What Started on a Dare Led to Gulf Aluminum Products
By Christina K. Cosdon
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., November 23, 2008 - St. Petersburg Times - At age 15, Sid Silverstein boasted that he could make the aluminum screen door grills his father sold in his store in St. Petersburg. "I told my father he didn't need to buy them, I could make them," Silverstein recalled. "He dared me to try it and he financed it." Silverstein made good on his boast.
"We made the grills," he said, "and sold them to a hundred hardware stores."
Gulf Grille Factory was the beginning of a business that this month is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
"We did that for two years until 1955 when I went into the Army," he said. "I came back in 1958 and the next day started Gulf Aluminum Products, making aluminum screen enclosures and the glass and aluminum enclosures for baths and showers."
A few years later, the business expanded to commercial contracts, offering aluminum railings and products for high-rise building projects.
"It was just me and one or two people we hired in 1958," said Silverstein, who now is 70 and lives in Madeira Beach. "Last year, we had 100 employees. We've grown from nothing to a multimillion-dollar business."
The business moved from St. Petersburg to Largo in 1979.
Today, Gulf Aluminum Products is a leading manufacturer of commercial and residential fence systems and products, commercial railing systems and protective enclosures and gates for access and security. The company sells its products to high-rise contractors, distributors and dealers for developments and improvement projects throughout the Southeast.
In 1974, Silverstein and nine other men in aluminum-related businesses formed the Aluminum Association of Florida. "I'm kind of proud of that," he said.
The association became the professional trade association for aluminum contractors, fabricators and related businesses.
Why did you choose aluminum manufacturing for your business?
Probably because I saw those aluminum grills in my father's store. I love to work with my hands. I like the variety of the business. I like construction, it keeps reinventing itself. The gates we put out here now are almost works of art.
After 50 years, you still go to work every day. Why?
I like to work and I still enjoy it. Of course, the general manager, Gary Allen, runs the business. I'm vice president and treasurer of the company. My brother, William, is president.
Christina Cosdon can be reached at email@example.com