October 30, 2014

Made on the Gulfshore

When guests arrive at your home, you surely want to make a good first impression. That’s why Gary Vanderpool and Douglas Howard, co-owners of Ye Olde Foundry Shoppe in Naples, work closely with clients to make sure their custom-made wrought iron gates offer a dramatic opening statement. And the gates are a hefty sight, weighing anywhere from 300 to 1,500 pounds, depending on the size and material.

Customers can choose among aluminum, brass, copper, iron and stainless steel. The aluminum gates are one-third of the weight of the iron models. Décor of that stature can take six to 12 weeks to install, and it is definitely not a job to tackle alone.

"One person can make it, but you need more than one to install," says Vanderpool, who has been shaping metal since heavy metal music and teased-out hair were in style. Some of their larger pieces might require three to four people for installation.

"We’ve made 8-foot-tall dome frames for roofs and aluminum trellises for high rises that were 10 to 12 feet wide by 20 feet long," he adds.

The creative process always starts with a vision from the customer. Vanderpool and Howard’s motto: "If you can design it, we can make it."

Anything? Yes. From smaller pieces such as candlesticks and table bases to rails, decorative wine doors and decorative archways.

"What we found is that we could do the high-end stuff that not a lot of other people do," Vanderpool says. "We’ll deal with the customer’s design initially and work with them in the design process [to decide] what looks good with the architectural design of the house."

After the design is ready, they buy raw materials to make the piece and supply the shop with a drawing and measurements of where it will go in or outside of the home. Then the real workout begins.

"Guys in the shop lay it out and start cutting and bending the metal," Vanderpool says. "They get pieces ready and weld it together. Then, it goes through a clean-up phase where the guys look it over completely and clean up the metal after it’s fabricated. It goes to powder coating or custom finishing done by us. Then it’s installed in the location."

The finished product can cost anywhere from $300 to $30,000, depending on size, design and type of material.

The craft is something that came naturally to Vanderpool, who says he developed his technique at a previous welding shop job working hands-on with metals. Although Howard handles the marketing aspect of the business, he says he enjoys being a part of the design process as well. They both agree the versatility of their work keeps things interesting. "It’s never boring; every day is different," Howard says.

Unlike most businesses, they operate only by referral, with just a single line in the Yellow Pages promoting their work.

"Once neighbors see this thing their neighbors have, they want it," says Howard, adding that they can duplicate a piece, but it is never exactly the same as the original. "I think that’s why we found this niche. Even if two look the same, it’s made for that particular customer."

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