Love, Boll Weevils, and Glass
All in the family. Since 1926.
Raymond H. Cates probably didn’t know he was going to marry Ruby Lee the first time he met her back in the early 1900’s in rural Georgia. He certainly couldn’t have known one day he would also become business partners with her brother Thomas.
That day came in 1926, though the circumstances behind the familial business venture certainly weren’t a cause for celebration. Prior to establishing Lee & Cates (the company) in Jacksonville, Florida, Lee and Cates (the men) lived in South Georgia. At the time, a boll weevil infestation had decimated cotton fields throughout the Southeast and, in the process, destroyed the economies of many small towns including their own.
At the same time, the automobile industry was booming. New advances in technology and manufacturing processes created numerous business opportunities for enterprising entrepreneurs like Thomas and Raymond who chose to focus on auto glass for their new endeavor. In September of 1926, the brothers-in-law and business partners opened Lee & Cates Glass in Jacksonville—where their corporate office is still headquartered, nearly a century later.
The rest of the story
Lee & Cates Glass remains one of the longest operating and most successful family-owned businesses in Jacksonville, not to mention one of the largest independent glass companies in the Southeast. And with good reason: a couple of them, actually. The family’s foresight to expand their products and services into glass installation, repair and replacement to both consumers and commercial clients, enabled them to expand their customer base significantly. (They currently have eight locations throughout North Florida and South Georgia, including four in Jacksonville.) The company is also deeply rooted in their community with employees, including third-generation CEO and President Tom Lee III, regularly volunteering with local non-profits like The Salvation Army.
Perhaps the greatest explanation for Lee & Cates not only surviving for so many years and defying so many odds is the fact the company is family-owned and operated. Tom Lee III took the helm of the company from his father, whose own father was its co-founder; Tom’s son, Thomas Lee IV, currently serves as vice president. And there are numerous other second, third and fourth generation family members who they also count as colleagues.
The vested interest for family members involved with Lee & Cates Glass goes far deeper than money and longevity. When your name is on the door, you can’t help but care more about doing the right thing. And for the employees of Lee & Cates Glass, that means operating in a manner that protects the family’s name and reputation, while also carrying on the vision, ethics and principles of founders Thomas D. Lee Sr. and Raymond H. Cates, as well as those who have followed in their footsteps.
To be continued…
It’s been almost 100 years since Thomas Lee and Raymond Cates founded Lee & Cates Glass, and the future is clear: With CEO and President Tom Lee III and Vice President Thomas Lee IV leading the way, the family name lives on. So, too, will the company’s commitment to giving customers the best quality products, expert workmanship and caring customer service possible—and standing behind that work.
No matter which family member is at the helm, Lee & Cates Glass will always strive to be a City on Hill and a pillar of the community that leads by example, accepts responsibility and shows compassion.
At Lee & Cates, we treat you like family. Even if you’re not. However, there’s a chance that you are. Or might be. One day.
“Followed through with their promise”
– Faye Lambert