Tuesday, September 21, 2021
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Small Business: Tank heads to fire pits

🕐 4 min read

Circle J Fabrication Inc.

8020 White Settlement Road

White Settlement 76108

817-367-3877

www.circlejfab.com

Employees: 10

Products: fire pits, sold to distributors and individuals

It all began because of their inexperience.

When father-and-son Joe and Justin Jones began a business of making metal tank heads in the early 2000s, they had to cast aside some of the ones they were trying to sell because they still were learning how to make them correctly.

Tank heads must be made very precisely. They are caps that have to fit the cylinder they will be welded onto to make the tank.

When the Joneses began making tank heads, sometimes their measurements might be off a quarter of an inch. That meant the rounded metal cap was set aside.

But those inferior tank heads stayed around the shop yard only briefly. The Joneses began turning the tank lids upside down and converting them into fire pits. Over time, their White Settlement-based fire pit business, Circle J Fabrication Inc., took off like a wildfire.

“The honest reality is when we started building tank heads, we had to do something with our practice,” Justin Jones said. “When you build anything, you’re going to practice until you get good. So we had a lot of practice to do. We had a lot of tank heads that were not exactly perfect. So we put some legs on them and a grill and made a fire pit.”

In the early days, they had to convince their customers they had a product worth buying. So they set up a booth month after month at the First Monday Trade Days in Canton east of Dallas.

“It was just grinding away,” Justin Jones said. “That was all there was to it. We just had to grind away and get in front of enough people, enough times. With our largest grill customer [David’s Stove Shop near Weatherford] on the wholesale side, it took two years before he would even return a phone call. But one day, he showed up in our office. It just shows that you have to stick with it long enough to convince customers.”

David Clack, the owner of the Stove Shop, said the Joneses make a high-quality product.

“Joe and Justin are good people and very conscientious about what they do with their product,” Clack said. “They improve their product from time to time. If there’s some weakness, they will correct it. Justin is good at designing things and coming up with something new. It may not always work every time, but he keeps trying and he’s made quite a success of that. His pits are now known nationwide.”

Today, Joe and Justin Jones still are in the business of making tank heads. There’s no longer a big learning curve. And there’s no longer a big learning curve for making the fire pits and convincing customers to buy them.

The fire pits range from 24 to 72 inches in diameter. Some of them are equipped with double cook tops. They also make a burn pit with no top. They also sell their product in kit form. And they offer accessories such as fire pokers.

Prices range from $229 to $1,999. The Joneses service about 40 retailers in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

They also have been featured on various television documentaries including Texas Country Reporter.

“We have customers ranging from high-end chefs to senators to my neighbor,” Justin Jones said. “Our products reach everybody. If you want something that’s quality, made in Texas and made in Fort Worth, this is it. I’ll go as far as to say if you can burn a hole in our product, we’ll replace it. We’re not going anywhere. We just build a quality product, period.”

Both Joe Jones, 60, and Justin Jones, 38, also are career firefighters. The elder Jones, who works in the Fort Worth Medical District, has been with the Fort Worth Fire department for about 20 years. The younger Jones, who works in the city’s west side, has been a firefighter for 17 years.

The duo first learned to make tank heads from Joe Jones’ father-in-law, Quinton Gilliland, who ran a tank head business.

“We’ve had a shop here for 35 years plus and we got into the fire pit business as a spinoff of building tank heads,” Joe Jones said. “We build a good-quality product that’s built to last that people can get a lot of use out of. They’re built to last a lifetime. I don’t think we’ve had one come back that’s worn out.”

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