BY NANCY RUHLING
Michele Rothman pulls a coil of Bare Bright Copper No. 1 out of a plastic bin and holds it up to the unforgiving glare of the fluorescent light.
“It’s gorgeous,” she says of the electrical wiring. “It’s scrap, but I consider it art.”
As she’s admiring its gleaming beauty, a truck comes in with a delivery, and she rushes over to the table to help her crew remove the plastic insulation from the new cache of copper.
Rothman, owner and president of Long Island City-based City Scrap Metal, loves unsheathing the braided copper, a task that her desk duties don’t allow her enough time to do.
Once she starts, it’s hard to stop. It’s like popping bubble wrap.
Tall and elegant in black high-heel boots, Rothman doesn’t seem concerned about getting her hands or her suit jacket dirty. The only woman on the line, she fits in comfortably, smiling each time a new vein of copper is revealed.
She’s not sure what makes the plastic peeling so satisfying and addictive, but it may be because she grew up in family that, as she says, “bleeds metal.” Her mother and father owned a metal-plating company, and her paternal grandparents had a scrap metal yard.
Rothman, who was born in Sheepshead Bay and spent five of her young years on Staten Island, grew up in Woodmere, Long Island.
“When my parents divorced, I was in college,” she says. “My mom bought out my dad.”
Rothman learned salesmanship from her mother.
“I used to go with her on calls,” she says. “I was her sidekick.”
She never thought of going into business for herself, and after she graduated from the University of Buffalo with a degree in economics, she sought a career in advertising. Instead, she ended up working in real estate, eventually becoming a commercial broker.
“I still wanted to pursue advertising, so I took a leave of absence and worked as a temp at ad agencies to see whether I liked it,” she says. “It turned out I did.”