While it may be several years before renovations and upgrades to the Shelburne Barrel Factory are totally completed, the historic waterfront property will once again be rolling out the barrels and trawl tubs by the end of April.
The major restoration project began March 15, with a new foundation that raised the building, a new wooden floor now completed, roofing underway, outside shingling soon to begin, and machinery being moved back in to begin production on trawl tubs for fishermen gearing up for longline fishing.
“The orders are coming in for trawl tubs,” says owner George van deer Meer, who bought the barrel factory last summer. A general contractor from Ontario, van deer Meer and his wife Beerta purchased a place in Ingomar six years ago. “We came for the summers, Christmas, two boys in Halifax, that made it worth coming to Nova Scotia.”
The decision to buy the barrel factory was “spontaneous,” says van deer Meer.
“I knew from previous visits he was selling it. It broke my heart to see it close. I actually tried to find someone else interested in buying it,” he says.
But then last summer after giving his crew notice that he was going to start winding down his construction company in Ontario, he had second thoughts.
“By the time August rolled around I thought why not buy it? I put an offer in, bought it and moved here at Christmas time.”
Van deer Mer is also making improvements to the interior of the building, including insulation and new wiring, and moving the entrance on the front of the building so its more centered. With all the tools set up around the perimeter of the production area, the reconfiguration of the floor plan will allow tourists to come in and watch the barrel makers at work.
“Most of our production is in the winter time, the colder months so summer months are slower,” says van deer Meer. “They can come in and see us work and can talk to us,” he says. Provided the saws and machinery are not being used, they will be able to take a pathway through the area to have a look.
Van deer Meer says he has been working with a couple of local artists who have expressed interest in setting up a booth in the shop during the busy weekends.
“It sort of works with what we’re doing anyway,” he says. “It reinforces what I’ve always thought, that trades are an art in itself too. People often think artists just create art but its other things. Barrel making is an art.”
Van deer Meer, who is a fourth-generation carpenter, will also have his own workshop upstairs in the Barrel Factory where he will work on other projects, including new windows for the building. “I have a co-op student coming from Amsterdam in September and he will be working with us until February. I told him I can’t pay you anything but your welcome to come and learn. He’s as keen as can be.”
Van deer Meer said he is hoping by the first of June that the site and grounds will be all cleaned up for the busy tourist season, adding it will probably be a couple for years before everything is completely done and set up.
The barrel factory was originally built in 1917 by Chandley Smith.