Designer Profile: Fortin Ironworks Crafts Functional, Ornate Iron Pieces

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
Dan Fortin, president of Fortin Ironworks in Grandview

Iron is a versatile metal. Just ask Dan Fortin, president of Fortin Ironworks in Grandview. It can be forged into innumerable objects-a sturdy handrail, a functional gate, a decorative sculpture-with myriad uses. Fortin, along with four of his seven siblings and a team of 30 fabricators, has created a multitude of iron pieces over the years, carrying on the ironworks business founded by his Italian father in 1946.

Joe Fortin got his start in the business after finishing his Army service as a welder and railroad repairman. Throughout the years, the family business capitalized on many trends, from steel fire escapes in the 1950s to boat trailers in the 1960s and satellite dishes in the 1970s. In the 1980s, Fortin's custom ornamental iron business grew with the housing boom and expansion of restaurant chains like Wendy's and, later, Bravo and Brio.

"Railings have been our major staple over the years," Fortin says.

In addition to their decorative appeal, railings provide support and help people get out the door. Fortin will always remember one 92-year-old client who nearly pushed him out of the way to try out her new railing.

"She stepped down on her lawn and walked around with tears in her eyes," he recalls.

More recently, the company has focused on mass producing ready-made Iron-X handrails, available online, as well as benches with laser-cut logos, easy-to-assemble gazebo panels and a line of interchangeable curtain-rod components. The company carries several lines of outdoor furniture and home accessories at its 6,500-square-foot showroom on Fifth Avenue. Here, custom light fixtures, tables, retrofitted industrial pieces and metal wall art are cleverly arranged among outdoor furniture.

"We especially like to create custom focal points," Fortin says, mentioning a studded reception desk, an arched garden arbor, an oversized metal flag wall sculpture and a photo of an impressive drive gate embellished with the silhouette of a tree.