So What’s The Deal On Those 14 Foot Horses?

Harder to pack than a picuture of Guadalupe painted in day glo on black velvet, but just as good a conversation starter in the living room
BY: TOM EMANUEL

In a dusty industrial yard on the south end of Rosarito, 30 Mexican men are creating magic for over 20 years. Founded in 1994 by Arturo Castellanos, The Metal Corral produces replicas of large animals such as horses, bulls, giraffes, dragons, dinosaurs, winged mythical creatures, and anything their world wide clientele can dream up and want.

Each of these critters takes one man three days to create and wholesales for around $1200These men are wizards in mostly wrought iron, but they also work in bronze and copper. The last two metals are melted on the surface of the iron to give it a sheen and to change the color and pattern of the critter they’re fabricating. This technique is mainly used on smaller pieces, often hung as art work for the walls of residences. These are items like turtles, moons, suns, birds, cactus, sleeping Mexicans in sombreros, and other kitch. ‘Scuse, art

All of their work is handmade and is special ordered by their clients. Over 75% of their clients are wholesaleers who resell it. They have such customers from all over the United States as well as from Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Italy and across the European continent.

These customers sometimes want large shipments of large animals which are sent by airfreight or packed into containers and stacked on ships. It may take some time to fulfill an order like that because a big animal, for instance a horse, rearing 12 feet in the air and measuring 14 feet in length takes at least three days to create. And if the customer has ordered a dozen of them in different configurations it can take them more than a month working night and day to satisfy the order. Animal representations of this size are surprisingly cheap, running about $1,200 USD at the wholesale level. This allows their customers to make handsome profits when they sell it retail.

The smaller art works, used in residences, have a beautiful patina to them, which is produced by the use of copper and bronze layered on the surface and covered with a clear coat to keep it all from tarnishing over time. The Metal Corral wholesales these items to shops all over Mexico. They are very popular both with expats and with Mexicans. Many of the items that you see in the store fronts in south Rosarito all the way down to Popotla were fabricated right here by The Metal Corral. These items wholesale for as little as $25 to as much as $100 depending on what material was used and the intricacy and size of the work.  A  little secret: you do not have to buy them from a retailer because you can have your decorative work custom designed directly by The Metal Corral.

Of course they construct more serious work there as well. They can make anything you can name that looks great in wrought iron work.  Common requests are gates, balconies, staircases and railings, chandeliers, security screen doors and huge solid doors. Typically prices for these items are a quarter to a fifth of what you would be expected to pay in the States. A woman who owns a multi million dollar home in Orange County purchased an elegant curving staircase railing in a leaf pattern to set off the marble stairs leading to her second story. She was quoted over $11,000 for the construction and installation in the States, but she was able to get it produced, delivered and installed from here for less than $2,500. She was thrilled and her referals have already produced three more customers.

Many of the men who produce these marvels have been with the company for many years. They typically work five and a half days a week and are always piled up with more work than they can get to. The master fabricators are called chiefs and they must pass a test to get to that level. For instance they may be told to produce six chandeliers of their own design in a certain period of time, say a little more than a week. If the work produced is of very fine quality and was executed on time, they are then promoted to the chief position. This means that they are assigned orders and allowed to fulfill them through their own ingenuity and workmanship. They also head up a team of other fabricators.

The bosses that we met with were Jonathon Castellanos, the son of the founder, along with the sole salesperson, Ray Avilla (who is also the only person who speaks English in the entire business). They are both pretty savvy business people and very personable. Just before we sat down to talk to Ray, he was working with an American driving a Mercedes, parked in the entrance to the yard. As the car owner drove off Ray let out a ringing whoop and yelled a congratulations in Spanish to Jonathon. Another great sale on the books. They were happy that day.

Americans can pick up their orders at a number of places in the southwest, where they arrive without charge. They have locations in Lake Elsinore, Fresno, Banning, San Diego, Santa Barbara, as well as in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff.

For a fascinating tour, visit The Metal Corral at Km 28.5 on the west side of the road or order something from them at 661-613-1894 or 619-520-5698. They also are on Facebook under The Metal Corral and they have a website showing some of their work at themetalcorral.wix.com/themetalcorral.