By Jim Davis <i>HBJ Editor</i>
MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — A pair of engineers who met at Boeing’s wine-and-beer club founded what would become Diamond Knot Craft Brewing two decades ago.
Fast forward to today, the home-grown brewery just added a fourth brewpub, employs 150 and can produce 8,500 barrels of beer a year.
The newest location opened a month ago in Mountlake Terrace at the West Plaza at 5602 232rd St. SW. The community support has been amazing, said Rick Berlin, the Mountlake Terrace brewpub’s general manager.
“I have a line of faceprints on the window from all the people peeking in during construction,” Berlin said.
The 8,900-square-foot brewpub seats up to 250, includes a 60-seat event space and features a full brewery. The brewpub employs 70 people and most of the staff are new. Only five people came from other Diamond Knot locations to Mountlake Terrace.
Diamond Knot hosted a grand opening on Feb. 8, but actually opened the doors several weeks earlier to give the staff a chance to get prepared, said Sherry Jennings, whose in charge of the company’s marketing, but prefers the title of chief story teller.
“We really, really kept that on the down low,” Jennings said.
And it all started from a couple of guys interested in hobby craft brewing.
“It’s an amazing success story,”Jennings said. “It makes my storytelling very easy.”
When Brian Sollenberger and Bob Maphet met in the Boeing’s club in 1993, Sollenberger already had the concept for a brewery in mind.
The two collaborated, starting by leasing 300 square feet from the Cheers Too pub on the Mukilteo waterfront in 1994. In 1999, they bought out Cheers Too and established what is still the Diamond Knot Brewery and Alehouse. The business is named after the Diamond Knot shipwreck in 1947 off Port Angeles.
Diamond Knot opened the larger-scale production brewery on Chennault Beach Road in 2005 and a restaurant-pub on Camano Island in 2007. It hasn’t all been successful or easy. Diamond Knot took over a pizza place in Mukilteo in 2008, but was forced to shut it down when when traffic didn’t support it.
Then, in 2009, Sollenberger died after he apparently slipped on some stairs in the front of his home.
Maphet now owns the business along with Andy Eason, who is in charge of retail operations, and Pat Ringe, who is in charge of brewery operations.
Jennings said there’s a story behind how Diamond Knot came to Mountlake Terrace.
The Ishizaki family owns the West Plaza where the popular Double DD Meats is located. Kirk Ishizaki always wanted to add a brewpub to the strip mall at 56th Avenue W and 232 Street SW.
He liked the idea of a silo outside of the corner for the brewpub and asked around where he could get one, Jenning said.
He got ahold of an architect who was designing the expansion of Diamond Knot at the Mukilteo waterfront.
The architect put Ishizaki in touch with Maphet. Jennings said Ishizaki asked Maphet where to get a silo. During their conversation, Ishizaki suggested that Diamond Knot just open a location in south county.
“We really held off to committing to West Plaza until our alehouse renovations was completed,” Jennings said.
After doing their due diligence, Diamond Knot decided to go forward with it.
“We’re surrounded by great breweries, but we felt that this was an area that was underserved,” Jennings said, adding “No pun intended.”
Diamond Knot will help anchor the area, said Dave Baron, the city’s economic development director.
“It means that they saw the potential in the town center and we’re delighted to have them,” Baron said. “All downtowns need a good gathering spot. We’re absolutely delighted because they’re a proven entity.”
Diamond Knot has tried to blend some of their style into the new location, Jennings said. Knots are embossed in the tables. Some of the walls are black and feature cedar, giving it a familiar look to the other brewpubs.
But Diamond Knot didn’t want it to be a cookie cutter design by any means, Jennings said.
Berlin, the general manager, has lived nearby in Lynnwood for 20 years. He said he’s excited to work so close to home. He’s been able to hire some of the kids who he once coached in soccer.
He’s enjoyed working for the company, adding that it’s very relaxed and centered around having a good time.
“It’s come in, sit down and enjoy a beer,” Berlin said. “And I think that fits Mountlake Terrace.”