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Schadel Sheet Metal Works celebrates 100 years

Step inside Schadel Sheet Metal Works, and you feel the sense of history that comes with a business celebrating its 100th year of operation.

The business, which has been at its South Saratoga Street address since it opened in 1919, may be a small, family-run operation, but it takes pride in the quality of its work.

“Everything is done the old-school way,” said Chris Asbell, vice president of operations.

It’s a true family operation, as his wife, Emily, works for Schadel, as does his father, Joe Asbell, who is the company’s president and has worked for the shop for more than 54 of its 100 years. Chris Asbell’s son, Drew, also works for Schadel. And though a few of the employees, like vice president and part-owner Nestor Hawkins, are not related to the Asbells, they are all close.

“We’re all one big family,” Joe Asbell said. “We’re a close-knit family.”

Though some equipment has changed, the work hasn’t.

“We do a little bit of everything,” Chris Asbell said. “Stainless, aluminum, carbon steel, copper, a little bit of brass here and there, fabrication, welding, insulation.”

The most requested types of jobs they do involve duct work, pipe work, industrial conveying systems, dust conveying systems and miscellaneous repairs and fabrications. Chris Asbell said the company has done a lot of work for the peanut industry — specifically Birdsong Peanuts — the Virginia Department of Transportation, the city of Suffolk and Norfolk State University, among others, and it works on cotton gins also.

But it’s never the same thing twice.

“The kind of (stuff) we get into is the kind of stuff that nobody else wants,” Chris Asbell said. “Or our contacts don’t know who else to contact.”

They say they’ve been in business so long due to their craftsmanship and excellent people that have kept them thriving, and, as Joe Asbell said, “we don’t cut no corners.”

“Over the last year, we’ve gotten to the point where we had to divide and conquer,” Chris Asbell said.

He said they have a crew that mostly stays outside to do installations and on-site fabrications, while another group handles things in the shop.  No matter what, they do their best to meet their customers’ needs.

“Everything here is handmade,” Chris Asbell said. “It’s all done the old-school way. He lays out the pattern, puts it out on a flat sheet of metal, cuts it out, and then roll it, bend it, whatever. And away we go.”

He cited one example of a gutter job the company performed for a church where they found more than they anticipated — including rotting wood. They handled the entire job without having to contract out any of the work.

For the shop’s nine employees, it’s all about customer service and being safe while they work. They all have their own specialties, which create an “incredible mix of really, really brilliant people,” Chris Asbell said.

Though he says they’ve been very lucky in their business, it’s clear they’ve satisfied enough customers to keep busy. And the company plans to honor those customers when it formally celebrates its 100th year June 21.

“If somebody’s not happy with something we’ve done, we’ll go above and beyond and try to make it right,” Chris Asbell said. “I’d say customer satisfaction is No. 1.”