July 18, 2024

Brad Marolf

Business & Finance Wonders

Shamrad Metal Fabricators Inc celebrates 150 years | Business

Shamrad Metal Fabricators Inc celebrates 150 years | Business

Shamrad Metal Fabricators Inc., located at 801 Lafayette St., has surpassed 150 years in the St. Joseph community, now the second-longest tenured business in the city.

The company’s history dates as far back as 1871. Shamrad began as a company that processed heating boilers, an essential part of Midwestern growth at the time. Even recognizable figures who have become synonymous with St. Joseph like Jesse James, Eugene Field and “Buffalo Bill” Cody lived during the beginning of Shamrad. Jerry Campbell is the president of Shamrad today and said what’s kept them around has been the ability to evolve based on the demands of the industry.

“Right now, the metal fabrication business varies,” Campbell said. “You get a run of things. In this business, you get a lot of repeats. If the company that you’re working for still makes the product, but then those companies change, you have to change with them.”

Shamrad played a role in making water tanks for railroad cabooses in the past before water tanks were eventually changed to be made out of fiberglass. Even when boilers were the main source of heating for houses, Shamrad met the demand before the heating sources changed. Now, custom fabrication projects for various companies using state-of-the-art technology have prolonged the business with no signs of slowing down.

“That’s part of the challenge,” Campbell said. “That’s the thing I’ve liked about it for all the years I’ve been here. We’re always seeking something. When your customer base changes, you change with them.”

When he took over the business from his father, Campbell said the use of different metals was vastly different from what is needed in their line of work today. He said when he took charge, 90% of the business was using carbon steel. Now, the use of different metals separates to 50% carbon steel, 40% aluminum and 10% stainless steel.

The company’s 20,000-square-foot workshop employs 28 employees currently. Various metal-working crew members spend their days cutting, welding, powder-coating and other servicing.

The company has even made a point to stay up to date with its technology. A former Optic Tracing device could once make cuts to the nearest sixteenth of an inch. Today, the company has a plasma cutter that can cut the nearest five-thousandths of an inch, making it almost unnecessary to sand the edges of pieces they cut.

Shamrad’s categorization as an essential business prevented it from being closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its position as a metal fabrication servicer for different companies regionally, and sometimes nationwide, is what has allowed it to stay in business for a century and a half.