Owned by longtime resident Jack Gundersen, the business is well known in the area as the place to go to keep your tractors running.
“I’ve been servicing tractors and riders for the past 48 years,” says Gundersen. “I work on over 100 a year — all types, but mostly John Deere.”
While operating his business, however, Gundersen gradually began to notice changes in the neighborhood.
Wineries and tasting rooms were popping up all over the place, and the conversation had turned to grapes, fermentation, vintages and other wine-related topics.
Gundersen started buying wine barrels and selling them as planters, positioning them right off the road to catch drivers’ attention as they passed by his place of business.
It worked. And then he got the idea to make furniture out of the barrels.
“I thought the barrels would make great furniture pieces,” says Gundersen, who had also been in the carpentry trade years ago and was no stranger to working with wood.
He got his son-in-law, Adrian Starks, also a carpenter, to join him in the endeavor.
Starks was enthusiastic about the plan and promptly got to work designing a coffee table.
He says, “There’s a natural beauty to the lumber of the barrels. They’re usually made of the finest oak. It’s really nice material.”
The pair began designing and building benches, bar and coffee tables, stools, candleholders, wine racks, wall sconces, serving trays and even coat racks.
Last winter, they formed a company for their new products, appropriately naming the business, “Bottom of the Barrel.”
The barrels, which are purchased used from local and Eastern Washington wineries, are selected for their condition and color. Those utilized in the production of red wine are most coveted as their purplish hues enhance the appearance of the wood.
In the workshop, the men take apart each barrel and then begin the process of refashioning the various pieces into beautiful furniture.
“We use everything – all of the staves or ribs, the hoops and the tops,” notes Starks. “We don’t throw anything away or waste any of the materials. What we don’t incorporate into the furniture, we make into ‘Barrel Bits,’ which we sell in bags for people to put in their barbecues.”
All of the products are natural and unstained.
“The only thing we do is give them a coat of varnish to protect the wood,” adds Starks.
As for design inspiration, the men say ideas just come to them and then they use a process of trial and error to make their visions into reality.
“We talk about things,” comments Gundersen, “but we each work on our own pieces. If we run into a problem, we discuss it and help each other out.”
The men derive great satisfaction from their new endeavor.
Starks says he likes taking a product that’s “on its way out” and repurposing it into something that people can appreciate and enjoy in their homes.
“It’s fun to work with wood,” he adds. “It’s a good creative outlet for me.”
Gundersen gets a thrill out of seeing people’s response to the products.
“They get this sparkle in their eyes,” he explains. “They’re so excited and delighted when they first get a look at what we do. That’s what’s rewarding to me.”
According to the men, the business is gradually gaining steam, thanks to word-of-mouth, a highly visible location and well-priced, quality products.
People also find their way to Bottom of the Barrel after noticing a few of the company’s products in local businesses, such as Forgeron Cellars and The French Bakery.
And then there’s a website that’s slowly attracting attention.
As for the men’s future plans, Gundersen explains that everything rests on annexation.
He explains: “If we get annexed into the City of Woodinville, we will build an 8,500-square-foot winery, put in a showroom for our furniture, a restaurant and plenty of parking. We want to create a nice facility to display our products — one that doesn’t share space with the tractors!”
The local man notes that the matter of annexation is currently in the hands of King County. “And you know how slow things go when it comes to these types of decisions,” he adds. In the meantime, Gundersen and Starks, along with their wives Tina and Sharon, will continue to build their unique and sustainable business in the heart of Woodinville’s wine country.