Brick Packaging Mirrors Wine Industry Growth
America’s steadily growing interest in wines has worked out well for a Traverse City company that sells everything – from corks to barrels – that a vintner might need.
Brick Packaging was launched in 2003 when owner Dan Brick saw an entrepreneurial opportunity. With a long career in corrugated packaging behind him, Brick sold a company in California and was looking for a position where he could work out of his home. He began selling natural corks to local wineries in the Grand Traverse region.
In speaking with his cork customers, Brick quickly learned that there was a real need for a smoother coordination of bottle selection and delivery to the area. Shortly thereafter, Brick Packaging was born.
“When we started there were 27 wineries in Michigan,” said Brick. “Now there are over 100.”
Working closely with his customers to meet their bottle, cork and packaging needs, Brick steadily added customers and Brick Packaging quickly grew into an energetic packaging distribution company.
From its headquarters at 2364 Traversefield Drive, it now offers an array of glass and packaging products through a network of five warehouses across the country. It employs 10 workers at its TC location. To provide lightning fast service to customers, the company operates distribution centers in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa and two in Colorado.
“We sell glass to all 48 contiguous states, Canada and Puerto Rico,” said General Manager Papillon Erreca, who joined the company in 2007. “We work mostly with small to medium wineries that produce 10,000 cases or less a year. We’re kind of a middle of the road supplier, not high end and not low end. Some customers buy a truckload of glass, some buy a pallet. Whatever they need, we try to accommodate everybody.”
To put that in perspective, a pallet holds roughly 1,300 wine bottles, depending on the size. A truck will carry somewhere between 24 to 26 pallets.
Much of the company’s recent growth has been outside the state. “When I started, about 60 to 70 percent of our sales were inside Michigan,” said Erreca. “Now it’s only about 40 percent. We’re covering a much larger footprint.”
From its 42,000 square-foot location in TC, Brick Packaging offers customers a choice of some 1,600 different bottles in a rainbow of colors, differing bottoms and with either cork or screw tops.
The staff works with suppliers from all over the world, providing a variety of domestic and imported glass bottles, food glass, natural and synthetic corks and bottle wax, Teaming with glass makers in Mexico, Italy and Germany, the company can also provide custom bottles embossed with a winery logo, crest or phrase.
“There are some very creative winemakers out there who want to add their own creative touch to their bottles,” said Erreca. “Some will take a traditional bottle and put their own spin on it. Some want to print on the entire bottle, some want to paint it. There are so many unique ideas.”
The company just paired up with Vetreria Etrusca, an Italian glass maker, to supply bottles and growlers for American breweries. “We’re really excited about this,” said Erreca. “Their rep will be coming to tour local microbreweries.”
In addition to bottles, Brick Packaging offers a variety of barrels, including American oak barrels, French oak barrels and spirit barrels for brandy, bourbon and whiskey. Handcrafted by highly trained coopers, they range in size from 20 liters to 600 liters. Brick Packaging also offers custom barrels and has a full line of accessories like racks, washing stands and bungs.
Top quality customer service is one key to the company’s success, according to Brick. “Service, that’s the big difference,” he said. “Our customers say it’s so easy to deal with us and that our service is so much better. We treat people how we want to be treated. It’s that simple.”
In its spacious warehouse, Brick Packaging maintains a huge inventory to supply their customers within hours. “We allow wineries to buy as needed,” said Erreca. “We warehouse a lot of inventory, so we bring selection and speed to market. For example, we can have glass to a winery in Missouri in 24 hours. We ship orders the same day.”
The company’s web site – www.brickpackaging.com – is undergoing an update to make re-ordering simpler and provide clients with a history of their purchases. “We’ve spent a fair amount of money on technology,” said Erreca. “It’s all about improving our client’s online experience. We hope to have this done by the end of the year.”