Bringing Funk to the Bunk

Freshman Brendan Whalen cashes in on bunk bed bookshelves for students.

Mathias Durie | Freelance

Brendan Whalen pounds the final nail into the wood, with his dad by his side in the garage, their project is finished. Whalen, a freshman, builds and sells bookshelves for lofted dorm beds that give students a storage space by their bed. These Top Bunk Bookshelves, as Whalen calls them, act as a headboard with shelf space that gives students a place to keep things by their beds. They are made-to-order with customizable color and can be purchased for $40. Jon Pytlak, Whalen’s roommate, purchased a bookshelf for his own bunk because he was tired of reaching down to his desk to grab his phone.

“They look cool,” Pytlak said. “It gives me a place to keep my phone and books right by my bed. It’s super convenient to have.”

Whalen and his dad work as a well-oiled machine and make each pine wood shelf in 30 minutes inside their White Bear Lake garage. When he was little, Whalen built a baseball pitching machine complete with a motor to pitch wiffle balls.

“It didn’t work very well,” Whalen admits. “But it was fun to build.” Tim Whalen, Brendan’s father, is a history teacher at White Bear Lake High School and has had Brendan as a construction assistant for 18 years.

“Ever since he was a kid, Brendan liked building things,” Tim said. “He often made furniture out of cardboard and duct tape.”

The idea for Top Bunk Bookshelves was born because Whalen wanted a way to keep books and his phone near his bed, as well as preventing his pillow from falling down into the crevice between his bed and the wall.

“I like working with my hands,” Whalen said. “I like building things that solve problems and make things easier.”

A member of the Bethel football team in addition to the duties of a full-time student, Whalen said he hasn’t had time to make many bookshelves, but went back to White Bear during the Royals’ bye week to make shelves for the six people who signed up to buy one.

“I love making them,” Whalen said. “It’s a great bonding time for me and my dad.” Whalen doesn’t know how much money he will make from selling his Top Bunk Bookshelves or even what he will do with the money, but he does know he will keep making them as long as he gets to spend time with his dad in the process.

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One of the bookshelves built and sold by freshman Brendan Whalen. Photo courtesy of Brendan Whalen.