backroads classical glass

Luckily for Dee Thomas, Henderson Minn. is plagued with flood water and not earthquakes. Thomas is the owner and resident artisan of Classical Glass — a quaint shop filled with beautiful (and breakable) glassware.

What started out as Thomas’ glass workshop, the small shop on Henderson’s Main Street has evolved into a showcase of fine glassware and a favorite stop for locals and tourists. From ornaments to windows to vases, lamps and plates, the store is filled with colorful and unique offerings. Yet shoppers can leisurely browse without worrying (too much) about being the bull in the china shop.

The rear portion of Classical Glass is Thomas’ workshop where she designs and assembles custom-made pieces. She works in stained glass and colored glasswork. Stained glass is clear glass painted with colored glazes and fired; while colored glass is colored throughout. “I just kind of fell into stained glass,” she said. “I needed a mirror cut and went to Dick Dusbabek in Winnebago. Dick was a wonderful old-world craft person who did beautiful glass work. I saw what he was doing and said, ‘Ooo … I’ve got to learn to do this!’ I learned to paint glass and did my first panel.”

Thomas became acquainted with Mike Mason who owns Sleepy Eye Stained Glass in Sleepy Eye, Minn. “Mike let me paint a ton of stuff for him and really taught me the finer points of glass work,” she said. She helped Mason with a church window project which transformed her hobby into thoughts of a business of her own. “Those first church windows got me thinking I could do more,” Thomas recalled. “Today, I look at them and think,” she rolls her eyes and laughs, “oh gahhhd…”

Thomas opened her workshop about 10 years ago creating smaller pieces to sell on a retail level while building her custom window clientele. “I’d just open for weekends to get my feet on the ground,” she said. “One day I was working in the back and the song “Classical Gas” was playing on the radio. I thought, hmmm … “Classical Glass” could be a good name for the store!”

One of Thomas’ largest projects is an 8x24-foot window for the Multi Church Center in Mankato. The piece was built in 4x4-foot panels. She also designed and built a large window for a multi-million-dollar home on Lake Okoboji.  

Over the years Thomas has developed a keen eye for fine glassware and accumulated several sources to stock the store. Shoppers can find Turkish glass, Russian Hambone vases and Murano glass from Italy. “People ask if I make the lamps,” she said. “I do not. It’s too time consuming.”

Classical Glass does feature several in-house items, however. Thomas has been making Prince-related pieces to sell during Henderson’s recent “Celebration of Prince.” Two women come in to help Thomas build inventory and they are about to embark on creating angel ornaments for Christmas shoppers.

Access to Henderson has been limited for much of the past three months due to flooding of the Minnesota River — and access to shoppers has been limited as well. But the roads are opening again and the town prepares for its annual Sauerkraut Days celebration which takes place June 21-23. Through it all, Classical Glass is open Tuesdays from 2-7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Plus, Thomas leaves the front door open whenever she is in her workshop. “I have six grandbabies who I love to spend time with,” she admitted, “but unless I’m on a glass run, I’m usually here.”

Classical Glass can be found on Facebook. The phone number is (612) 290-8701.