LANGLEY — Some heavy metal may return to Langley’s old firehouse on Second Street, and this time, it won’t be a fire engine returning from a blaze.
Tim Leonard, the owner of Heavy Metal Works, is hoping to lease the back section of the old fire hall for his metal-art business. Leonard currently operates his studio at his home on Saratoga Road.
Leonard is expected to present an outline of his proposal to the city council at its meeting Wednesday. If the council gives the idea its OK, discussions would continue between Leonard and city staff and a lease for part of the facility would be written.
“I always knew there would be a day I would have to move out of my house,” Leonard said, recalling how he started his business on April Fool’s Day, 2006, as a way to stay on the island and spend more time closer to his family.
Leonard, a sheet metal worker, had worked for years on the mainland, bouncing from one project to the next.
“It’s where the jobs were, and where I had to go. And I missed my older kids growing up, somewhat, so working at home to me was very appealing. And of course, they’re are getting older now,” he said.
Having a studio away from his home would give him the chance to leave work at work, he said. That’s been kind of hard in recent years.
“I’d be out there to 12:30 at night, 1 o’clock in the morning,” he said.
Moving to a Langley location would be ideal.
“When I close the door, I can lock the door and go home and have a life,” Leonard said.
Of course, there’s been plenty to keep Leonard busy since he launched his own business six years ago. It all started with the three umbrella tables he crafted for Desmond Rock and Useless Bay Coffee Company, and Leonard’s metalwork can now be found throughout Langley, from the bustling coffee café to the Tom Hladky Park. Leonard’s other recent projects include the monuments in front of Whidbey Telecom’s new Freeland facility, as well as much of the metal furniture inside its WiFire Coffee Bar.
“I always thought if I was going to move out [from Saratoga], I wanted to move to Langley. I love Langley so much. And there’s so much of my metalwork here,” he said.
Leonard said the fire hall studio would be used to create custom metal fabrication projects of all sorts, from signs to furniture to outdoor structures and gallery artwork.
An example of his gallery art can be found at MUSEO on First Street, where Leonard — with the help of Ryan Wright, Jeff Holtby and Bill Cass — built a 750-pound, 9-foot-talk rocket from plasma-cut and forged steel for the gallery’s new “Steampunk” show.
The rocket is called Zephyr, and was named after Leonard’s 9-year-old daughter, “Zippy,” who died in a tragic accident Dec. 25 after a tree fell on the family car.
Leonard said he was hoping to reach an agreement with the city over the next few months. That won’t happen overnight, of course, and Leonard added that he also needs a bit of time to recover from the neck injuries he received in the Christmas Day accident.
“Obviously I have a few months … myself,” he said.
The front section of the fire hall is leased by Callahan McVay, for his glass-art studio Callahan’s Firehouse. It’s since become a must-see for tourists coming to Langley.
Leonard said he’d like to see his studio become a similar attraction; a place were people can stop by and watch the creative process unfold.
“One of the charms about this space, being a public space, I think people would really get to see the processes involved,” he said.
“I haven’t quite ironed out the details,” Leonard said, adding that one idea could be to create a glass wall like he built for the renovation of the Bayview Cash Store that would separate the work area from the studio’s space for visitors.
“So people could watch in safety behind glass, and it would keep some of the sound down,” he said.
Leonard said he was eager to work with the city and professionals experienced in mitigating noise issues so nearby residents wouldn’t be bothered by the studio. That may mean installing insulation, sound baffles and other sound attenuation features. He also plans on using as much pre-cut pieces as possible in his work.
That said, Leonard noted that much of the work done in his studio wasn’t as noisy as some people might think.
“I have to debunk the myth that a metal shop is constantly loud. People think, ‘Oh, a metal fab shop, it’s going to be noise all day long,’” he said.
Some parts of the process do involve loud sounds, he said.
“It’s a small fraction of the entire process. There’s the whole design aspect, there’s the layout aspect, there’s the cutting aspect, there’s the actual bending of the parts,” he said. “Then there’s some of the finish work, and that’s where some of the grinding comes into play.”
The back end of the fire hall has been empty since the end of October, following the departure of Michael McMahon and his business, Old World Ales and Lagers.
McMahon was involved in a long-running dispute with city officials and McVay after the city did not install separate power meters for each business, and Callahan was left to collect payment from McMahon for the electricity he was using.
After McMahon complained that McVay locked him out of the restroom in the fire hall, he asked the city to resolve the dispute and finally stopped paying rent and moved out when that never happened.
The Langley City Council meets on a special day this week, as last week’s regularly scheduled meeting was postponed until Wednesday, Jan. 25 because of the snowstorm. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at city hall.