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Family Owned Business Awards

Custom Sheet Metal of Delaware

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Buddy Johnson, left, and Ron Faulkner. | DBT PHOTO BY LUIGI CIUFFETELLI

Founded: 1984

Generations: Three

Employees: 3

WILMINGTON – At Custom Sheet Metal of Delaware, Buddy Johnson doesn’t let any product go out the door that isn’t top quality.

His grandfather, founder Bill Wilson, wouldn’t have accepted that.

What started as a part-time business 37 years ago has since grown into a full-service fabrication company specialized in welding, machining, CNC plasma cutting, powder coating and 3-D printing.

“We make stuff that you can’t buy,” Johnson said.

Basically, if it’s made of metal, they can fabricate it.

Wilson started Custom Sheet Metal in 1984, when he was still a sheet metal supervisor at the Hercules Research Center. He worked on nights and weekends before retiring from his job to work full-time at CSM in 1994.

His son Billy joined him and then, in the early 2000s, Johnson began working there while he was in school. He convinced his friend, Ron Faulkner, to come on board. Together, they learned the business and eventually started running daily operations when Wilson re-retired and Billy left for health issues.

Faulkner and Johnson started upgrading the shop equipment and expanding their knowledge, showing Wilson they could make CSM a more versatile, efficient company and tackle new jobs.

With added technology and additional services, Wilson’s side work hustle has blossomed into annual revenue of $300,000 to $400,000.

“It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come,” Johnson said. “It’s something we never thought possible. I’m certain my grandfather never thought of it.”

When Wilson died in 2017, his family, friends, other business owners and fellow tradesmen donated to the William H. Wilson Scholarship Fund. Each year, the scholarship funds one Delcastle Technical High School student with starting tools for the sheet metal trade. Enough money was donated to fund the scholarship for several years.

Now third generation-owned, Custom Sheet Metal has just three employees: Johnson and Faulkner, who both run the shop, and Wilson’s daughter, Terry, CSM’s business secretary who can also be found in the shop occasionally, working on a project.

Johnson already started bringing his two sons – Bill Wilson’s great grandchildren – into the shop. Some day, Johnson said, they’ll have the trade skills to take over the family business.

 

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