Two Brothers Continue Family’s Woodworking Legacy
Curt and CJ Shaver, founders of Columbus Barrel Co., are fourth-generation woodworkers. The brothers were raised in a family whose motto was, “Don’t buy it – build it,” and they learned the trade from an early age. The story behind their own business started long before they were even born.
Ninety years ago, Buckeye Savings and Loan opened inside the Buckeye Building located at 36 E. Gay St. Henry Jackson Upperman, great-grandfather to Curt and CJ Shaver, was enlisted to build the bank teller counters inside the bank. Fast forward five decades to the mid-1980s, when Upperman’s son, who learned the trade from working closely with his father, had the privilege to refurbish and update the bank interior that his father had built and installed. During the remodel, he was able to keep a few memorabilia from the original design of the building, such as the gold Liberty Nickels that were embedded in the walls of the bank when it was built. Their 1907 date likely commemorates the original start of the bank prior to its home being the Buckeye Building.
In 1990, the Buckeye Savings and Loan bank merged with another bank, and their location in the Buckeye Building closed. Over the next decade and a half, several businesses were in and out of the building, and it even stood vacant for several years, until 2008, when Concord Hospitality opened the newly renovated Buckeye Building as a Residence Inn. The hotel kept the integrity and structure of the bank, turning the old vault into a breakfast area, as well as keeping the brass-plated ceilings and marble floors reminiscent of the original design of the space. This month, Concord Hospitality is opening The Buckeye Bourbon House in the Buckeye Building, featuring custom wood barrel pieces made by the Shaver brothers.
The brothers started their own woodworking business in an old garage, similar to the garage their great-grandfather started his woodworking business in almost a century ago. The Shaver brothers learned the trade from their grandfather and father, and utilized heirloom tools passed down to them from previous generations on their own woodworking projects.
The Shaver brothers did not originally plan on working with wood from barrels. The idea was born when someone saw barrels sitting in their garage and asked to buy them. They thought, if people were willing to buy plain barrels, how much more willing would they be to buy custom furniture built from barrels?
With this idea, Columbus Barrel Co. was born.
They began collecting bourbon barrels from distilleries in Kentucky and bringing them back to Ohio. In doing this, they built a relationship with bourbon distilleries in the heart of Bourbon Country. They bring barrels home to their shop in Columbus, and in turn sell some of their merchandise created from those barrels in those same distilleries. The Shavers tag each unique piece with the name of the distillery and the batch number of the barrel, so clients can know the history of their wood. They feel in doing this they prolong the life and story of that specific piece of wood, allowing clients to engage in the unique history behind their piece of furniture.
With the help of special equipment, the slats of the barrels are able to be straightened out without losing its patina (the aged look of the barrels). From those planks of aged wood, custom pieces are created. CJ Shaver designs most of the pieces, and both brothers take input from their family and friends for suggestions on new pieces. In striving to make “the most unique pieces out of the most unique wood” the Shaver brothers are always trying out fresh ideas, as well as new twists on old concepts.
Since its official founding in 2013, Columbus Barrel Co. had grown to offer products direct to consumer, wholesale items, and custom made-to-order pieces. The Shaver brothers make everything from wood sunglasses to custom bar tops, to bottle openers, to map cut outs, all made from bourbon (and a few wine) barrels.
Curt and CJ Shaver are thrilled to have had the privilege of building and installing custom wood pieces in the same building their great-grandfather and grandfather helped create. They hope to continue the woodworking legacy as their business continues to grow.
For more information on the Columbus Barrel Co., visit their website columbusbarrelco.com.
All photos by Randi Walle.