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David and Jason Annecy in front of Gay Fad Studios mural in Lancaster Ohio

Glass Acts

Entrepreneurs and partners Jason Annecy and David Annecy revive mid-century modern studio in downtown Lancaster.

David and Jason Annecy at Gay Fad Studios in Lancaster

Glass Acts

By Wendy Pramik

Posted On: Aug 26, 2022

Lancaster has a rich heritage of glassmaking, thanks in part to glassware rebel and trailblazing CEO Fran Taylor.

From 1939 to 1962, Taylor ran Gay Fad Studios, an international glassware company that Taylor moved from Detroit to Lancaster. Gay Fad was known for its whimsical designs that tried to stay one step ahead of current trends. Taylor also was a visionary entrepreneur who promoted women-owned businesses and believed in making art accessible through functional designs.

ason Annecy and David Annecy holding umbrella walking in front of gay fad studios storefront in lancaster ohio

Sixty years after the business closed, partners Jason Annecy and David Annecy are reviving the brand in a retail store by the same name and giving visitors more reason to raise a glass to this central Ohio city near the Hocking River.

hand holding frosted glass with flower design from gay fad studios in lancaster ohio

The new Gay Fad Studios, which opened in downtown Lancaster in July, offers original Fran Taylor collectibles alongside modern glassware. On any given day customers can spy an assortment of cheerful merchandise, such as frosted highball glasses featuring hand-painted designs, or fanciful, geometric patterns in red, gold and black.

"Fran Taylor had an innate ability to understand what people wanted," said Jason Annecy, a lifelong artist and marketing researcher. "She was good at understanding trends and tastes. Her ability to constantly change and adapt, as well as be super savvy in business, was truly remarkable."

Jason Annecy in front of Gay Fad Studios sign in Lancaster Ohio
Jason Annecy at Gay Fad Studios

The studio blends in perfectly with Lancaster's glass manufacturing history. Worldwide glassmaking giant Anchor Hocking was founded in Lancaster in 1905 as the Hocking Glass Co., and the Lancaster Glassware Co. made Depression glass in the city for many years.

Gay Fad Studios is across Main Street from the Ohio Glass Museum & Glass Blowing Studio. The museum is filled with colorful collections that pay homage to Ohio's once-booming glass industry that earned Lancaster the nickname "Glass City."

mural in alley of gay fad studios glass designs in lancaster ohio

The Annecys' journey into glass came while the couple was researching possible themes for a mural that the city commissioned Jason to paint in downtown's Center Alley. They happened upon the story of Taylor and her studio while visiting the glass museum. The idea of Taylor's patterns as a mural theme immediately captivated them.

"There are a lot of young people who go through the alleyway and take photos of themselves," Jason said. "How do we enhance their experience and introduce something historical that young people are going to like? That's what led me to want to dig up more information on Gay Fad, because it's historical and there's an option to make it bright and youthful."

When they pitched the idea to city planners during summer 2021, they were surprised to learn Taylor was a bit of a mystery.

man talking about historical photos on the wall inside Gay Fad Studios in Lancaster Ohio
David Annecy inside Gay Fad Studios 

"They loved the vibrancy of Gay Fad designs, but no one knew about the studio," said David Annecy, who's become an artist through encouragement from Jason and helped paint the mural.

David and Jason Annecy looking at each other in front of Gay Fad Studios mural in Lancaster Ohio
David and Jason Annecy 

And, the city fell in love with the Annecys' grand plans for the store. The partners sketched the mural, which is alongside their business, to be true to Taylor's designs: bright, vibrant colors and mind-bending patterns.

It's also won over the public. You can see plenty of visitors and residents walking through the alley, taking photos for proms, weddings, and social posts. It even impressed Fran Taylor's daughter, Stephanie Taylor, who flew in from California for the ribbon cutting and gave her blessing for the Annecys' endeavors.

"After the murals were done, people would randomly stop by to thank us," David said. "That's so uplifting."

table and display of glassware inside gay fad studios in lancaster ohio

Gay Fad Studios offers several original sets of Taylor’s mid-century glassware, many of which the pair recently acquired from two local collectors. Taylor's company produced more than 500 unique designs for glassware and kitchenware.

"We're still unpacking all of it," David said.

While the name draws attention, it was more a sign of the times and not a social statement. But it fits perfectly today.

"Nobody knows why she called it Gay Fad," Jason said. "We can only surmise that from the time period that 'gay' meant something joyous, or happy. And the idea of fads or trends, especially during the ’'50s, that was a big thing.

"But for us, being a gay couple, obviously when we see the word 'gay' it means something to us. Even when we thought about resurrecting this company, it was a bold move to think we're going to open a store and it's going to lead with the word 'gay.'

"But it's been really great."

David and Jason Annecy next to mural at Gay Fad Studios in Lancaster Ohio

It's been an unusual business startup for the pair, neither of whom is from Lancaster. Jason is from North Tonawanda, N.Y., the birthplace of the Wurlitzer jukebox. He's earned a master's degree in design research and is a researcher and strategist at Nationwide, helping the insurance services company be more customer centric.

David is from Garrettsville, Ohio, known for its gristmill. He's spent most of his career in nursing, mostly rehabilitative counseling, but now runs the store full time.

The two met at Kent State University. They were saving up to buy a house together when they discovered Lancaster and moved there only to discover the rich history of Gay Fad Studios.

"It was a huge leap of faith for us to take this venture on and commit to it, but it's been amazing," David said. "The joy and excitement and connection that there's been with folks is in some ways just as fulfilling as the other work I've done before. We're excited to find ourselves in a situation that we never could have planned for."

For more arts & culture and Notable Ohioans, check out #OhioFindItHere at Ohio.org

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