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The Rainbarrel Man - His Own Account

Growing up in sunny southern California, I never thought that my future would include living in Portland, Oregon, and owning a rainbarrel company, but here I am.

As a child, my parents taught me the value of re-use. Everything that could be recycled was re-used time and time again, so I guess it was my destiny to become what I am today, The Rainbarrel Man!

My idea to make rainbarrels began back in 1997. I brought home a couple of white drums that, at one time, had detergent in them. After deciding to use them for storing tools, I cut out the tops and put the drums aside until I found room for them in the garage. Time passed and when I went out to move them, I noticed that they were all full of water! As a result, that next summer, I had 220 gallons of rainwater for my plants. I said to myself, 'What a great idea! I'll use them as rainbarrels to catch rain.' But the problem was they didn't look like rainbarrels, they looked like plastic trash cans full of water, so I went to work designing ways to make them more attractive for my garden.

First, I tried old fence boards and heavy gauge wire with a plastic spigot mounted in the middle but I wasn't happy with the way it looked. On the second drum, I cut the ring off the top sides and used it to create a debris screen, added a brass spigot near the bottom and covered the barrel with recycled palette wood that was stained and held on with banding instead of wire. By the time I got through with additional improvements on the next two drums, I was building beautiful garden rainbarrels! Friends kept telling me how much they liked the idea and suggested that I go into business for myself. After selling all four of those rainbarrels, I decided to do just that.

Before I could display my system at the farmer's markets, I had to first have my barrel systems juried for approval. They gave me unanimous consent if I used 'Food Grade' drums which have actually added to the beauty of my barrels because they are more attractive in color. I set up a display at the Vancouver, WA, Farmer's Market and then later at one in Gresham, OR. I made hundreds of flyers and put them in plastic holders so people could walk by and take one. Everyone that came by had something positive to say and many offered ideas and suggestions. One of those suggestions was to design something that could be attached to a downspout so that rainwater from a roof could be diverted into a barrel. I took that idea, turned it into a reality and built the Downspout Water Storage System. It has been one of my best sellers!

I really enjoyed introducing my downspout system at the farmer's markets, visiting with all the other vendors, listening and talking with everyone coming up to my display. Many said that they had been thinking of building some sort of rainbarrels but had just never gotten around to it, and then, there were the elderly couples that remembered washing their hair with rainwater as a child. Of course, there were exceptions, the grumpy old man and the little boy that after looking at the display and reading my sign said, 'I don't get it.' 'What do you do with it?' And after hearing their comments, I would patiently try to explain it to them.

Even though the farmer's markets were a lot of fun, I currently get the word out by advertising in specialized publications and local newspapers. This has given me more time for the manufacturing of my barrels since they are all hand-crafted. As for my informative and colorful flyers that were a part of my display, they are now sent out, on a daily basis, to people who call or email me requesting more information.

I love talking to people about saving rain water. If I happen to be home when they call, I make sure to answer all their questions and let them know what benefits they will enjoy, like saving money on their water bill. As for the environment, saving rainwater contributes to the well-being of our watersheds, rivers and streams by reducing storm water discharge. And, unlike other barrel systems, mine are very attractive and add to the beauty and character of your home.

A lot of work goes into building my barrels to make sure that each one is constructed to the best of my ability. I take pride in knowing that my barrels are as close as you can get to 'the real thing' on the market today. One of the most rewarding things I experience is the anticipation of my customers as they wait for their orders to be delivered and then seeing their joy when that installation day comes.

News Release from the Concordia News, August 2003, Vol. 111, issue #7


"Save a Rainy Day!"
John Elliotte, The Rainbarrel Man

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