Father-daughter startup turns throwaway bottles into useful works of art
Jaime Jereb and her father, Frank Jereb, are proud to be “upcyclers.” Upcycling is the term for reusing something in such a way that its new purpose is better and of greater value. The Jerebs take cast-aside bottles normally bound for a landfill and turn them into artistic drinking glasses and vases, and they sell them through their small startup business, The Bottle Bar.
The business is based in the garage of Frank’s house in north Chico, where the father-daughter team works with bottles collected from local businesses and friends, as well as from Frank and Jaime’s own purchases. The Bottle Bar’s repurposed, artsy wares have been available for sale each week at the Thursday Night Market since April 12.
The Jerebs came up with the idea for their sustainability-conscious business about seven months ago when they were hanging out with family and friends. “After a couple cocktails, and looking at Grey Goose bottles and some tequila bottles, we were thinking, ‘This is cool—we could do something with it,’” Jaime offered with a smile during a recent interview at her father’s home.
“It’s our entrepreneurial stab at being green, and keeping the community green and clean,” she continued. The liquor and wine bottles Jaime and her father use have little to no California Refund Value (CRV), so businesses and individuals often end up throwing them away even though they are recyclable, she explained.
The creative aspect of it also drew them in, since Jaime, a 30-year-old fitness trainer at NorCal Fitness, comes from a family with an arts-and-crafts background. Jaime’s aunt, Nancy, for instance, paints murals in the Bay Area and her uncle, John, is a saddle maker who dabbles in a lot of different artistic things. Frank—retired from his job as a car salesman at Chuck Patterson—was also a jeweler for 28 years.
The Jerebs cut a wide variety of glass—from fancy Belgian-beer bottles and old Coca-Cola bottles, to plain, colored wine bottles and bright-red tequila bottles. After experimenting with different ways to work with the bottles, such as etching them, they developed an “assembly line” in their garage. The Jerebs’ process now includes first cutting the bottles with a wet table saw, and then taking each bottle through a five-step grinding and polishing process using a variety of sandpaper sheets.
Whether it is Corona bottles cut into drinking glasses, a Patron tequila bottle made into a cigar holder or a Grey Goose vodka bottle transformed into a vase, the original purpose of the bottle is changed so that it offers a new way of viewing the bottle’s art as created by the original designers. In other words, the original labels or etched graphic design are maintained and incorporated into a new, upcycled piece that showcases the original design elements. Frank and Jaime don’t just pick a random spot on the bottle and starting cutting, Frank said—they take the time to take a really good look at the bottle beforehand in an effort to maintain “the energy of the glass.”
A lot of people have connections to particular bottles that they see on display at The Bottle Bar booth, Frank said. Some may simply like a specific drink, while others have a memory associated with the brand or are drawn to the color of the glass. Glass breaks, however, so when he and Jaime do custom orders they make sure people are aware of that possibility. Thus, they discourage customers from cutting family heirlooms or bottles with high emotional value.
Downtown restaurant Burgers and Brew has been one of the biggest contributors to The Bottle Bar, with its employees even bringing in bottles from home for Jaime and Frank. The restaurant recently gave Jaime a key to its recycling area so that she can retrieve the bottles they set aside for her. Having Jaime take the non-CRV bottles lowers the restaurant’s recycling costs.
Corina Berrios, the restaurant’s day-shift manager, said employees run across interesting bottles throughout the day and set them aside for the Jerebs. Berrios said she enjoys helping the father and daughter with something they are passionate about. Plus, “Their attitudes are really positive and they are really sweet people,” she said.
Other local businesses have helped by donating bottles, too, including Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack, Christian Michaels, The Pour House, Leon Bistro, Bella’s Sports Pub and Tres Hombres Long Bar & Grill.
The Chico community has been very supportive of the business’ green aspect, Frank said, noting that farmers’ market customers frequently comment on what a great idea they’ve come up with. Besides upcycling donated bottles and her own empties, Jaime has even been known to grab bottles out of the garbage here and there. “Anything for planet preservation, right?” she quipped.
For Frank’s part, he’s continually learning more about the green benefits of his and Jaime’s business, such as the small environmental footprint it has compared to mass-produced vases and glasses, which often are transported long distances to big-box stores. Along those same lines, Frank likes the idea of being part of the growing “buy local” movement. Most of all, though, he really loves the artistic side of the venture.
“People love it; they stare at this stuff and it’s amazing to see the expressions on their faces—that’s almost half the fun,” said Frank.