In a day and age where big box stores and cheaply-made products abound, quality is something that all too often gets relegated to the “nice idea” category. Although tawdriness has become more common, it never goes unnoticed. As Benjamin Franklin pointed out, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
Lee Miller, Devon Kuhns, and John Kuhns, the Amish owners of Sunrise Metal Shop, a handcrafted metal products company in Topeka, believe so strongly in the importance of quality that they have adopted this quote by Franklin as their motto.
Nor is that something new for the present generation of owners. In 1958, Enos and Katie Kuhns started a custom sheet metal fabricating shop, naming it Topeka Metal Shop, changing the name to Sunrise Metal Shop after a few years. Both names reflected the Kuhns’ vision for company growth. “It was important to [Enos], when he named it, that he didn’t call it something in particular that would narrow it down to what we do,” Miller says. “He wanted it to be a wide-open thing so we’re not bound to anything. That has gone a long way.”
One of their main products is the impressive, top-of-the-line Silver Rocket Outdoor Charcoal Grill.
“When we designed the grill, we knew there was no room for a low-quality grill on the market, so we wanted to build something that would last somebody a lifetime instead of buying a grill and having it worn out in a couple of years.” With that in mind, they designed the grill with food-grade 304 stainless steel. “There’s almost nothing to wear out!” Miller says.
As an added bonus, the grills are completely insulated, allowing for food to be evenly cooked and retain moisture consistently through the meat.
Over the years, they developed a wide range of grill add-ons and accessories, everything from hinged shelves, cabinets, and thermometers to griddles, pans, and racks. Each one is designed from the same pristine 304 stainless steel. Unsurprisingly, the grill is good for more than just burgers and corn on the cob.
“We can do anything from cinnamon rolls to pizza to steak,” Miller says.
The Silver Rocket experience wouldn’t be complete without the Silver Rocket stainless steel outdoor table for the patio and selection of Silver Rocket sauces and dry rubs in the kitchen.
Speaking of kitchens, Sunrise Metal also makes a wide range of household items. Their kitchen range hoods are particularly beautiful, offered in brass, copper, stainless steel, or zinc. The styles are also incredibly varied. There’s an aged polish for farmhouse style kitchens, a flat trim option for industrial style, as well as modern, antique, urban, and alternative models. Sunrise Metal also builds backsplashes, countertops and sinks, table bases, and cabinets.
In 2009, they applied their expertise to another line: maple syrup equipment. Like most of their products, this began with a run of the mill custom order for maple syrup evaporator pans.
“Somebody off the street came in and said, ‘hey, can you copy this pan for me?’” Miller says. Before the decade ended, Miller and his partners became a certified maple syrup equipment builder that specialized in evaporators, furnaces, arches and other items needed for small and large maple syrup operations alike across the nation.
Thanks to the similarities between the two industries, Sunrise Metal is also able to build custom-made honey equipment, too.
They do a lot of other kinds of custom metalwork for small businesses and hobbyists.
“Semi-trucks come in and we put polished stainless steel on their fuel tanks and stuff like that,” Miller adds. “We do a lot of custom tanks — just a huge variety.”
They build a lot of custom projects for the local dairy industry, too. One item that is on-demand, especially among Amish communities, is Sunrise Metal’s new twist on an old-fashioned butter churn. These user-friendly tools even have a variable drive, making it possible to control the speed of the paddles.
As their custom, high-quality work became more popular, the business continues to gain attention. In the last 20 years alone, the business has enjoyed explosive growth.
“By the grace of God, He provided us with a lot of work,” Miller says. “We can push all we want to, to try to grow and to try to make things happen. And it’s important that we do! But if we are who we should be and our faith is what is should be, I think a lot of other things will fall into place. That is important to us.”
From the moment that a potential client calls with a custom project, the guys at Sunrise Metal are dedicated to providing excellent customer service. The first step in the process is to learn what exactly the customer wants to build by drawing up and bidding the project.
“We would make sure that the pricing was good before we moved forward,” Miller says.
After the client approves of the project and pays the down payment, the shop takes over and makes the item to spec. For the clients who can’t pick up their equipment, delivery is available.
As they look to the future, the owners of Sunrise Metal are hoping to do more than simply add items to the catalog. Their main goal is what it always has been: provide their customers with the best quality products that they can build.
“Our vision right now isn’t so much with growing the business or numbers of employees. It’s more in doing more of the work that we like and creating good work for the guys that we have here as much as we can,” Miller says.
Visit Sunrise Metal’s storefront at 3070 W. 350 S., Topeka. Their hours are Monday through Friday, 6 AM to 3 PM. You can give them a call them at (260) 463-4026.