The Amish crew from Compass Ironworks in Chester County, Penn., arrived early at the Jewish school in New York on a sticky morning near the end of summer vacation.
They had spent more than a year planning details of this bullet-resistant barrier installation, using Compass' own product — polished segments of bulletproof steel walls and posts.
Owner Amos Glick calls them "Bullistic Barriers," as if to remind customers of both the firm's farm-country setting and its anti-weaponry mission.
The workers descended on the schoolyard with tape measures, string and a laser, purchased off the shelf but refitted by Compass staff to run on battery power. That enabled them to observe Amish principles, blocking reliance on commercial electric power and other systems from outside their 300-year-old community.
Some of their other power tools ran on closed hydraulic systems, likewise bypassing the city's electric utility.
"The students, they wanted to see how everything worked," Glick's client, school administrator Menachem Chernoff of Rabbi Chaim Berlin high school, said. "They had a hard time staying on their studies that day. There are a lot of similarities in our communities."
Glick's crew included two of his seven children, Benjamin, 20, and Aaron, 16. This family, faith and community approach struck a chord with Compass' observant Jewish clients, the administrator added: "I appreciated that [Glick] was trying to keep within the culture and the laws of his community, while at the same time trying to build his company and do a living."
School agents had found Compass at a security show in May 2019 during their search for bulletproof fencing, as parents worried about attacks like the fatal Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in 2018. There were few alternative vendors, none with directly applicable experience — and those quotes were much higher.
Bullistic Barriers start at $500 a foot and can cost up to $5,000 a foot, depending on the level of bulletproofing needed.
With his brimmed hat and wide beard, Glick, 45, looks the part of a Lancaster County farm kid. He learned ironwork from his early job at a commercial foundry. Yet, he also polished his craft by studying early 1900s designs from Italian American masters based in Philadelphia.
With about a dozen employees, much of his business has been installing wrought-iron balconies, fences, gates and decorative flourishes for big homes from the Main Line to the Jersey Shore. But in recent years, his business has veered into security.
Glick said he was preparing to launch Bullistic Barriers wall installations and a fast-to-assemble sister system called RaDeBuRe — short for rapid-deployment, bullet-resistant riot fence — even before the pandemic.
"I was hearing, 'I want a privacy fence, make it beautiful,' so it complements institutional architecture and reassures without sticking out as a crude reminder of the sudden dangers that can threaten modern life," he said.
Glick said Compass security fences stop bullets from handguns, rifles and AK-47s. Some also stop heavier artillery. He has testimonials in the marketing from law enforcement officials.
After developing a strong materials formula and coating and then applying for a patent, the company started presenting the security fences at trade shows.
Early calls for the products flooded in from government offices, including a West Coast foreign consulate, as well as school and religious minority groups.
The first installation was at a day-care center run by a "significant global company" that Glick said doesn't want to be named. It's in the Midwest, in a neighborhood where a toddler was killed in a shooting a few blocks away earlier this year.
The Amish use firearms, like other tools, for hunting. But they reject violence in their own dealings. Glick sees no inconsistency between his Amish beliefs and a business that responds to the threat of violence.
"It's a very controversial issue, and I don't know the answer," Glick said. "But I know we have a product that gives safety."