The City of Nashville, Tennessee, may be the capital of country music, but at Nashville Sheet Metal it is heavy metal all day and all the time. Established in 2003 between longtime sheet metal workers Kevin Elliott and Tracy Cross, the small but mighty shop has quickly made its mark on Music City by diversifying its construction catalog.
From industrial hoods, oxidizers and exhaust stacks to fabricating and installing commercial duct systems, louvers and fire dampers, Nashville Sheet Metal completes around $5 million in projects a year. Not having a specialty being the shop’s specialty, says Elliott.
“We have always tried to stay diversified and not be too heavy into one type of work,” he explains. “We fab for other contractors, we do plan and spec projects in the public and private sector, we do industrial work directly for plants, and we do specialty and stainless kitchen and restaurant equipment.”
Then there are the specialty project opportunities that only a city like Nashville can provide, such as welding the gun back on a statue of World War I hero Sergeant Alvin C. York, among others.
“When they redesigned and added on to the entrance of the Ryman Auditorium, we were doing stainless and specialty work on the project,” Elliott says. “They went to reinstall the statue of Captain Ryman, which the auditorium is named after, they found his hand holding the ship steering wheel was broken, and they had us weld it back together. It made the local news.”
He adds, “These were not big projects but it is nice to have the trusted reputation to be asked to do high profile specialty projects.”
Now, comfortably acquainted in one of the busiest construction markets in the South, Nashville Sheet Metal is in the perfect position to show the city just how much good sheet metal work can truly shine.
In order to pivot to whatever project might come along, the shop maintains a variety of fabrication machinery in its intimate shop space, including a Lockformer plasma table and Pittsburg machines, an Auto Fold coil line, Accurpress shear, press, a Duro Dyne pinspotter, a Lion cleat bender, a Geka iron worker, a Hyd Mech bandsaw and a RAMs beader and crimper.
“We opened in 2003 so we had some time to become established before the dip in the economy,” says Elliott. “Also we had several sizable plan and spec projects on the books so we didn’t feel the slow down for a couple of years into the recession.”
He adds, “By staying diversified and controlling costs, we were able to weather the downturn without too much negative impact and actually came out of it leaner and stronger when the economy rebounded.”
Two years after Nashville Sheet Metal opened its doors, co-founder Tracy Cross passed away from Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Elliott describes him as the salesmen and project manager of their original partnership who kept a “if you need it done, we can do it” attitude towards business. Before starting their own shop, they worked together at another local sheet metal company for 19 years.
“At the time I knew very little about the sheet metal trade but it sounded intriguing. I always tell people when I started in the trade the only way I knew to spell duct was duck,” says Elliott, whose father was a union pipefitter at the Ford Glass Plant. “We had always treated the company like it was ours, we stressed over work and profit margins. So we decided we might as well start our own company where we could reap the benefits and be able to make changes we thought were beneficial.”
The main change being to create a work environment where people can enjoy working in.
“It has taken 15 years with lots of ups and downs but I finally have a team of people that understand what we can accomplish together,” Elliott says. “I have a great group of people, top to bottom, and with them great customer service and efficient project management makes my job easy. If you take care of the details it reflects in satisfied customers which creates growth which creates higher profit margins,” and higher demand.
This story originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of SNIPS magazine.