GO OUT: Photos of some of Castle Metal Design’s creations can be found by searching for the company on Facebook or by emailing Castles at [email protected] for more information.
GARBER, Okla. – When Rick and Annette Castle decided to take early retirement, they knew they would “stay afloat” but living their dreams was worth it for the couple.
Rick wanted to “do stuff” and Annette wanted the freedom to spend time with her family. So they welded these dreams together and turned them into a work of art, which became their new occupation.
The castles design and cut metal artwork for sale through commissions and at craft shows in the area.
Welcome signs, garden gnomes, patriotic flags and eagles, crosses and custom work adorn their shop and fill the plastic jars the couple wraps up to take to craft shows.
“You don’t often see what we do,” says Annette.
Castle Metal Design began when Rick retired, but unofficially was in the works years ago when he moved to Garber in fourth grade. He was raised in a rural school, his father teaching Garber and Jet over the years. When he was older Rick took vo-ag lessons and attended vo-tech, learning the art and practicality of welding.
After graduating from Garber High School in 1975, he spent four years in the military as an aircraft mechanic, working on F-15s when “they were brand new.”
It was around this time, while stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, that he met Annette on a blind date on Boxing Day. His friend was going out with his friend and they agreed to go with him. This first date finally turned into a wedding.
After Rick left the military, the couple returned to Enid, and he worked briefly at TG&Y before spending almost 30 years at Walmart.
It was 2013, and he was ready for a change. And when he was too young to retire, he decided that life was too precious to be wasted.
“Back when I was in school, I wondered if I would live that long (to see retirement),” Rick said with a smile on his face.
Annette quickly followed Rick on the early retirement front, and the couple began to look for new, better ways to make a living.
Come back to where it started
Ultimately, Rick decided to return to where his love of welding and making “stuff” was forged. He walked around Garber to find a place to open a store. A friend from the church started to help him watch, then decided it was right under his nose – the castles could use his shop along the town’s main street.
“Most of the people live here (in Garber) and go to Enid to work,” he said. But it does the opposite. His father, Elmo, still lives in the small town, and the connection has brought him full circle.
In his early days he was interested in something different from the art he does today.
“I saw a picnic table at Champlin Park and I thought, ‘You know, I could build something like this’. “
“I started making picnic tables and then in my spare time I was cutting metal.
He improved the design of the tables to make them his own and had some success, although nowadays the cost of wood and metal has slowed this business down. He seized other welding opportunities through his company, Castle Welding and Fabrication.
He still maintains this welding business, along with Castle Metal Design.
Annette said it was just a matter of changing the name to better match what customers are looking for – more industrial welding jobs or artistic productions of metal art.
“The name only sounds better to the public,” she said.
It was through Castle Welding that Rick found welding work for wind farms under construction in the area.
It was through these jobs that he was able to purchase a small plasma metal cutter to expand his design business.
But this purchase was almost the end of what was to become a great career.
“I was frustrated,” Rick said, “ready to throw it in the trash.”
The problem was that the cutter came without assembly or operating instructions.
In a last ditch effort before landfill became an option, Rick called the company he ordered the CNC (Computer Numerical Control) cutter from.
He said they told him he had to “go to YouTube” to set it up and make it work.
Annette explained that their daughter had worked on vinyl products and had helped her understand how the computer worked.
“Between the two of them and a lot of YouTube videos, he finally learned it,” she said. “He’s still learning it.
He draws the image on the computer and creates it on the plasma cutter.
As the Castles learned to navigate the post-early retirement world and their new computer / cutting gear at the store, people started asking for Castle designs.
“Someone come over and said, ‘Can you do that? “said Rick.
But what really opened the doors for Castle Metal Design to enter a new phase was, oddly enough, the pandemic.
“And then COVID started and friends told us about our first craft show,” Annette said.
They were making and selling small spinning mills, and they were selling enough to cover the stand costs and gasoline “and maybe 20 more after that,” she said.
That Alva show got her foot in the door, Annette said, and they’ve been doing well ever since.
Craft shows are a lot of work and a hectic day, Annette said. They are most often on Saturdays, and the Castles try to do three to four a month.
Sales vary by show, but their entry into the craft show world has definitely boosted their notoriety.
While Rick is the talent behind the cut, Annette takes the helm of sales.
“He calls me his # 1 salesperson,” Annette said. She greets everyone who passes by or glances at their booth with a business card.
“If I can get an idea of what to think…”
“Like I said,” Rick said, “send me a photo and I can usually do it.”
A family business
Within their new business, the Châteaux have created a bond with the family.
Now, if something special is going on with their children or grandchildren, they can go, and their family members even go with them from time to time to their shows.
Recently their 3 year old grandson went to a Waukomis show.
“It was a pill” putting the rubber clips on the pegboard where they hang the product. “’We have to make them pretty’,” recalls Annette, saying.
Last fall, Annette said, Rick wanted to go hunting the black powder season opening weekend, so she took her granddaughter.
“She helped me settle in, helped me do everything. … and we froze.
It was during the cold snap and hard frost of last October, as fate willed it.
But I made hot chocolate for her, coffee for me. We had a great time chatting.
“I am delighted to have a good relationship with my grandchildren.”