LUMBERTON — A family-owned business is about to close after being in business for parts of five decades.
After 37 years, Gene Pate is getting ready to retire, closing Pate Sheet Metal, located at 220 Meadow Road, and leaving behind the business of welding and metal fabrication.
Pate opened the business in 1979 but had worked for many years before that for T.R. Driscoll Metal Works.
On Saturday, Pate is selling at auction all of his equipment and metal. His wife Phyllis said there have been calls from throughout the country inquiring about the auction. Equipment that is used by Pate is available new, but he said it is very expensive so buyers are interested.
The equipment is an accumulation of years of work.
“I bought it a little at a time,” Pate said.
The buildings that house the business will not be part of the auction.
When Pate was doing welding, fabrication and roofing, the business employed as many as 20 people but now it employs himself, one assistant and an office assistant. His wife also helps out occasionally.
Pate has worked on jobs as large as crafting custom-made metal fabrications for big construction projects to smaller jobs like repairing barbecue grills. There’s usually a rush of grill work just before July Fourth, Mrs. Pate said.
Over the past few years, he has avoided having to lay off people as he took on fewer projects; he downsized through attrition as employees retired. Now it’s his turn.
“He decided he wanted to retire so we thought this would be a good year,” she said. “I want him to look forward to his retirement. I’ve been retired for a long time. I want him to do what he wants to do.”
As sports fan who is particularly fond of men’s and women’s basketball, Pate is looking forward to having time to attend games he sometimes has to miss, even though he has season tickets.
“Some of those tickets won’t go to waste now,” Mrs. Pate said.
Pate’s advice to someone starting out in business was simple.
“Just take it one day at a time,” he said.
Mrs. Pate said her husband’s honesty in dealing with customers has been a hallmark of his business and it has paid off.
“The Lord has really blessed us. He did start out on Day 1 very small. We’ve been able to advance because of what he did for 37 years,” she said.
Pate wants his customers to know how grateful he is for their patronage.
“Thank you, Robeson County, counties throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, as well as states throughout the U.S. who have helped in our sheet metal business,” Pate said. “We are appreciative of our customers as well as our dedicated employees that we have been blessed with.”
After the auction, Pate said he plans to start a “new, strange schedule.”
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.