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Meet Mike Evans of Evans Family Barrels in Canoga Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mike Evans.

Mike, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
A long, long time ago, back in 1982, we started to make wine for ourselves. We had the wine fermenting in one bedroom of our two bedroom apartment and our son, Shawnn, at only 10 months old, would sometimes pull himself up and lean on the trashcan to smell the wine. We never thought he would one day be making wine and beer on his own!

After studying astrophysics at university Shawnn found various short-term work at wineries, learning a lot about winemaking and wine barrels. He eventually landed a position as an Enologist (the study of wine making) with a major winery. We all talked about how nice it would be to have some proper equipment of our own to make our own winemaking easier. Originally, our idea was to buy and resell retired wine barrels to fund the purchasing of this equipment. Much to our surprise, there was a demand for the barrels! So we kept buying more barrels and selling them out. Soon the money was there to buy the equipment and also to buy the grapes at the next harvest.

We (Mike and Carole) were newly retired and had time to spare, so we took over the barrel business. We both loved working with wood and both were experienced in home remodeling and general carpentry, so the idea of making planters and furniture grew. It soon became a whole family affair with Shawnn and Jenny, as well as our son Joshua and daughter Kimi joining in. Evans Family Barrels was born.

In addition to selling wine barrels and furniture, we have expanded into offering barrel rentals as well as into other barrel types, like whiskey barrels. It has been our joy to work with many TV and production companies, often making unique items for their sets. We have also had the pleasure of furnishing man caves and wine rooms. Ironically, some of our custom furniture has been shipped back up to the wine country, where our barrels came from originally. Other destinations include Hawaii, several states back East and even other countries including Mexico, The Philippines, Russia, and Korea.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Naturally, we started working out of our home. However, when we found we needed to order barrels by the semi-truck load, we encountered our first hurdle – where to store 200 barrels. Initially, we scattered them around two family homes. That was awkward and we had a little issue from Building and Safety, so we decided we were big enough to get a warehouse. We soon realized how satisfying it is having a warehouse for storage and occasional work. We now have two warehouses and expect to add another sometime this year.

We’ve had many interesting experiences while transporting barrels. Typically, we’ll unload a truck by rolling the barrels down the ramp and stopping them at the bottom with our feet. However, in this one instance, the barrels were pretty dry and therefore loose, so as one was rolling down the ramp, some of the hoops starting coming off. Then, just as we put out our foot to stop it, the whole barrel fell apart into its 33 pieces!

In another instance, Carole was helping to unload barrels from a semi. She was standing on top of barrels and one of the barrel heads broke and Carole fell through the barrel. Then, as she was crawling out onto another barrel, it’s head also failed to dump her a second time! Fortunately, she was unhurt, but we had a good laugh afterwards – and a lot of barrels to tighten!

The only other challenge was a pleasant one. Our customers sometimes come to us with an idea or a photo and ask if we can make it. Often it becomes a collaborative effort, with both of us having an interest in making it work as best we can. Partly because of these collaborative challenges, I think, we end up with a stronger and more easily cared for piece than we’ve seen from some of our competitors.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Evans Family Barrels – what should we know?
We re-purpose used wine barrels! Many customers use them as cocktail tables, planters and backyard accents. We have been told that we are the largest barrel company in Los Angeles.

As if the barrels aren’t enough of a specialty, we also create rustic furniture out of wine (or whiskey) barrels and rent barrel items out for all kinds of events – from movies to kids parties.

We are most proud of our reputation and our products. We even had a winery in Napa recommend us! Customers tell us our products are high-quality works of art. We personally make all of our products with love and care and have fun doing it. Our friendliness and knowledge are things which set us apart.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
INTEGRITY – We believe in saying what we do and doing what we say. It is the basis of excellence in our work. If we say we can build it, we can. If we are not sure, then we will let you know.

TRUSTWORTHY – We believe in the golden rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We are honest and reliable and will do our very best to keep our promises to you.

STANDARDS – We hold ourselves and our customers to high standards of performance, ethics, and accountability. We don’t like rush orders because they may not get done at our highest best. Give us the time to do it right the first time.

BELIEFS– If we are honest with our customers then they will trust us and be honest with us. Our integrity and trustworthiness are in fact the greatest things we have to offer.

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