Talk about a major life transition. Mike Bertelsen traded in a high power career as a lobbyist for the mutual funds industry for a better family lifestyle. He moved his family out of the East Coast rat race and settled back in his native Utah, and that’s when the magic took over.
Bertelsen now leads the Cowboy Cauldron Company and says demand has exploded. “We shipped a million dollars worth of cauldrons last year, and in 30 months, we should be around the 5 or 6 million mark,” he said.
It started innocently enough when he had a mining equipment repairman build a cauldron to his specifications. When he moved to Utah, friends said, “Make us one. They are so cool.”
He had a couple manufactured and the requests kept coming in. Then as fate will have it, he was in Napa with his wife in the spring of 2010 when he introduced award-winning chef Michael Chiarello to his cauldrons, and Chiarello loved them so much he featured the fire pits on the cover of his NapaStyle Catalog.
“We currently manufacture three full size versions,” said Bertelsen. “A 30-inch (The Urban Cowboy), 36-inch (The Wrangler), and 42-inch basin (The Ranch Boss). Everything is made in the U.S.”
Each cauldron unit comes complete with tripod frame, suspension chain/hook/pin assembly, cauldron basin, two-piece, removable fire grate, and a double-hinged cooking grill. Prices range from $1,420 to $3,825.
“We also do well with older hipsters—35 to 45-year-old guys who like being outside and like to entertain,” he said. “We’re also seeing a lot of interest in the culinary and celeb chef universe. We have a bunch of chefs requesting them.”
The company also sells accessories, like pot tongs, pigtails, trammels, cauldron covers, and hand wrought chain that are crafted by a blacksmith who works for the company full time. “He’s pounding out these awesome pieces of art that will be around for hundreds of years. We’re keeping that craft alive. I’m pushing him hard to produce new things.”
The surprising part of the cauldrons, for Bertelsen, is how they connect family and friends and make people happy. “Almost every day I get a picture of email or Facebook post showing a customer with their cauldron and what they’re doing with it and how much they love it,” he said. “After having been a paper pushing person it’s so satisfying to physically produce a product that people say, ‘Wow, that’s cool,’ and they buy it. I can’t believe I’m the one at the center of it all.”