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Barrell Girls Recycle Winery Castoffs
When Elena Kotowski and Tonya Baker went looking for a wooden barrel to hold rain water, they had no idea it would grow into a thriving business. In addition to capturing rain water, their wood barrels are in demand for plays, parks and even weddings.
  Since they started Barrel Depot in 2008, the Minnesota women have sold thousands of wooden barrels that once contained wines and spirits.
  It began simply enough. Kotowski didn't think the plastic rain barrels on the market would look good around her Victorian home. She wanted a genuine wooden barrel. She found a place to buy one in California, but it cost $140 for shipping. So she and Baker decided they might as well buy a whole truckload of 220 59-gal. barrels stacked three high in a semi trailer.
  The "Barrel Girls" set up a stand at a local farmers market and discovered their intuition was right - others wanted wooden barrels, too.
  Wineries buy new oak barrels for $700 to $1,200 and can only use them for four or five years.
  Obtaining the barrels was not easy.
  "We spent a lot of time at wineries to break barriers," Baker explains. "We were two random women from Minnesota. At first it was kind of a comedy thing."
  After charming their way in, the business partners convinced winery owners they were serious.
  Barrel Depot offers barrels that are plugged and tapped with a spigot at the bottom and overflow hose at the top for $199. They also sell plain barrels ($99) and DIY kits ($30). The barrels are made of American or French oak. Customers often pick up barrels at the business's warehouse or at events the partners attend. They can also be shipped - usually for much less than the $140, Kotowski would have been charged.
  Many customers earn tax credits from watersheds and local governments for installing something that catches rain, Baker says. In the metro area people are taxed for water that runs off hard surfaces into storm sewers. To gather even more water, barrels can be linked together. Some customers take the next step and buy larger tanks to match the runoff of the roofline.
  "On the smallest of homes, there can be up to 1,300-gal. rolling off with just 1/2-in. of rain, Baker says.
  Because of the interest, Barrel Depot offers cornstarch-based enzymes to treat water so it's safe for animals to drink. They also sell rain chains, hand pumps and other water-related products. They distribute above ground tanks and underground poly resin cisterns for Norwesco, a Minnesota company.
  "We have tanks that come in many sizes from small pickup bed tanks to systems that can accommodate thousands of gallons for livestock tanks," Baker says. "These are of great use to farmers and greenhouse owners."
  Whatever size, whatever use, Baker says the partners have suppliers to accommodate customers. And for those who prefer new, Barrel Depot sells new Hungarian oak barrels.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Barrel Depot (ph 952 221-2113 or 612 290-7427; www.barreldepot.com).

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2010 - Volume #34, Issue #4