Kenneth Ramsey immigrated from Barbados to Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn 58 years ago, when he was only 19 years old.
On the farm where he grew up in Barbados, he used to have to make his own toys, which he would carve out of a combination of wood and metal materials. He became very skilled at it.
But it was only after he arrived in New York City that his childhood hobby would become a highly sought-after skill— masonry and ironwork. For twenty years, he learned the business, picking up contract work here and there.
Then, in 1978, he started Kenny’s Ironworks. For the past 40 years, Ramsey has been building by hand cast-iron security gates all around Central Brooklyn with beautiful detail and precision, the gates you everyday framing the brownstones– a big part of what makes the homes and business of Central Brooklyn so unique.
Ramsey points out how the development trend in which many contractors are choosing stainless steel over cast iron, because of its ease of maintenance and shinier appeal has put a serious squeeze on his business.
“Homeowners are buying that type of material because it doesn’t require too much maintenance because of the scraping and painting,” said Ramsey. “The reason for the scraping and painting is because the government has taken a lot of the protective composition out of the paint because a lot of kids have been eating the paint and getting sick from that.
“And there were times where I thought about getting into [the stainless steel business]. But then I’d have to get a buyer in China.”
Ramsey is an introspective man, who prefers to observe rather than to talk. But with a little insistence and an extra-wide smile, you can get him to tell you a little bit about his past, which reads like an epic story of “Gone with the Wind” proportion.
“It’s a tough business,” said Ramsey. “But I’m going to keep it going for as long as I can.”
You can find Kenneth Ramsey most mornings enjoying a cup of coffee and a little breakfast at Colador Café on Bedford and Myrtle aves. Engage him in a conversation.
Or if you’d like to contract Kenny’s Ironworks for business, call 347-421-3979.