My name is Joseph Kavanagh and I work at the Joseph Kavanagh Company. I didn’t start the business. It’s been in my family for over 150 years. The original Joseph Kavanagh was my great-great-grandfather’s brother. I am named for him. We even share the same middle name, Michael. He opened the place in 1866 as a coppersmith shop. We’ve changed a bit over the years. Now, we bend most types of metal not just copper. Nearly every alloy or variety of metal, we can bend or roll into rings and shapes. Big stuff and little stuff. We bend a lot of things. Bend to live. Live to Bend is our motto.
There have been a lot of ups and downs. 150 years is a long time. Depressions, wars, deaths, but it’s always been owned by Kavanaghs. We don’t just do the owning. We do the work. We are pretty much the definition of a small family business. We’ve had employees, of course, over the many years though now, we are an all Kavanagh operation. It’s me, my sister and my nephews. When needed, my wife helps out, as well.
We are working hard to keep the place going for the next generation. That would be the 6th if we keep rolling. It can be tough owning a small business these days. I’ve tried a lot of things to save the place. We recently took on a tenant and are trying to do other things to increase the volume of work. I’ve been reaching out to any business group or government agency I can find. I have even tried crowd-funding and networking with folks who are interested in history and historical preservation. Sure, we are a business but, believe me, we are historical too. Not just due to our longevity, but also due to the work we have done and the projects we’ve been involved in. We are trying and I am hopeful that we can find a solution that works for this place.
I’ve decided to write a history of the business. The Shop as we call it and have called it for many years. It’s a long rich history that has carried this place and this family from 19th century immigrants to 21st century Americans. We’e been a part of Baltimore’s history and America’s. Perhaps, a small part, but a part, nonetheless. A small part of history is still history. The Shop has grown and contracted over the years but, it’s been a constant. Always in and around Baltimore. Working metal. Using fire, heat, machines, hammers, clamps and our hands to shape metal.
This is our story. No matter what happens if I can finish this and people read and know our story, I will be happy with that. My father would like that and his father and so on. It’s taken a lot of research to get the facts as straight as I can get them. Thanks to all who helped with that. Family, friends and history buffs.
As I’ve said, it’s a long story. It’s about work and business and family. But, the tale of the Shop most definitely starts with copper.