If the words “sheet metal” bring to mind images of plain rectangular buildings and simple metal roofing, it’s time to be introduced to Ralph Jones Sheet Metal, Inc. Based in Arlington, TN, this well-known and established firm has left its mark on some of the most dramatic, eye-catching structures in the Memphis area and far beyond.
Ralph Jones founded the company in 1978; it is still a family-owned operation. Says son Gordon, who has been president of the firm since 2000, “After having been in the industry for 20 years, he wanted to go into business for himself.”
Gordon, born and raised in Memphis, initially worked for local firm John J. Campbell Roofing and then went into a sheet metal apprenticeship program. He recalls that Ralph Jones Sheet Metal (RJSM) started with just two employees, and now has over 40 on staff. The firm was originally located near Shelby Farms in Memphis before moving to the Arlington facility in 2010 – close to where many of the employees live.
RJSM specializes in architectural sheet metal, and also works on projects utilizing architectural metal roofs and architectural copper; they fabricate their own panels to size. Projects have included a wide range of structures for varied uses in automotive, commercial, community, education, and transportation applications. The firm has also installed stainless steel countertops and metal wall panels for residential uses.
Zack Conner, Gordon’s son, has been a Project Manager since 2015. Also born in Memphis, he worked for the family company for two years, moved away for a time, then returned to take on a field position. He reports, “We average 10 crews working at any one time, primarily throughout the Southeast but also in states from New York to California.”
RJSM projects make extensive use of Aluminum Composite Material – flat panels consisting of two thin coil-coated aluminum sheets bonded to a non-aluminum core. They are frequently used for external cladding or facades of buildings, insulation, and signage. This material is well suited to the complex designs – with their angles and curves – of many of the structures on which Ralph Jones Sheet Metal works. ACMs can also provide a range of interesting visual effects, such as adding a tinted clear coat to give the appearance of stainless steel.
Here is just a sampling of the range of recent building projects completed by RJSM:
- Federal Express Emerging Technology Center in Memphis
- Grand Carousel at Children’s Museum in Memphis
- Homer Skelton Ford in Olive Branch, MS
- University of Memphis Practice Arena
- Tunica (MS) Airport
- Ballet Memphis headquarters (utilized perforated copper panels)
- Jackson (TN) State Community College
Perhaps the most visually stunning RJSM project – the Discovery Park of America in Union City, TN – was also one of the company’s biggest and challenging projects, says ACM Project Manager Howard Schocke. “This project used over 100,000 square feet of ACM, and over 40,000 square feet of metal roofing,” he reports. “We utilized over 4,000 panels, and only about 40 to 50 were standard panels. The building’s design features a lot of curved and angled walls, and the roof panels had to be custom tapered.”
Discovery Park is a world-class entertainment and educational experience with more than 70,000 square feet of children’s exhibits focused on nature, science, technology, history, and art; and 50-acres of gardens, grounds and exhibits focused on history and interactive options.
Another unique project, Schocke adds, was the West Tennessee Solar Farm Visitor Center in Stanton, TN. “It’s not as large a project, at about 22,00 square feet, but it’s unusual in that it uses 30-foot roof panels that had to angle down to meet the wall panels.” The Haywood County facility can generate 5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 500 homes and offset 250 tons of coal each month. That makes it the largest solar-energy array connected to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s grid. The Farm features 21,000 photovoltaic solar panels spread across more than 25 acres.
Schocke was born in Indiana, but went to high school in the Memphis area, and later attended the University of Tennessee-Martin. He has worked for Ralph Jones Sheet Metal since 1990. He started in the shop and later moved up to job foreman – a job that included a great deal of travel throughout the Southeast, he reports.
Ralph Jones Sheet Metal makes extensive use of boom lifts and scissor lifts in their work. While the company owns a few of each, equipment rental has proven to be an ideal option for them. Says Conner, “Renting gives us the flexibility to add to our fleet as needed for particular jobs. We can choose what we need as we evaluate the plan and site conditions, etc.
“We like not having to worry about maintenance, service, or getting the machine to the job site. Thompson takes care of us; we know they will find just the equipment we need and get it to us right away. And if any service is necessary, Thompson takes care of it quickly.”
Adds Schocke, “We had a longtime relationship with another supplier, but Thompson offered us very competitive pricing, and machines that are newer and well-maintained.”
Among the lifts RJSM has rented for various projects are: Genie S60X 60’ boom lift; Genie S65 60’ boom lift; Genie Z45/25RTL 45’ boom lift; Genie Z34 34’ boom lift; Genie S40 40’ boom lift; Skyjack SJ3219 19’ scissor lift.
The skilled craftsmanship of Ralph Jones Sheet Metal is on display in the Memphis area, across the state of Tennessee, throughout the Southeast and other regions of the country – and Gordon Jones’ goal is to build on his company’s excellent reputation. “I want to maintain the company as it has operated since 1978, and continue to grow on the foundation that Ralph Jones established,” he states. “My philosophy is to offer high quality at fair prices. People will remember you a lot longer for high quality than for low prices.”