From welding to wine

Published 2:01 pm Saturday, February 15, 2014

John Tapager also has for sale wine coolers that fit in his wine holders.  Eric Johnson/

John Tapager also has for sale wine coolers that fit in his wine holders. Eric Johnson/

By Adam Harringa

Austin Living

John Tapager still remembers the conversation seven years ago. He was in a bar — on his way to Las Vegas with his brother and brother-in-law — where they struck up a conversation with a woman who owned an eyewear shop. She had it set up like a boutique, Tapager recalls, so she always looked for different ways to display her eye glasses.

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As they sat there talking, the woman asked if Tapager, who at the time created and sold steel cat sculptures and other novelty items to moderate success, could design something for her. About a month later, he put something together. As he looked at it, however, he noticed a couple of wine glasses sitting out, and wondered if his frame would hold them. Then he wondered if the center piece would hold a wine bottle.

John Tapager

John Tapager

“That was just a total fluke,” Tapager said. “I never even thought of doing wine racks.”

Tapager started to tinker with different looks and models, and came up with his first draft — a rack that securely held six wine glasses and a wine bottle.

ah.01.16.baThat was 2007. Since then, his business has grown every year, he says, and he now has two U.S. utility patents on 11 unique racks.

He now travels the Midwest entering his racks into about 35 to 40 art and trade shows a year. In 2013, he had his best year yet.

He does everything himself. From the fabrication and welding, to presentations and even bookkeeping. The one thing he hasn’t done, oddly enough, is create a name for his business.

“I’ve thought about it, but I just can’t decide on anything,” he said.

Even without a name, his holders are popular. He has a tabletop model, a wall-mount rack, racks that can stand or be mounted, and an outdoor model.

The best part of the business, Tapager says, is when he meets a satisfied buyer.

“The biggest reward is at the shows when people … say, ‘We bought one from you last year, and we get tons of compliments about it and we just love it,’” he said.

—To order wine glass and bottle holders, email John Tapager at, call him at 507-279-9897 or visit and search for “MinnesotaIronWorks.” A flyer and complete product listing is available by emailed request.