Top of the barrel

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Shewmaker earned his place at cooperage

By Stephen Lega

Barry Shewmaker was at the bottom of the barrel when he went to work at Kentucky Cooperage in 1991. In his first job, he was a barrel stacker, which is exactly what the title implies.
And he used that experience to build a career.
Today, Shewmaker is the plant manager at the cooperage, which is owned by Independent Stave Company, and he was recognized as this year’s Outstanding Industry Manager by the Marion County Chamber of Commerce.
“It has been an honor to work for a family owned business that cares for their employees and community,” Shewmaker said.
He put in his time at the cooperage, cross-training in multiple jobs and eventually earning a promotion to quality control supervisor. In 2005, he was asked to manage the company’s new plant, Blue River Wood Products in Salem, Ind. This plant was set up to provide raw materials to Kentucky Cooperage.
Shewmaker admitted he was nervous about that undertaking.
“The company provided me with a lot of support, which helped me remain intensely focused, and we developed a great team at the facility,” he said.
Shewmaker was able to help launch three shifts at the Blue River plant, which are still operating today.
In 2011, he was offered a chance to return to Lebanon as the plant manager for the cooperage. He said that allowed him to achieve his dream of “working for a company I am passionate about in the town I love.”
His responsibilities include overseeing the daily operation of the facility and the 325 employees who work there during two different shifts.
Eric Daugherty works in human resources at the cooperage, and he’s worked with Shewmaker for two years. He said the company has flourished under Shewmaker’s management.
“He is a natural leader and believes in the employees that work at Kentucky Cooperage. I believe many others who have worked with Barry can attest to that,” Daugherty said.
He added that Shewmaker knows every job in the plant, and he looks forward to learning from Shewmaker as he continues his own career.
Shewmaker said the cooperage has benefited from the recent bourbon boom, and this allowed the company to contribute more than $20,000 to local charities and organizations in 2013.
He added that Kentucky Cooperage was started in 1912 and today is a fourth-generation business that still embraces its core values of family, community, innovation and hard work.
“I have had a lot of fun during my tenure with Independent Stave Company as they have grown to become the largest barrel manufacturer in the world,” Shewmaker said.
Shewmaker and his wife, Amy, have been married for 20 years. They have two children, Stephen and Joe Keith.