One Dec. 29, 2013, Camden County blacksmith Tony Brooks saw his entire livelihood go up in flames. The devastating fire demolished his shop in Roach, ruined his inventory, caused thousands in losses of unique blacksmithing tools and destroyed invaluable memories. Like a phoenix out of the ashes, Brooks's blacksmithing business has emerged from the cinders stronger than ever after eight months of hard work, faith and a little help from his friends.
One Dec. 29, 2013, Camden County blacksmith Tony Brooks saw his entire livelihood go up in flames. The devastating fire demolished his shop in Roach, ruined his inventory, caused thousands in losses of unique blacksmithing tools and destroyed invaluable memories.
The loss could be enough to break the spirit of even the most tenacious businesspeople.
Not so for the Brooks family.
Like a phoenix out of the ashes, Brooks's blacksmithing business has emerged from the cinders stronger than ever after eight months of hard work, faith and a little help from his friends.
Brooks is gearing up for the grand re-opening of his workshop and gallery, Irons In the Fire.
Over the past few months, a new shop has emerged near the ruins of the old one, which Brooks uses now for storage. The old 30 by 40 workshop has given way to a 40 by 60 shop.
"It's such a difference from the way it was," Sheri Brooks, Tony's wife, said. "It is such an improvement from what we had, it is amazing."
The new shop not only houses Tony's tools and supplies but also boasts a gallery space for shoppers and an office so that he can keep track of his business. The new gallery has carpet, new walls, trim and an extra 12 feet compared to the old one.
The Brooks had been throwing around the idea of building a new workshop for years. They had no idea that something as devastating as a fire would be the spark — literally — to make that happen.
Where the new building stands used to be the shell of a building. The Brooks had someone lay the floor, do some insulation and some roofing. The rest was handled by Tony and his family.
With so many unique blacksmithing tools lost in the blaze, Tony had to rebuild most of his equipment. He still needs to replace $30,000 worth of tools.
"It has been an adventure," Tony said. "Everything has turned out tremendously."
For the past two to three weeks, he has been moving into the new workshop and getting organized. Now, he has to get to work. In 60 days, he has two trade shows — one in the St. Louis area and a booth at the last three weeks of the Harvest Festival at Silver Dollar City in Branson.
Since he has not been able to create merchandise while the shop was built, he has some catching up to do. He creates one-of-a-kind metal pieces at his workshop — anything from practical camp gear to ornate decorative items.
His practiced hand and artistic touch has earned him recognition as a top-notch blacksmith throughout Missouri. He became a Best of Missouri Hands Juried Artist in 2010. He is also a longtime member of the Artist Blacksmiths Association of North America and of Blacksmiths Association of Missouri.
For Tony, blacksmithing is his passion — something he began learning at the ripe old age of 12. He has done it off and on for 41 years. It was not until about 12 years ago that he starting doing it full time.
"I'm still learning," he said. "It is a never ending journey."
His 6-year-old son, Wyatt, has also picked up on Tony's talent. Wyatt has been demonstrating since he was three. He does not work much with the hot tools but is following in his dad's footsteps at such a young age.
The Brookses are hosting a grand re-opening and open house on Saturday, August 9 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Irons in the Fire Artistic Blacksmithing shop located at 4790 Route J in Roach.
The invitation reads, "As the Lord has blessed us with a new shop, turning tragedy into triumph as only he can. We want to share this blessing with our friends and family who have been so supportive in past months."
Tony hopes to be able to demonstrate his blacksmithing throughout the day. Merchandise will be on sale as well.
The Brooks would like to invite the public to their open house on Saturday. They cannot wait to show you around the shop.
"This is God's shop, not ours," Tony said.
To see Brooks work, visit www.ironsinthefire.net or look for Irons in the Fire Artistic Blacksmithing by Tony Brooks on Facebook.