CHARLESTON, SC— Isaac Morton was captivated by cast iron products, sparked by an old Griswold product he received as a gift. Now, he has propelled his passion for cast iron cookware into a business and launched Smithey Ironware, based here, in 2015.
“Like a lot of businesses, Smithey started as a backyard hobby,” Morton told HOMEWORLD BUSINESS®. He also noted that he admired the smooth surfaces and the design element of vintage cast iron cookware.
“I just love the style, quality, and history of vintage cookware. I didn’t see the industry addressing that niche with much enthusiasm. I knew there were a lot of people like me who felt the same way— they appreciate a well-crafted product, they enjoy cooking at home and they want a tool to express their passion,” he said.
Now, Smithey Ironware is bringing cast iron cookware to the market, with the point of differentiation, said Morton, being the surface finish.
“Most people associate cast iron with a rough grainy surface. This is a point of frustration to a lot of consumers. We have developed a process of finishing the surface of our skillets so that they are glassy smooth out of the box. Because they are so smooth, they have non-stick characteristics and are much easier to clean,” he said.
The company currently has two cast iron skillets for sale, the model No. 10 and No. 12 skillets. The No. 10 skillet is 10 inches and retails for $160. The skillet has a 9-inch cooking surface, a satin-smooth polished finish, two pour spouts and handles on both sides for hanging. The No. 12 measures in at 12 inches with an 11-inch cooking surface and has a retail price of $200. This piece, according to the company, is slightly deeper than the company’s No. 10 model and has a slightly more open wall.
Morton also said that all of the cookware is made in the U.S., as cast iron is part of the country’s heritage and allows Smithey Ironware to stay nimble when it comes to consumer demand.
“We honestly didn’t ever consider making our skillets outside the U.S. We intuitively knew that our potential customers wanted our skillets made here. It’s frankly much easier for us to work regionally within the U.S. We can operate faster and with more precision. But, if there were a single challenge that we faced that stands out it was identifying a foundry with whom to partner. We knocked on enough doors, so to speak, until we found the right fit,” he said.
The cast iron cookware is currently being sold to a handful of brick and mortar shops and the company is targeting the independent and specialty channels of distribution. However, Morton said that a recent launch with the epicurean website, Food52, made him realize that the company’s story is poised to help garner success.
“They helped to tell our story with a well-crafted article, while simultaneously selling our wares in their retail store. Our push at the moment is to continue to tell our story, gain much more traction with retailers, and keep up with demand,” he said.