PORTLAND, Maine — River Drive Cooperage & Millwork
Eight or nine years ago, when Matt Albrecht started buying wooden barrels and reconditioning them at his garage in Buxton, he figured—with impeccable reasoning—that he was getting into the barrel business. It came as a surprise when he started branching out and transforming some of those old barrels into a completely different product. “I’d drive up to the local breweries around here and say, hey, I want to buy all your used barrels. They would go, OK, why? What are you doing? I’d say, oh, I’m making flooring. They’re like, huh? Floors are flat and the barrels are round. What do you mean you’re making flooring?”
Albrecht’s business, River Drive Cooperage & Millwork, is focused mainly on reconditioning barrels for breweries, distilleries and wineries. It buys and sells barrels all over the world, employs ten people, and has seen its sales double every year for the past five years. Last year Albrecht racked up 100,000 miles flying for business. We are, the company’s website proclaims, “omni-barrel.”
But flooring sales are a nice niche, one that’s been tapped by buyers as far away as Dubai. It’s a perfect example of how successful businesses adapt and grow by wasting nothing and coming up with ideas that make customers happy. Part of the challenge, of course, is recognizing such opportunities and figuring out a way to seize them. Albrecht can remember studying all kinds of things in high school and wondering at the time if some of that education would ever pay off. Turns out it did. “Learning how to turn a round barrel into a flat floor—that’s a lot of math,” he says. “That’s a lot of math I never thought I’d use again.