Many Western New Yorkers have jars of beach glass at home. Most of it collected after walks on area beaches. But one local entrepreneur likes to bring new life to her beach finds, that are "Made in WNY."
"Pretty much, when I see a piece, I'm reaching down to pick it up and I already know, I do know by the shape of it, I know eventually what it will be used for," says Rebecca Ruger of her beach glass finds.
Her creations range from jewelry to artwork. All of them are on display at her shop, Beach Bum Glass Cottage, which opened in 2011 at 4904 Lake Shore Road in Hamburg.
She also features work from about a dozen local artists. Ruger herself always had a knack for beach glass, but didn't realize it could be a business until she helped her daughter at a craft show.
"I said well I'll put some beach glass pictures out. I was just making them for friends," she said. "It was very well received. Four years and 100 shows later here we are."
Ruger says there are a million things to do with beach glass, but her pictures are unique. Like the buffalo made from brown beer bottles, which is a top gift seller. "Nine out of 10 of them leave the state," Ruger said. "They go with people or to people as gifts who used to live here. So you have your buffalo and beach glass. It's a little piece of home to take with you."
Ruger doesn't have a website and relies on Facebook for publicity, but she does ship across the country and beyond and her small shop is known to attract large crowds. "I have people that come up from Pennsylvania regularly. We do shows down there in the fall," she said. "We ship all over. People come in from Vegas, Florida, Colorado, Buffalonians who have moved away, they stop and come here."
After speaking with customers, Ruger has learned that each of them has a story and that makes beach glass artwork even more special. "Maybe they grew up on the lake or they remember beach glass, or 'my mother used to collect it and take us out on the beach.' So there's a fondness and great memories with it," she said.
While orange is the rarest of all beach glass, Ruger says red is also hard to find. But she collects all colors for her designs.
Beach Bum Glass Cottage is busy over the summer, but Christmas is the top season.