If you are a fan of Cowboy Cauldron, and have read our website, you have probably seen by now numerous references to Butterpat Industries, their amazing cast iron cookware, and its owner, Dennis Powell. As simple as the fire and cast iron connection might be, there is a great story behind the two companies. Hope you enjoy!
Our owner, Mike Bertelsen, met Mr. Powell way back in the way-back. We are talking late 1980’s, in Washington DC. He was working as a lobbyist for the mutual fund industry, and Dennis was running a historic building renovation company. They became fast friends, and began a string of adventures that has lasted now for over 30 years.
Dennis is a complex guy. He’s done about everything you can do and still survive to tell the tales. He’s been on every continent, including Antarctica. He’s been a resident artist for a cruise line, owned a hardware store, owned a furniture store, run wilderness rivers in a canoe, run a construction company, and is now a metal fabricator. And those are just the obvious things. The full list is too long to print!
This is him running the Machias River in Canada. One of the gnarliest floats in the world.
He’s is (or was, back in his youth) a devilishly handsome lad, too. Once we could convince him to put himself under a decent hat, his photos really started getting good!
Even things he started out being horrible at, he’s gotten better. Take fishing. He used to suck at it. I mean terrible. Even his dog hated going with him. I mean, how many times can you get hung up in one day?
Now, he catches fish in fresh or salt water. Lucky for me, he still doesn’t often catch the biggest fish. That honor generally goes to his wife, who is also a crack shot!
Now if you read his website he will tell you that the whole cast iron thing started when he broke his grandmother’s pan. It’s partly true. But my take on it is that it started with a conversation we had in a canoe one day. We were paddling against the wind and the tide in the Chesapeake Bay, and we passed a huge dock, at which was moored a huge boat. I said to him, “I like paddling as much as anybody, but don’t you think it’s time you got a bigger boat? Why don’t you get off your *** and make those pans you keep talking about?”
So he did.
It took three full years of product development. Fluid dynamicists, foundry scientists, metalurgists, and a host of other esoteric and obscure science types were absolutely flummoxed as to how to build what he wanted. But he persevered, and now they make the finest cast iron cookwear ever made. It’s just plain amazing.
And guess what? They are the best for your Cauldron, too. The largest pan, the Lili, features the Cowboy Cauldron logo. It was the toughest one to produce, by far, and so in typical Dennis fashion, was the one he insisted on doing first. We are really proud of it. It is an heirloom piece that will go from generation to generation, just like a Cauldron. And it is a shining example of two buddies working together to make something great.
Every good story has two sides to it, and the honest truth is that Cowboy Cauldron Company would have had an even rougher go of things without Dennis’ help. As a serial entrepreneur, and having been in business his whole life, Dennis was there from the beginning, urging us forward, giving instructions on margin, best practices, and just giving me the old-fashioned pep-talk when things were looking dire.
Running your own business is the American Dream. Well, actually, political scientists say that owning your own home is the American Dream, but those guys rarely deal with plumbers…. At any rate, running a successful business in tandem with your friend’s successful business is a very nice place to find oneself. We are thankful for every order and every customer.