Legacy of Success: A Fourth Generation Company Has Lived Downtown for 118 Years | City office

ByShannon J. Cortes

Sep 1, 2022

Few families can say they’ve been running the same business for over a century, but that’s exactly what

The Tidwell family has worked with Southern Sheet Metal Works in Tulsa for 118 years.

JW Tidwell established the company – originally called Southern Cornice Works – in 1904 near Second Street and Boulder Avenue, producing architectural and ornamental sheet metal for commercial buildings, explains David Tiwellvice-president and great-grandson of founder JW Tidwell.






The company began as Southern Cornice Works in the early 1900s.




“With the oil boom in Oklahoma, we started expanding into metal fabrication for the oil industry, like oil tanks and water tanks,” he says, but Southern Sheet Metal Works continued to grow. evolve with manufacturing. With its largest customers in the energy industry, the company also manufactures parts and materials for pipeline and glass companies, a multinational chemical and environmental company, and HVAC systems, as well as fabrication work and mechanical maintenance for the healthcare industry.

It’s been important for the company to recognize where its strengths and weaknesses lie, Tidwell says, and be able to pivot if necessary. “To have that 118-year longevity, you can’t just keep doing the same things, you have to be able to evolve with the changing industry and the needs that you see.”







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Kevin Lane works on the laser table.



In 2011, the Tidwell family started Southern Safe Rooms after the EF5 tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri.

“Following this tornado, we realized that a local business needed to be able to provide a safe room or storm shelter that could withstand an EF5 tornado like this. It’s just in our manufacturing wheelhouse,” he says. “We could produce a unique and customizable product.”

Twenty-five employees, some of whom have been with the company for decades, do the work to create Southern Sheet Metal Works’ diverse products.

“We have a great employee base here. Some of our superintendents and foremen have been here for over 30 years, their entire careers. They started as apprentices and worked their way up to become journeymen and now foremen, superintendents, project managers,” he says. “Our employees are the cornerstone of the company.”







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Logan Barnett uses the scroll saw to cut the material.


And Southern Sheet Metal Works isn’t just a family affair for the Tidwells.

“There are also three families who have been multi-generational employees here – their grandfather worked here, their father worked here and now they work here. I think it speaks to the kind of culture we have here, the family atmosphere we have here,” he says.

The company is located at 1225 E. Second St.

“With the revitalization of downtown Tulsa and the Pearl District, we’re right in the middle of it all, and it’s exciting to see all the new developments,” he says. “Being in Tulsa, it’s all about the oil and gas industry. As long as he is here, we will continue to serve this industry. As long as there is development in Tulsa, we will be there.