Fifth Generation Islander, Rory Thurrott on Rory’s Custom Fabrication and Doing What You Love

As you’re cruising along Eagle Harbor Drive, enjoying the gentle curves of the road and the dappled sunlight through the tree canopies you might come across an impressive spiral metal staircase being loaded onto a flatbed truck, or maybe it’s a huge steel awning or some other incredible metal creation. That would be the work of Rory Thurrott and his team at Rory’s Custom Fabrication (RCF).

Eagledale Grocery Store image courtesy of Rory Thurrott Rory’s maternal family (the Keeneys and the Grays) have lived on Bainbridge Island since the late 19th century, where they homesteaded in the Eagledale neighborhood, owning most of the land on the west side of what is now Ward Avenue. His father moved to the Seattle area with his family when he was four years old and relocated to Bainbridge in 1977 when he met Rory’s mother. When Rory was a young boy, his father purchased the old Eagledale Grocery Store and adjoining apartment and housed the equipment for his underwater welding business on the property, a property that would later become Rory’s Custom Fabrication.

Growing up, Rory enjoyed hearing stories from his grandparents of life on the island. There weren’t many paved roads, they rode horses everywhere and everything was done by hand…if you needed something, you had to build it yourself…and the talent and ability to build things was something Rory inherited tenfold. He spent his youth outdoors, tinkering with projects, learning archery, and exploring the island. They didn’t even have a TV, Rory recalled fondly, “if we wanted to watch a movie or something, we’d rent the TV along with the movie for a few days.”

Rory got his start in welding when he was seven years old, learning the craft from his father. He took to it immediately and by the age of 10, he was welding bike and go-cart frames in his parents’ garage. When he was 11, the owners of Mack-N-Jacks Auto Repair, whose business is next door to the (now) RCF shop, got their hands on a Chevy Luv pick-up truck, which had somehow managed to fall into the water via a boat launch. The body of the truck was in decent condition, but the wiring was fried. They asked if Rory’s dad wanted the truck, and that became his first real challenge. Rory spent the next year painstakingly pulling one wire at a time and replacing it. “I got into a bit of trouble driving it to school a few times,” Rory admitted.

Rory's Custom FabricationA bit later, Rory got his hands on two free dirt bikes, which he combined and rebuilt. At the age of 13, he traded the dirt bike for three 1940s Jeeps (two military, one civilian), which were all in various states of disrepair. With the help of his dad, Rory welded a new frame for one of them, a 1946 CJ2A Willy’s Jeep, and completed the remainder of the rebuild himself using other parts from the remaining vehicles. He’s held onto the Jeep ever since.

Fast forward to high school, Rory met the love of his life, Kelsie and graduated from BHS in 2003. He went on to attend Big Bend College, obtaining a degree in aviation maintenance. In addition, he became certified in machining, welding, and as an Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic.

Rory was recruited directly out of college by Boeing, and later he took a job at Avian Aeronautics in Bremerton. He returned to live on Bainbridge and rented the apartment connected to the Eagle Harbor Drive property. It was during his time at Avian, that he would meet his toughest critic and soon-to-be mentor and friend. It was through that working experience and mentorship that Rory learned the importance of human connection in the business world. By the time his mentor left Avian for another job, Rory was beginning to sour on work in the aviation industry and the commute to and from the island, and he realized it was time to do what he loved most, metal and automotive work. He resigned from Avian, and working out of his father’s garage, he started Rory’s Custom Fabrication in 2009.

Rory's Custom Fabrication shop and completed projectsUtilizing his talents and enthusiasm for metal work, design, auto-mechanics and repair, Rory worked on various welding projects, most of which came to him by word-of-mouth. When the project required more assistance, Rory leaned on his dad and the occasional qualified friend. One day, while dining in the Lynwood/Pleasant Beach neighborhood, he noticed the renovation work going on at the Historic Lynwood Theatre and approached the project manager with Seattle-based Schuchart-Dow about the need for metal work. He was asked to bid on the fabrication and installation of a long railing, which required meticulous measurements and a complicated install. In hindsight, the bid was way too low for the complex project and it was just Rory and a friend doing the work, but the craftsmanship was exemplary and it so impressed Schuchart-Dow, that RCF worked on their projects for many years to come, putting the fledgling company on the map.

But with success, comes its own set of problems. His father had closed down his business many years before to take a job at the Port of Seattle and was renting the old Eagledale Store to someone else. When the tenant moved out, Rory took over the lease and officially moved his business into the new location (he even kept the original Eagledale Grocery store sign, repainting it with his company name). Rory also admits that he needed a little assistance with the business end of things, so Kelsie jumped in to help organize the business end so that it ran smoothly before embarking on her own career in real estate.

The Thurrott FamilyIn 2013, Rory and Kelsie married and not long after purchased the 1920s house behind the shop, spending five years meticulously remodeling the property for their growing family, which now includes their two sons, seven-year-old Jaxson, five-year-old Colton, and their Husky/Bernese Mountain dog, Charlie (all three of which are frequent sidecar co-pilots when Rory cruises around the island on his Harley-Davidson).

Rory, with the (early) help of his father and Kelsie, and a team of expert draftsmen, fabricators, welders, project managers and foremen, has built a company that specializes in high-end architecturally designed residential and commercial metal work and finishes. He’s fortunate to have retained most of his pre-pandemic employees and even added a few more. The shop, which doesn’t look very big from the street, is actually quite expansive and is equipped with not only old-school hand welding and metal working tools, but also with plasma cutters, 3-D technology, and other modern metal working equipment to handle the most challenging project.

Rory ThurrottToday, when he’s not doing custom interior/exterior work for others, he’s expanding his automotive repair/rebuild side of the business and is currently rebuilding a 1972 K20 truck, which will be a show truck and includes a ton of special features, such as paddle shifters, heated seats, a truck bed that can be raised hydraulically, and will be paneled on the bed floor with a custom metal and wood diamond pattern and will include a hidden display TV beneath it. Rory is also sharing his passion with his sons, and proudly showed me seven-year-old Jaxson’s first project, a welcoming “Thurrott” sign made of scavenged metal in the shape of a dragon.

BICoC - TIWBFor more information on RCF, visit their website at: HOME | Rory’s Custom (roryscustomfabrication.com) or follow them on Facebook.

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