In 2003, Rusty Fowler stumbled upon an estate sale in Ehrhardt, where an old, cracked syrup kettle had bidders boiling over with offers of nearly $1,000. Though he didn’t take home the item, the experience had Rusty fired up about the business potential of such a hot commodity. Ten years later, his and wife Sandy’s Carolina Kettles have shipped to private and corporate buyers—even a celebrity or two—across 46 states, as well as the Virgin Islands, Canada, Sweden, and Ireland.
Working with a metallurgist at a Hardeeville foundry, the company produces 30- to 80-gallon replicas of 19th-century syrup kettles. While clients have used the customizable bowls for fountains, koi ponds, and planters, the cast ductile iron construction makes them especially suitable as outdoor fireplaces. “The more you burn in one, the better it looks,” says Rusty. That use has also sparked a handful of complementary products: fire pokers, oyster cook tops, grill tops, wood racks, and three styles of handmade stands, one of which can be customized with panels designed by Walterboro welder-turned-artist Ken Drawdy.
“I love hearing from clients that our kettles have given them back family time, have helped them turn off the TV, gather together, and talk to one another,” says Rusty. “That’s the best thing about this business.”