry. The Friese Foundation has also partnered with the National Glass Association to provide education opportunities through their program “MyGlassClass.com”. He is proud to support an initiative that provides industry newcomers with the opportunity to grow and succeed in the same industry in which he found success. Don hopes people will use these opportunities to work harder than they ever thought they could, so that “one day you’ll have a company you’ll be proud of, you’ll be making money, and most importantly, you’ll be taking care of people, too.”
Through the Friese Foundation, he continues this same life-long commitment by supporting charities that help people in need, including programs that serve veterans, youth programs and educational assistance, animal rescue and welfare organizations, and organizations that provide access to physical and mental health services.
Don was born in 1940 in York, Pennsylvania, the third of 13 children. He joined the U.S. Army in 1958, trained as a missile mechanic, and was stationed in Taiwan and Okinawa. Don served in the army for 3 years before moving to Los Angeles with $125 in his pocket to find a job.
He joined the glass products manufacturer and distributor, C.R. Laurence, Co., in 1961, working an entry level employee and eagerly learning all aspects of the business. After buying a 10% stake in the company from owner Bernie Harris, he continued to invest in the company and finally bought the remaining 50% from Mr. Harris upon his retirement in the 1990s. As the company’s Chief Executive Officer Don was known for his commonsense business philosophy and commitment to both customers and employees, as well as for encouraging, nurturing, and promoting the people around him.
Over his 60 year tenure, he grew the company into the largest glazing industry supplier in the US, with 40 locations and $570 million in annual sales before selling the company to Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope (OBE) in 2015. As a condition of the sale, Don required that CRL maintain its personnel and organizational structure in order to protect the employees. After the sale had been finalized, Don sent thank you notes to his employees with accompanying bonuses totaling $86 million, before announcing his retirement in 2018.