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Pumping Iron

With a dedication to creating heirloom-quality cookware, Smithey Ironware Company is more than just a flash in the pan.

It’s a big day at Smithey Ironware Company, and inside the company’s new North Charleston digs, the air hums with anticipation. This is the day the tight-knit team releases their newest creation: a hand-forged carbon steel beauty of a cooking tool they have dubbed “The Farmhouse Skillet.” Born of an idea kicked around late at night with a neighboring blacksmith, Robert Thomas, the skillet is the result of years of planning, prototypes, and a whole lot of hard work by the Smithey team and Robert Thomas himself. Today, they share it with the world, and nearly every member of the team can be caught stealing glances at the clock, awaiting the official 12pm launch of their newest pride and joy. At the center of it all stands the proud patriarch: the founder of Smithey Ironware Company, Issac Morton.

If you had asked Issac Morton, back when he was studying Economics at UNC Chapel Hill or Real Estate at Columbia University in New York, if he saw fire and forge in his future, chances are the Durham native would have responded with a quizzical glance. It wasn’t until his sister-in-law gifted him with a vintage Griswold cast iron skillet a decade ago that he began to study the world of thoughtfully-designed cookware. Within months, he bought books on the subject, and was actively collecting cast iron skillets from yard sales, online auctions, and flea markets, restoring and refurbishing them to their original glory before passing them on to family and friends. The work was just a hobby until the recession of 2008 hit, and Morton’s career in banking and investment was heavily impacted. Upon reflection of his options, Morton kept recalling the encouragement of those who had seen his iron restoration work: friends and family members who urged him to do it for a living. And so, he did. Utilizing his breadth of knowledge as a collector and his impeccable business sense, Morton set out to create the best cast iron cookware he had ever seen.

“No one is making modern cookware in a vintage style with a smooth surface,” says Morton. “So I decided I would do it.”

Like most great companies, Smithey Ironware Company started small and humble, with a great deal of focused attention powering the operation in the beginning. Morton spent well over a year working on research and design, and expertly navigated the often disappointing path of finding a foundry willing to take on a new client. After contacting 200 different foundries, Morton finally found the right fit, and officially opened up shop in a garage on Folly Road in 2015. He hired his first employee, Stephen McClellan, and the two of them worked diligently to grow the company together, designing cookware, loading up unfinished skillets at the foundry in Hanahan, and driving them back to their shop for polishing, packaging, and shipment. Local chefs and gift-givers began to discover their products, and demand for their products rose accordingly. After outgrowing their Folly Road location in 2018, they moved to a shop on the old Naval Base in North Charleston, but quickly outgrew their new space once again. In early 2019, Smithey Ironware Company finally found a solid headquarters, setting up shop on Pipefitter Street at the old shipyard in North Charleston. These days, the team consists of 9 employees on site, and the number expands during the holiday season to accommodate the many gift orders the company receives.

Down at the new Pipefitter Street location, a productive energy propels the process forward, as team members take raw castings delivered from their Indiana and North Carolina forges and transform them into works of art. Beginning outside, the interior surfaces of the raw skillets are ground down by skilled craftsmen, and then tumbled with ceramic for around 20 minutes. Then, the skillets are transferred to a CNC machine indoors, which brings a brilliant sheen to the previously dull skillets. After that, they head over to get three rounds of hand-seasoning in a careful process that perfects and protects the ironware. When finished, the skillets are a gorgeous blend of traditional cast iron and nonstick cookware; so smooth, you can easily slide an egg on it; so strong, it can be the workhorse of your kitchen. Their final stop is packaging, where the skillets are gently placed in custom boxes, accompanied by information cards, and ready to be shipped to passionate chefs all over the world.

A cursory overview of the Smithey Ironware Company journey shows a lot of smart decisions made at just the right time, a testament to Issac Morton’s business acumen. More than anything, Morton recognizes the value in relationships, and has ensured that Smithey Ironware Company is both made up of and surrounded by talented, driven individuals. One of those is Will Copenhaver, Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Smithey for over a year now. With almost a decade of experience working for the most recognizable enameled cast iron company in the world, Copenhaver initially fell in love with Smithey Ironware after getting his hands on a skillet and trying it out; the quality was impeccable, and he was pleased to know the brand was based in his hometown. In a twist of fate, Copenhaver and Morton ended up sitting next to each other at the FIG Restaurant community table, and the rest is history. Today, Copenhaver is working with Morton and the team to help branch out and reach customers all over the planet, and is committed to reaching customers who may not want to spend hundreds of dollars on a single piece of cookware, but are far enough along in their culinary journey to want more than a $20 average skillet. This “sweet spot” is what Smithey Ironware is all about: high end, heirloom quality cookware at a reasonable price, each piece backed by a lifetime guarantee.
As it turns out, the Carbon Steel Farmhouse Skillet was a hit, with the first individually-numbered hundred selling out in record time. After the team celebrated, they got back to work, continuing to collaborate with their neighboring blacksmith to keep up with demand for the unique piece of cookware while developing exciting new products to add to their line. As for Issac Morton, his eye remains on the prize: for his company to be recognized and known for their dedication to creating the best.

“We want to be a great American cast iron cookware maker,” says Morton. “Right now, we are a relatively small company, but eventually, we want our name to be synonymous with the highest quality cast iron in the United States. We’ll get there, just one product at a time.”

For more information about Smithey Ironware Company, visit

By Jana Riley

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