Tim and Nathaniel Vanderwier now operate Niagara Farm Metal Products. DON RICKERS

Niagara Farm Metal Products under new owners

Tillie Clapp is pleased to see her late husband’s business in good hands. Some 35 years ago, Earl Clapp channeled his experience in construction, estimating, and metal sales into a steel supply company he named Niagara Farm Metal Products, with a focus on service to builders and private homeowners. It was one of his life’s passions.

With his passing last fall, Earl’s business went dormant, but has come back to life with new owners, Tim and Nathaniel Vanderwier of Wellandport. Their father, Dave Vanderwier, was an entrepreneur like Earl, and also a close friend. A carpenter by trade, Dave’s primary business was constructing large agricultural buildings. He and Earl maintained their client-vendor relationship for over three decades, and shared information, expertise, and moral support along the way.

Dave’s sons Nathaniel and Tim eventually join their father in the building trade, and became licensed carpenters like their father. They took over the family business in 2014 when Dave retired.

“We tried to limp along in the early days after Earl died,” said Tillie. “We were managing the paperwork in the office and the phone calls, but we needed somebody who knew how to handle the work in the field.”

Tillie said that the Vanderwiers had helped out with the business when Earl died, and based on previous discussions with her husband, she contacted the sons to confirm their interest in taking over the operation.

“Earl’s truck and trailer were part of the deal,” said Tim. “I know Tillie was quite happy to see his truck still on the road….everybody recognizes the black Ford pickup that he drove. We kept the name on the side of the truck, and have retained the same phone number for the business.”

The morning before Earl’s death last October, Tim remembers that Earl had dropped off a load of farm metal for the Vanderwiers.

“We got into a conversation about, ‘Hey, you know, Earl, you’ve got to be thinking of retiring soon….what are your plans? We might be interested in the business.’ And he obviously went home and discussed it with Tillie. He told us, ‘We’ll talk again,’ which of course never happened.”

Tim said that after Earl had a knee replacement a couple years ago, he started to re-evaluate his priorities, and being in his seventies, was more conscious of his mortality.

For now, Tillie Clapp plans to stay in her rural property on Centre Street in Fenwick.

“I’ve always done the majority of the yard work, and there’s not really that much maintenance, other than in the spring when I spread some wood chips here and there,” she said. “And I’ve derived a lot of solace from being in the yard and being in the house. I still struggle some days…things don’t feel the same when you’re used to sharing them with someone else.”