90-Year Old Coppersmith Still Turning Out Lanterns

At 90 years of age, Bill Paulk still turns out handcrafted copper lanterns.

When Bill Paulk opened his coppersmith company in 1985 at age 64 he says it was as “a retirement business.” Now 26 years later at age 90, Paulk gives no hint of real retirement.

“But my wife doesn’t want me to advertise because it might bring in too much business,” says Paulk. The shop is a one man operation and Paulk turns out a hand crafted copper lantern about every four days.

His shop in Mobile, Alabama, has supplied ornamental street lighting for subdivision all over the country.

“I even have some of my lanterns in a residential development in Kuwait,” says Paulk, who explained that one afternoon a guy drove up to his shop in a big black Mercedes. “He got out and walked around for a while looking at the different styles of lanterns. For a while he didn’t seem real interested, but then he ordered a bunch of lanterns and peeled off a wad one-hundred dollar bills to pay for them. He shipped them to Kuwait where he was developing a subdivision.”

Paulk’s lanterns sell for a minimum of $350 with the top models bringing well over $1,000.

Before “retirement,” Paulk spent his career in sheet metal work. He worked with several local companies and did the sheet metal work for the first air conditioning system in the original Battle House Hotel and the Waterman Building, both regional landmarks.

“It’s been a good life,” says Paulk who seems as nimble today as men 30 years his junior.

Indeed it has.

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About William Bruce

President, American Business Brokers Association / Business Broker and Accredited Business Intermediary assisting business buyers and sellers with the transfer of ownership since 1986 / Author: How to Buy a Business.
This entry was posted in Mobile, Fairhope & Gulf Shores, Alabama and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 90-Year Old Coppersmith Still Turning Out Lanterns

  1. John Peter Phillips says:

    I am reminded of an often unnoticed door in the French Quarter, behind whiich is the copper GAS lamp company which has made every copper gas lamp hanging in the French Quarter since long before there was electricity. I’m sure they cost a lot more now that they are only ornamental, but that only makes them more important. Talk about cornering a market!
    I hereby request my complimentary copy of “How To Buy a Business In a Safe And Organized Way.” Undoubtedly a number of my old business practices will be in the chapter, “What Not To Do.”

  2. John: Thanks for stopping by and commenting. That’s interesting about the copper lamp company in New Orleans’ French Quarter. I’m going to look for it on my next trip to the Quarter.

    The “How to Buy a Business” booklet is on the way.

    Best wishes,

    ~Will

  3. Saul Berman says:

    Bruce: I hate to be the one to break the news to Mr.Phillips but the lanterns in the French Quarter were made by a number of different companies. We, at Jack’s Metal Arts, have been making copper lanterns in gas or electric for French Quarter properties since 1959. We were located in French Quarter until the end of 2011, when we moved to 7901 Earhart Blvd. (near S. Carrollton Ave.). The only older lantern company started business in 1945 so any lanterns that were installed before 1945 would have had to been made by other companies. As far as I know we are the only company whose total production of copper lanterns along with their iron brackets takes place within boundaries of the city of New Orleans.

  4. ted o mahony says:

    Just great to hear about how skilled hands can create something beautiful.

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