This year, attendees will find some new and uniquely American-made merchandise at Friends of NRA fundraising events around the country. At the annual Merchandise Preview Meeting held in Fairfax, Va., last month, recent addition to the Vendor Direct merchandise program Columbus Barrel Company (CBC) debuted its handcrafted bourbon barrel items to the dozens of NRA Field Representatives gathered in town for end-of-year meetings and training.
The Merchandise Preview Meeting brings together vendors who supply items used to supplement the Friends of NRAStandard Merchandise Package with the Field Reps who coordinate with volunteers nationwide to use those items for fundraising. It is an invaluable opportunity for the vendors and reps to interact, ask questions, provide feedback and prepare for the year to come.
Sarah Engeset, Kathy Purtell, Alex Martin of Blue Ridge Knives, and Director of Field Staff Philip Gray open the Merchandise Preview Meeting
“This meeting is so important to jumpstarting the program for the coming year,” said Director of Volunteer Fundraising Sarah Engeset. For 12 years Blue Ridge Knives (BRK) has made that jumpstart possible by sponsoring the meeting, and the Friends of NRA team offered their gratitude by recognizing Alex Martin from BRK to kick off the day’s activities. Along with recurring attendees like Martin, this most recent edition of the event welcomed some new faces to the energetic crowd as well: C.J. and Curt Shaver.
The two brothers from Columbus, Ohio, come from a family history of woodworking and bring an enthusiasm for craftsmanship and American history to their collection of unique decorative and practical home goods made from repurposed Kentucky bourbon barrels. When a Field Rep came across one of their barrel wood and buffalo hide flasks, he knew it was something special and connected CBC with the Friends of NRA merchandise team.
“From the day I met them, I would hear from one of the Shaver brothers almost every week,” noted Merchandise Manager Kathy Purtell. “They wanted to be part of our program and are very excited to join us as a direct vendor. And we are excited to work with them; they are very talented in what they do and have a great story behind their American-made products and family-owned business.”
Fourth generation woodworkers C.J. and Curt trace their family tradition back more than 100 years, to their great-grandfather’s work in the 1900’s.That business started in 2013 with the idea of making custom pieces to bring the lifestyle associated with bourbon into homes around the country. But the company’s history stretches much further back. Fourth generation woodworkers C.J. and Curt trace their family tradition back more than 100 years, to their great-grandfather’s work in the 1900’s.
As kids, they learned the craft from their grandfather and father. Since then, they’ve sought to celebrate that rich family history and the unique history embodied by bourbon barrels. With that as the inspiration behind CBC, the Shaver brothers strive to tell those stories through everything from coat racks to coffee tables made with handpicked barrel wood and lumber with stories of their own.
While Curt focuses on the sales and marketing of the business, C.J. is the heart of the CBC woodshop. “We actually started out using grandpa’s tools,” he said. “Since then we’ve developed new custom tools and machinery designed to work with barrel wood, which requires special handling because it isn’t square—everything has a little curve or angle on it.”
Along with those curves and angles giving each piece of wood and finished product its own unique shape, CBC also preserves the original patina worn into the barrels. It’s a finish that can’t be recreated, only earned by its place in the story of bourbon making. To ensure that each individual story is kept alive, every item CBC makes gets labelled with the distillery from which the barrel wood came.
For the Shaver brothers, joining the Friends of NRA program as a vendor is also about continuing family traditions and creating more stories. “We didn’t grown up with any firearms traditions,” Curt explained, “just strong family tradition of patriotism. Our grandfather served in World War II and was actually in day two of the Normandy operation. Our uncles served in Vietnam. We have a very big appreciation for the military having grown up with that part of our family history.”
As they prepared to add their products to the Friends lineup of optional merchandise, C.J. and Curt applied their usual creativity and artful storytelling to the process. “We started thinking about how to incorporate aspects of firearms and the Second Amendment into products,” C.J. noted. “We first updated the coat rack and the flask to incorporate .50 caliber casings. The browning patent plaque is also unique to Friends of NRA. We normally put bourbon or distilling related patents on that item, but we wanted to do something more relevant here.”
Along with the .50 Caliber Coat Rack, Browning Patent Plaque and Barrel Wood and Buffalo Hide Flask—which is the first of its kind and features a three ounce stainless steel flask wrapped in authentic spent bourbon barrel wood and finished with nomadic buffalo leather—Friends of NRA event attendees should keep an eye out for the Wall Mount Bottle Opener, .50 Caliber Cigar Holder and Barrel Head Mirror. These 100 percent made-in-America items are sure to add an exciting new dimension to the program’s fundraising efforts in 2018.