It was in 1920 when Hans Rohlf first opened his stained glass shop. Four generations later, the company, Rohlf's Stained and Leaded Glass Studio, celebrates 100 years of artistic creativity in light, color, and glass.
The business has been the literal lifeblood of the family since Hans started the studio. It was 1958 when the patriarch died suddenly at the age of 65, suffering a heart attack on his way to a stained glass job site in the Bronx.
His son, Peter A. Rohlf, took over the company at the age of 18. According to a 2004 article in the New York Times, Peter dropped out of Tuckahoe High School in order to take over the business and later earned his high school diploma by going to night school.
"It was a growing up period, it was very tough for me," Peter Rohlf said in the story. "I was self-taught a lot; I didn't know the first thing about running a business."
He learned quickly and helped to build on what his father began. The studio, which originally was located in the south Bronx, moved to the Cross Bronx Expressway in the North Bronx in 1963. The studio was again relocated in 1978 to its present location in Mt. Vernon, N.Y.
In 1981, upon the death of George L. Payne, Rohlf's Studio acquired the Payne Studios of Paterson, N.J., one of America's oldest stained glass companies.
In 1982, Peter A. Rohlf traveled to England to attend the restoration process of Canterbury Cathedral which was under the direction of Frederick Cole, a Fellow of the British Society of Master Glass Painters. In the spring of that year, Cole was invited to join the creative art team at Rohlf's Studios, where he worked for the next 13 years.
The third generation came on board in 1985 when Peter Hans Rohlf joined the company full time after graduating college. He became the company president in 2000 when Peter A. Rohlf took over as Chairman and CEO. Greg Rohlf joined the firm in 1988, spending 14 years in the studio learning the craft before ascending to the role of vice president.
The fourth generation, Zachary Rohlf, joined the staff in 2011.
In 2003, Peter A. Rohlf was recognized with the SGAA's Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his dedication to preserving the heritage of a family studio along with his commitment to honest and fair business practices and his respect for stained glass, artists, and craftspeople around the world.
Commissions by Rohlf's Studio are in Africa, Israel, Iceland, Venezuela, Haiti, Mexico, Greece, Japan, and Trinidad. The studio has performed restorations at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, The Riverside Church, and Trinity Church-Wall Street.
Currently, the studio employs around 20 craftspeople and two full-time artists with additional work from freelance designers. They currently are the artisans for the Cathedral of St. John The Divine in New York City and are responsible for replicating, restoring, and fabricating more than 40,000 leaded and stained glass windows at Yale University.