Business

When a wine barrel becomes a tabletop

J&S Barrels, Slabs, and Metals owner Juan Rodriguez crafts custom chests, chairs and more.

Yolanda Torres first met Juan Rodriguez at the San Juan Bautista Chicken Festival when she stopped by a booth where he was selling furniture made from wine barrels.

“I was setting up Una Mas and thought his tables would be perfect for my bar,” said Torres, who owns the downtown watering hole. “He uses the ends of the barrels for the tables. They have a lip around the edge so when a beer tips it does not spill to the floor. And customers love them.”

Wine barrel furniture. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Wine barrel furniture. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Rodriguez opened J&S Barrels, Slabs, and Metals in San Juan Bautista at the beginning of November, but has been operating his business for three-and-a-half years. He uses the old barrels, along with up-cycled wood and metal that have been refurbished, to make unique furniture.

“It started as a hobby,” Rodriguez said. “A friend had a wine barrel that he was going to throw away and he let me have it. I started sanding it down and I loved the way the grain popped. So I started researching what I could do with them.”

He found project plans online and used his imagination to customize them.

“The first thing I ever made was a wine barrel ice chest,” Rodriguez said. “I have come to realize that all wine barrels are not the same and there is a lot you can do with them. I am incorporating laser designs on rustic metal, and I am making tabletops, lounge chairs, things for restaurants, and for man caves. Our most popular things at the moment are the tabletop fire pits and the Adirondack chairs. Things change with the seasons, though.”

Photo by Robert Eliason.
Photo by Robert Eliason.

In Torres’ case, she liked the tables for her bar so much that when the city approved her outdoor parklet, she ordered more of them.

“They are light and easy to move, and they are well-made,” she said. “They are perfect for us. I originally ordered six which we were using indoors and have ordered another six for the parklet.”

Yolanda Torres, owner of Una Mas, with tables purchased from J&S Barrels. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Yolanda Torres, owner of Una Mas, with tables purchased from J&S Barrels. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Another happy customer is Tim Baker, owner of Country Rose Cafe in Hollister, who is outfitting his own parklet with Rodriguez’s creations.

Baker said Rodriguez came into the restaurant and introduced himself about a year ago. “I’d seen his outdoor patio furniture and so I had him do some barrels for me just before COVID hit. Now he is doing some benches, chairs, and redoing tabletops with legs made from barrels for our parklet. He does awesome work, he’s really professional.”

The J&S Barrels location at 81A Fourth Street in San Juan is filled with wine barrels and finished furniture for sale, of course, but also a stack of Country Rose tabletops in need of new legs.

Rodriguez uses old barrels, along with up-cycled wood and metal that have been refurbished, to make unique furniture. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Rodriguez uses old barrels, along with up-cycled wood and metal that have been refurbished, to make unique furniture. Photo by Robert Eliason.

“I was looking for a place that would lend itself to this kind of business,” Rodriguez said of his shop’s location. “I found this old potato shed and I love galvanized steel. The whole place lends itself to the types of materials we are working with. It is exciting to be in this town and in this building, showing my work to the public.”

Last week, Rodriguez received over 100 barrels which he will transform according to his customers’ needs. He gets his barrels from wineries in Sonoma and Monterey counties.

“I want better quality barrels and I have formed relationships with the wineries there to get the best ones I can,” he said. “I will also work with slabs of wood from trees that have been cut down, or 2x6s that were previously cement forms. I am proud of my ability to take local materials that others might discard and make something useful from it.”

 

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Robert Eliason

I’ve been a freelance photographer since my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. My dad taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.   I have had gallery showings and done commercial work but photojournalism is a wonderful challenge in storytelling.   The editors at BenitoLink have encouraged me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  It is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community.