GROWING DEMAND: Hallmark Metals Corp.’s export business includes Mexico, Venezuela, Israel and El Salvador. Pictured above, from left, are: technician Hilario Tovar, foreman John Fullhart and owner Steve Kaplan.
It wasn’t exactly an obvious progression for Steve Kaplan to go from his chosen career as a paramedic to running his metals company, Hallmark Metals Corp.
Kaplan earned his emergency-medical-technician certification at the Community College of Rhode Island. He went directly to work as a paramedic in Newport and then Warwick.
“I loved it. I liked helping people. I worked at night. I’d go in at 4 p.m. and get out 8 a.m.,” said Kaplan. Being a paramedic didn’t pay much, so he supplemented his income by going on the road with his father selling chemicals and casting metals. That eventually turned out to be the natural progression of his career.
“There was a lot of interaction with people. Everyone loved my father. He’s the type of guy who could sell a freezer to an Eskimo,” said Kaplan of his father, Jerry Kaplan, who passed away three years ago. “He taught me the business.”
The elder Kaplan had left the T.H. Baylis Co., a chemical distributor, to become an independent sales representative for two chemical companies and three metal companies.
One evening, Kaplan and his father were in line at a restaurant and happened to run into the owner of TIN Metals, one of their clients, who suggested the three of them have dinner together in the near future.
The dinner turned out to be at Camille’s on Federal Hill – it was a fork in the road in Kaplan’s career.
“Bill, the owner, didn’t have a sales force then and was losing business. He said to my dad, ‘You and Steven have the clients and I have the equipment to produce the products.’ He wanted to make my dad a partner, but my dad didn’t want to be a partner, so I became a partner. I was in my early 20s.”
The partnership was formed by the time the three of them walked out of Camille’s that evening in 1986. They decided TIN Metals needed a fresh start and they rebranded it as Hallmark Metals.
“In the United Kingdom, a hallmark is a stamp on a gold ingot, so you know the purity of the gold,” said Kaplan. The name signified that the company was dedicated to creating the purest, highest-quality alloys in the industry.
Kaplan’s father continued to work at the company.
“My dad was usually waiting for me when I came in to work at 6 a.m.,” said Kaplan. “His hobby was his work.”