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Pine River welder opens shop in Westgate Mall in Brainerd

Scott Martin sells metal signs and fire pits.

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Scott Martin, of Pine River, opened a shop at the Westgate Mall in Brainerd in Feburary 2022. Here he is pictured Wednesday, March 9, 2022.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal
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BRAINERD — Scott Martin, of Pine River, has taken his custom made metalwork to the next level with the opening of his store in the east end of the Westgate Mall in Brainerd.

Martin's shop, JLS Designs, opened about a month ago. It features laser cut signs to suit all tastes and heavy metal fire pits with logos cut into them.

The first year I was building fire pits out of my shop was a great year. We sold between 300-400 fire pits that year to 15 different states across the country. Last year was not a good year because of the fire ban. Nobody wanted to spend that amount of money on fire pits they could only sit and look at. I'm hoping this year will be a bit better once spring rolls around.
Scott Martin

For the last 16 years Martin has been in the welding industry.

"I was welding in Pine River and doing fire pits on the side for maybe a year before (being laid off)," Martin said. "We got laid off toward the end of March because of COVID. I never went back and went full time."

Being laid off forced Martin to make big decisions. He had to buy his own plasma table since he no longer worked with a company that had one. His stock was also outgrowing his home storage. It was a sign he needed to expand.

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"I wasn't selling anything sitting on my couch," Martin joked. "Winters are tough and the amount of stuff I have and the size of stuff I have, I can't go to Saturday church craft sales to only be set up for 4 hours. I have 3 or 3 1/2 hours into setup just to be there."

He first looked into space in St. Cloud, but didn't find a location he liked for a good price.

"I was in here (at the Westgate Mall) and I saw that this store was empty," Martin said. "In St. Cloud the rent is double, so we figured we would give it a try and see how it works."

All of Martin's works are made on a 6- by 12-foot CNC (computer numerical control) plasma table. Using the table he cuts signs for all types of aesthetics: firefighters, gun enthusiasts, farmers, hunters, military, police and other designs included. Likewise, his large, heavy fire pits can be customized to meet a person's interests, including favorite automotive brands and other designs.

Fire pits were how he got started.

"The first year I was building fire pits out of my shop was a great year," Martin said. "We sold between 300-400 fire pits that year to 15 different states across the country. Last year was not a good year because of the fire ban. Nobody wanted to spend that amount of money on fire pits they could only sit and look at. I'm hoping this year will be a bit better once spring rolls around. But I sell a lot of signs at craft shows, flea markets, county fairs and other places."

Martin also does custom jobs. He was the man behind a 5-foot tall sign at the Preserve Golf Course. Larger items are easier to cut, as the smaller the job, the harder it is to cut at great detail.

Martin's business is a one-man operation right now, which he says helps him to keep the cost of signs down.

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"People ask why my signs are less expensive than other people's," Martin said. "I don't have any overhead cost of 15-20 employees, trying to keep busy and paying them and all the other stuff going along with it. I can keep my price down lower than most people for that simple fact."

Once the weather warms up Martin plans to ramp up production on a few other items, including barbecue grills made from barrels or perhaps keg grills. He occasionally toys with other projects that suit him.

"I made my mom a coffee table and a set of end tables out of pipe and I plan to get more stuff on my walls as time allows me to get it cut out," Martin said. "We're hoping that if this store does well we'll look into possibly trying to go to the Mall of America (to market to) 40 million people versus 200 people."

Martin's shop is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, though he said sometimes he might be away on Mondays to buy materials.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com.

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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