Culpepper and Co., Inc. began operations in 1976 under the name D.A. Culpepper Co.. Our history stems from our founder David A. Culpepper who moved to Franklin, NC in 1974. During this period of time, he met a young gentleman in Murphy, NC by the name of J. Bruce Voyles. At the time Bruce was running a small shop in Murphy, NC. Soon after, David met many other cutlery giants including Jim Parker, Jim Frost, Bob Loveless and Uncle Henry Baer. Also during this time period, custom knife making and knife collecting were beginning to take hold and become recognized. David began making custom knives during this time. He was particularly fascinated with natural materials including Mother of Pearl and Abalone. He began offering his wares at many shows across the US. Other makers during the period were quite interested in the materials that David was using, so he began cutting handle materials for other makers as well. Soon afterward, he was spending more time cutting handle material than making knives. He saw opportunity and slowly phased out his own production of knives. In 1976, David began attending shows with the primary goal of selling handle materials.
Around 1980, David began to focus more attention on major cutlery manufacturers. In 1981, the company name was changed to Mother of Pearl Co.. In 1982, David also began traveling abroad to many different countries, mostly in Asia seeking new and exotic handle materials. Soon after, he began receiving orders from larger companies like Case, Camillus, Queen, and Buck. Also during 1982, Mother of Pearl Co. joined the Knife Makers Guild. That same year the company began a partnership with a small leather factory in Thailand, which later became Infinity Stingray Products. In 1985, Mother of Pearl Co. became involved in the development of pearl farms in the South Pacific. In 1986, Mother of Pearl moved into a new commercial building with sister company Dacco Wholesale. By the late 1980’s, David had begun negotiations to purchase a small ivory carving factory in China. After the transaction in 1989, the factory focus was shifted from carving ivory to making bone knife handles. Employment instantly grew to thirty nine between the two facilities. We began dying bone with much early success and some failures. Dying bone had very nearly been a lost art and many of the methods of dying had to be re-invented. Cutlery companies were quick to take interest, and David had found a market that would allow the company to grow rapidly.
During this same time in 1989, Joseph D. Culpepper, David’s son had become involved in the company. By 1991, the company had mastered dying genuine stag with our Amber Stag Enhancement process. In 1992 the company begins marketing Scrimshaw items with Western designs for the International Market. All of the designs are carved and scrimshawed by hand using natural materials such as bone, ivory, and Mammoth ivory. In 1994, Carved Stag bone is created as an alternative to Genuine Stag. Soon after, Joe purchases his father’s share of the company and along with mother, Barbara, continue the family business. David goes on to start another company that specializes in Nautical Antiques, Lighting and Decor in South Florida and continues to be very successful. You can view what they have for sale at www.culpeppernautical.com.
Mother of Pearl Co., Inc. is incorporated in 1995 and its growth continues. In 1997 the creation of Mosaic Abalone and laminated shell changes the musical instrument market forever. During the same year, the stingray division is re-named Infinity Stingray Products and begins offering a full line of leather goods available in many boutiques and catalog stores with private labeling. By 1998, the bone factory employment reaches 85, and in 1999, websites for motherofpearl.net and knifehandles.com go online, with stingrayproducts.com soon to follow in 2000.
In 2001, Kristi Culpepper comes on board as CFO and Jason Casada becomes Production Manager. This same year, we constructed a 25,000 square foot manufacturing plant in China to keep up with demand. Further expansion in 2001 included CNC machinery to produce pre and partially finished material shapes. In 2002, with the stag embargo permanently in place from India, Mother of Pearl Co., Inc. creates a new source of Sambar Stag from Asia. By 2004, the company offers new jigging patterns referred to as “Classic” jigging. Later that year, Barbara retires from the business. In early 2007, Mother of Pearl Co., Inc. and Culpepper & Co. International Trade Corp. purchase an 18,000 square foot building in nearby Otto, NC and move our domestic manufacturing and distribution center to the new location. Later in 2007, our operations are consolidated under the name J. Culpepper & Co., Inc. In 2008 and beyond, our company will continue to revolve around innovation and expansion in natural materials. Our mission is and will continue to be to provide the finest materials available to our customers with devotion to their satisfaction.