A stained glass business in Hartington restores art throughout the Midwest

A stained glass business in Hartington restores art throughout the Midwest

HARTINGTON, Neb. (KOLN) – Colorful sunlight filters through the stained glass windows in the sanctuary of St. Peter and Paul Church in the Bow Valley. Fourteen of the windows have been restored by the Kruse family, who are part of the church.

“We just thought we could do it,” Kenny Kruse said.

For more than 25 years, Kenny and Kristi Kruse have filled buildings in South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska with colorful light. They specialize in quality church and home restoration and fabrication. The husband and wife have lost count of their projects over the years.

“Look at that pile of patterns over there,” Kenny said, pointing to the large files of glass sheets and designs. “That’s every example of every window we’ve ever done.”

The Kruses kept the designs in case something happened to the stained glass windows they installed. Then people could turn to them for repairs.

The idea for Kruse Stained Glass started after Kenny’s brother asked him to install glass pieces on some cabinets. After twenty years of dairying, the Kruses sold the cows to pursue a new passion.

“We always say it’s probably as many hours as there is dairy,” Christie said. “But we have to set our hours.”

Kenny then apprenticed a few days a week for six months in Iowa. Meanwhile, Christy took lessons from a porcelain artist for 18 months to learn the technique. They found their first job after posting an ad in a Yankton newspaper.

“If you’re making the whole congregation happy and they’re telling their relatives, luckily, that’s our advertising,” Christie said.

But the Krus learned this art by doing more. Aside from the samples, the album documents their projects. It’s still with the Cruzes that the Carmelite Monastery in South Dakota asked them to restore windows that date back to the sister order’s history. Another church in Raeville, Nebraska, appealed to the Kruses’ German roots.

“You can learn a lot by picking them apart, seeing what the weak points are and improving on what they did a long time ago,” Kenny said.

A lot goes into restoring old windows. They give customers free estimates and then carefully remove and install the panels. Old windows need to be soaked for two to three weeks. New glass is cut to replace the broken pieces, and then they try to match the colors as closely as possible to the original shades. Finally, the oven is heated to about 1200 degrees.

“The only threat in this business is leadership,” Christie said. “We’re still working with leads, so we have to monitor our lead levels. This is one of the dangers of this business.”

Christie explained that by far lead is the only metal that bends most efficiently around pieces of glass, so the Kruses wear protective gear and rely on a ventilation system. They converted a farm barn into a studio next to their home, where they occasionally held open house events.

“A lot of people hate going to work, and we never feel that way,” Kenny said. “So if you can enjoy your work every day, it makes life so much better.”

Kenny and Kristi passed down their craft to their four children. Their two children took over the business after they retired last year.

“We all like to use our hands and make something old look new again,” says their daughter and partner, Candace Burbach.

While Burbach focuses primarily on hand painting, his brother Jason Kruse designs stained glass pieces and makes frames.

“We’ve been around it all through high school and college,” Jason said. “We were still helping some, and I was helping with outdoor work in the summer. That’s why we have always been around him.”

Whether restoring windows or bringing new life to a space, the family wants to continue creating art that will outlive them.

“I think it’s a great legacy,” Christie said. “It really gives you a lot of pride in what you do. Hopefully, it will last for another 200 years.”

For more information or to request a quote, you can visit the Kruse Stained Glass website or Facebook page.

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