Rolling in the Barrel

Whiskey barrels are pretty popular these days. You can use them for countless DIY projects, such as tables, stools, planters or, as it was in my case, just a rustic corner piece. So, many internet sites sell these oak cylinders online. But, one must be careful. The barrel may only cost around one-hundred dollars, some may be less, however, being that they’re heavy and bulky, an unwary soul may pay a few extra hundred for shipping. That being said, considering I longed for a fashionable living room piece, but wasn’t going to pay twice the price for shipping, I did a little traveling to save some dough. If you minus one slight mishap, it was a positively memorable experience.

I decided to write about my whiskey barrel excursion, because it absolutely involved travel. The journey was filled with typical road-trip events: bathroom breaks, getting a bite to eat and paying closer attention to roadside signing. And when you can save a bit of money, it makes for a good excuse to get in the car and explore the countryside.

So on with my whiskey barrel hunt…

It’s Friday morning, and I have the day off. It’s fairly early, around eight o’clock, but an adventurous impulse is stirring in my brain. I really shouldn’t call it an impulse, this notion has been building for the past two weeks. And now, I think I’ve found the answer. A bit of a jaunt south will help save some dinero.

You see, after I laid the Christmas tree to rest, my living room corner has been bare – save for the painfully sharp needles my vacuum didn’t pick up. Previously, I had a bookshelf in that corner, but, in order to make room for the tree, I moved it into the office. It actually looks better in that small room so, naturally, I don’t want to move it.

As you would imagine, I was left with a predicament. As the weeks after the Christmas season passed, the question loomed, “What would match the decor and liven that bare corner, while still adhering to a fairly strict budget?” Seeing how my living room has rustic appeal, I wanted something rudimentary and fun. You know, a timeless item that really hasn’t evolved through the years. It wouldn’t have to be hundreds of years old. I just wanted it to appear as if it belonged in the 19th century. And since coopering was a 19th century industry, particularly in Green Bay, a barrel made sense.

So, determining that the barrel route may be feasible, I started shopping around. I found, as I googled whiskey barrels, fully stocked warehouses awaiting potential buyers. The options were quite numerous, hailing from many different states in the good ol’ USA. However, even though their prices seemed within my budget, the shipping attached to the bill killed the deal. I actually found one place that sold a Barrel for under sixty dollars, yet the shipping was around three hundred…ouch!

So, I searched for places closer to home. I was ecstatic when I found a nearby furniture store selling barrels, until I realize those pieces came with a $460 price tag. My aspirations started to whither, my desires were simply beyond my spending limit. That disappointment lingered until I found a warehouse near Milwaukee. The name of the outfit was Barrel Brokers, and, after scanning their website, I found a suitable barrel for $79. Shipping in Wisconsin was only $79 extra…but gas would only cost $12, if I was to pick it up myself.

I made note of their phone number, and now, getting back to the present, I’m about to call and see if they allow pick-ups. I don’t see why they wouldn’t. I call and get a voicemail. Being severely disappointed, I leave a short message. Within minutes, I receive a call from a friendly man. He confirms my hopes, informing me that pick-ups are by appointment only. So I make an appointment for noon that day.

The warehouse is in Menominee Falls, for those who are wondering. However, I’m not going to the warehouse. This particular barrel resides at an office near Mequon. So, at about 10:30, I hop in my car and start the trek towards Mequon.

The journey is uneventful, save for a couple pit stops. Well, it’s uneventful until I reach Mequon. In the city limits, as I await a traffic light, a young man’s car strikes my back bumper. I feel the jolt and see the image of an apologetic man through his vehicle’s windshield. I immediately search for a place to park my car.

As I pull into a lot and throw my car into park, images of a mangled rear end dampen my spirits. But when I jump out and round the tail end, much to my surprise and delight, the damage is practically non existent. The young man apologizes, jots down his phone number and we bid each other farewell.

After that, I find the place easily-using my trusty GPS of course.

When I arrive, my eyes are treated to the robust barrel standing in the drive. I smile at the sight; this is exactly what I was looking for. The bands need to be sanded, but it’s a minor forty-five minute task. I park the car, and bound towards the door. Immediately, after knocking, a tall man answers. He’s dressed smartly, and is blessed with a courteous and upbeat demeanor. We make small talk, I use my debit card to pay and hoist the barrel into the SUV’s cargo space. It actually fits perfectly.

This man takes one extra step, and it displays care for his customers. I feel sheepish because I should have thought of this. He finds and empty box, chocking it against the barrel and my rear door. It works perfectly, and I don’t have to listen to my new purchase rolling around while driving home.

I have to admit, an oak barrel is a bit too heavy for me. When I reach my house, I find I hadn’t thought things through. Getting it into my house proves pretty challenging. However, thanks to a helpful neighbor lady, who was stronger than her small frame would suggest, I was able to use my dolly to roll it in the house.

Now, after a good band sanding, the authentic rustic barrel has a place in my living room. It actually looks like it’s meant to be there. Plus, and this is what’s really cool, being a farm boy, the character of the barrel appeals to my roots comfortably. We may not have had barrels lying around, but the structures I grew up in were definitely 19th century. So, not only does this barrel fit perfectly, it just feels good.

I urge you, if you’re in the market for a whiskey barrel, to check warehouses nearby. Craigslist is another option. I had found a barrel, using that site, for $75. However, I was more impressed, and there was a wider selection, going through a warehouse. Shop around; one can save a ton of money.

Safe Travels!

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