By Ashleigh Fox
The Sheridan Press
Via Wyoming News Exchange
SHERIDAN — Two young men just a few years out of high school hope to restore Sheridan Iron Works to its original glory and operate it under its original name by February 2019.
Derek Gilbert purchased the building in 2014 from previous owners Joe and Sue Lytton, who purchased the building and struggling business in 1989 from Alvin Neard and Ellie Horsley. Instead of continuing the business, Gilbert wanted to use it as a workshop until someone he thought would be good for the building expressed interest.
“I’d always liked the building, and I had been here for (some small) things over the years,” Gilbert said. “I grew up on a farm, so I always wanted a shop. My wife likes to live in town…but I needed a shop where I could do some welding, do some carpentry, work on some cars and I always thought this would be the most awesome place to have.”
Four years later, Trevor Clark and Tucker Goss teamed up with Gilbert’s son, Matthew Gilbert, and won the Sheridan College Startup Challenge Weekend, where young entrepreneurs complete a weekend-long competition to present a business idea alongside other fellow students. The three, who were all part of the welding program at the college, beat out other business students for inventing a plastic insulator for the welding field.
Matthew Gilbert, who runs his own home construction company, told Goss about his father owning the Sheridan Iron Works building. Goss’ jaw dropped at the connection he had made. But school took precedence for Goss, and he focused on finishing his degree before calling Derek Gilbert to inquire about the building.
“Last day of school, I’m welding out during a weld test and my phone rings and I get a text from Derek saying, ‘Hey, I heard you’re looking to open up a welding shop. What would you think about opening Sheridan Iron Works back up?’” Goss recalled. “I thought I was dreaming.”
The building needed a lot of work; Derek Gilbert had been slowly renovating bits and pieces, like updating the roof, replacing old beams in the ceiling and hauling load upon load of scrap metal to Zowada for disposal. Goss, beyond himself with excitement of starting up a welding business so quickly after graduating, is eagerly working alongside Derek Gilbert and Clark to fully restore the building.
“(Derek Gilbert said) the building is in the condition it’s in; sweat equity, put some time in, and you could turn this into something,” Goss said. “That’s kind of how it started.”
The young men wanted to have the building completely restored and ready for an open house by September 2018, but the month came and went without a finished product. Now, their goal is to host a grand re-opening in the restored brick building in February 2019.
The young welders will continue cleaning between visits from former customers stopping by to inquire about current happenings with the building. Those visits help Goss and Clark learn more about the history of the building and business now in their care, and it also gives them an opportunity to reconnect with former and potential future customers.
“Any time any old customers come to me, I try and find out what Joe and Sue (Lytton) used to do and that’s the goal is to just open it back up and provide the same service that used to be here,” Goss said. “If not better, which might be a long shot because they were pretty awesome people.”
Goss and Clark have already partnered with several businesses in town to complete projects with the one piece of updated equipment they purchased and placed in the building.
The young businessmen are eager to resurrect an old business that once built submarine parts during World War II, and the building owner is excited to be a part of resurrecting history.
“I really love the place,” Derek Gilbert said. “I think it’s part of Sheridan’s heritage; I’m very proud to be able to be a part of as rich a heritage as this place is, and now I almost kind of feel like I’m somewhat responsible to protect this place and to keep it cool.”