Some people are born with a destiny embedded in their souls. Some have a raw talent for something. Some discover a passion inside them. Some find they are channeling an ancestor they never met. For Nelson Johnston, all of these have come together in a perfect storm to create his future.
Nelson is the son of Jarmin and Fox Johnston, and the grandson of Bobbie Steffner and Jim Steffner and Ardell Johnston and Fox Johnston Sr.
Every day, when Nelson opens his toolbox, he sees a quote his grandmother Bobbie gave him.
“The one thing you think you can do better than anyone else – go out and do that – the light shining out of your eyes should blind people. You should be on fire all the time.”
This young handsome Vulcan with fire in his hazel eyes takes those words to heart. The hectic surroundings, loud music, clanging and banging all fade away when he puts on his welding helmet. He is transported to another place where nothing exists but the project at hand. It has been a long journey to get to this place.
Nelson has had many mentors who have been invaluable in his learning his craft and establishing his business. Krue Brock gave him his first job one summer as a high school student. Tom Eberle at Quality Tire Pro took things a step further. He hired young Nelson and made him part of the team. Nelson not only learned the basics of tire repair but also absorbed the fine points of how to run a business and the art of good customer relations. While at Quality Tire Pro, Nelson encountered “Mr. Roy” Brown who possessed more automotive knowledge and experience than anyone Nelson had encountered. Determined to break through this expert’s crusty shell, Nelson proved himself a student who was hungry to learn all he could from this master, and they became great friends.
For that matter, Nelson set out to become part of the team. He wanted to prove that even though he was young, he could work just as hard, get just as dirty and stay just as long as the any of the other workers. He learned not to sit down and wait, but to keep a broom in hand and clean up between jobs. He was curious, eager, ambitious and thirsty for knowledge, a surefire combination for success.
Nelson received an early acceptance to the University of the South at Sewanee, but decided college and fraternity life were not for him. He chose to stretch his wings instead, and drove to Colorado and worked in the construction business. That was a great experience until he developed a blister under his work boots that became severely infected. He came back to Tennessee for treatment that included IV antibiotics. While recovering, he began watching YouTube videos about welding and was fascinated. As he got better, he began doing some projects himself.
This is where the destiny in his soul began to stir. He found he did possess a raw talent. Nelson was so passionate about his projects that he could not sleep, but would get up to work on one. At this point, the family realized that there was a great grandfather in the family line, Grover Behrens, who was also gifted in this field. Actually, Nelson looks like him; not only do they have the same physique, the also have the same hands.
An aunt later gave a few of this special relative’s tools to Nelson. As he grasps them, he feels his ancestor’s spirit come alive.
Today Nelson Johnson runs a thriving metal fabrication business that is growing by leaps and bounds. Thorough Built LLC is located in a huge space in one of the former Wheland Foundry’s warehouses on the Southside. Nelson brought some of “antique” machinery left from the foundry back to life. He used some money that was earmarked for education from his paternal grandmother to buy a state of art plasma table to make metal signs featuring his own designs and artwork. His landlord and business mentor is Bobby Chazen. Even though they are a generation apart, they are best friends.One of his first commissions was to design and build tool storage for the inside of a van. The first design was such a success that now all of the vans of Shackleford Enterprises are equipped with these custom tool storage units. He also has orders from the Nashville Predators, as well as custom orders from many others who want an industrial farmhouse look to their designs. Nelson recently designed a stage for Kanye West, so clearly he is making a name for himself. He does everything from designing and installing handrails on a homeowner’s stairs to massive repurposed machinery-turned-table and everything in between. His large installations are absolutely mindboggling, and he is truly destined for success.