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The Mercury News 8/2/2016

Around Livermore: Family finds wine barrel art a popular niche

By and

In 2014, Monte Martella, 36, and his wife Melissa, 33, had their first child — a girl named Audrina. During his week of paternity leave, Monte, in addition to taking care of his wife and baby girl, started a new project — wine barrel art. Little did he know his naptime pastime would soon become a booming business.

“As Audrina slept, I spent this time in the garage making my first wine barrel chair,” Monte shared. “It came out a little lopsided, which was probably due to the lack of sleep, but it worked.”

His second piece was the beginning of business for the Livermore couple.

“I made a beautiful wine barrel American flag wall hang. The red strips are from the beauty of the red wine, and it became a focal point on our wall in our living room,” Monte explained.

He shared the new artwork on his Facebook page to show family and friends. Before he knew it, people wanted their own pieces. Their first clients were people they knew, but word-of-mouth spread fast.

“We quickly filed for patents and copyrights and got our business up and running,” he said.

Monte said the venture has quickly taught him and Melissa the inner workings of the “crazy” business world. He sources his materials locally, getting all of his wine barrels from Livermore and Napa.

Through their Etsy store (Martella’s Custom Wine Barrel Art), the couple has sold nearly 150 custom pieces since 2014. They also sell works at McGrail Winery, Plush Boutique and Milfleur.

It’s still a side hustle — Monte works as a special-education teacher at Foothill High School in Pleasanton and his wife stays at home with their two kids, Audrina, 2, and Brock 3 months — but the couple is gearing up to take business to the next level.

“We have plans in the works to start manufacturing and entering the wholesale market. We plan on being ready to accept wholesale orders by January 2017. In our first product line we will have the American flag, Texas flag and a couple different-sayings wall hangs,” Monte shared. “We are excited for our future.”

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