NASHVILLE SINCE 2003
Our 99th profile for the Nashville 100 is #99 himself, Rien Long, a former defensive tackle for the Tennessee Titans. Rien was drafted in 2003, and when an injury stalled his career in professional football, his skill at crafting began to shine. Now he’s using the fruits of his labor to make BottleKnucks, a gorgeous combination brass knuckle and bottle opener made from unique pieces of wood.
Rien was born in California and grew up in Washington state, where he stayed for college at Washington State University. In 2003, he was drafted by the Titans, and played professionally for five years until he was injured. “I’ve always been crafty,” he says. “I just decided, well, I’m gonna make things.”
“My girlfriend at the time, we were going to flea markets, where everyone was taking something and making it into something cool, and distressing sh–– and scraping paint off and shabby chic mish-mashing, repurposing stuff,” he says. “I’ve always been handy, and spatially, I can do things.” When his girlfriend spotted a headboard she liked, his immediate thought was that he could make that. He took his tools down to the garage of his condo and – on an incline, under one dim light – he put together a headboard.
“She was like, ‘Oh my god, I f—-ing love it,’ and I was like ‘I f–––ing love making it, I want to do more of this, I just need space for my drill and saw,’” he recalls. He found a space called Fort Houston, which he compares to a gym membership for creative people, where he had access to a wood shop, metal shop, photography lab, and more space.
He also loved the community. “It was just like football,” he says. “One thing you miss from football is the locker room – any guy you’ll ask, the first things they’ll say will be the locker room, my teammates, and Sundays in the stadium. That’s what you live for, you went through all that shit so you could have those two things. Fort Houston, I got the locker room feel again, it was teammates.”
At Fort Houston, Rien quickly began to make a wide variety of things. “I like creating, I just have ideas,” he says. “So aside from the BottleKnucks I was getting into, I made a skateboard, I made furniture, fiber optic lighting, if it could be done and I had an idea, I was trying to do it, it was fun.”
The BottleKnucks idea came one day when he was messing around with wood and made some holes in it. “I was like, oh man, it’d be cool if I made some,” he says of the brass knuckles. “I always wanted brass knuckles but they were always too small for me and so I was always bummed out as a kid,” he says. Later, he and his brother were drinking and he showed him his creation. “He was like, ‘Man, you know what would be really cool is if it opened up bottles,’ and I was like ‘I can do that!’” Rien recalls. “So I did.”
While figuring out the engineering of it was a challenge, his final product is stunning, with unique, gorgeous pieces of wood creating each item in his line. The demand amongst his friends and beyond grew so strong that he’s made it a company, and BottleKnucks was born.
From figuring out how to connect the pieces to now, things like packaging design, Rien thrives in the creative challenges. “This whole process has just been figuring out what doesn’t work, and then you’re left with what works,” he says.