Kristi Whitlow (center) and Sean Seifert (right) take an order during the soft opening of 5 Rights Brewing. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Kristi Whitlow (center) and Sean Seifert (right) take an order during the soft opening of 5 Rights Brewing. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

5 Rights Brewing finds new home in old Carr’s Hardware store

The brewer opens in Marysville Friday, two years after a crushing disappointment.

It is a grand opening celebration that was supposed to happen two years ago.

In what was to be their new Lake Stevens home, 5 Rights Brewing owners R.J. and Kristi Whitlow envisioned a giant party to christen the location, a large two-story building just off Highway 204 near Frontier Village.

Every inch of the new building, from the upstairs bar to the shiny 10-barrel brewhouse, was designed by R.J. and Kristi, who were accustomed to getting every last drop out of their small one-barrel system in their Marysville garage. Fresh off being named Washington’s Small Brewery of the Year, 5 Rights was set to become a major player in Puget Sound craft beer culture and a cornerstone brewery in Snohomish County.

But the move never happened. The couple’s deal with the building’s owner abruptly fell apart. The building now sits empty, still just shy of being finished. The two-story-tall black metal 5 Rights sign that was supposed to beckon drivers as they made their way up from the trestle is gone.

A sample brew is drawn during the soft opening of 5 Rights Brewing. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

A sample brew is drawn during the soft opening of 5 Rights Brewing. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Instead, the Whitlows forged a new path and patiently waited for a new opportunity. Late last year, an opportunity presented itself. It wasn’t perfect, but the former hardware store in Marysville was just right. The Whitlows overhauled the space, built out a bar, put up walls, designed seating for 60 and started construction on a new brewhouse.

This weekend, the winding journey begins its next stage. 5 Rights Brewing invites customers into its new brewhouse for a grand opening running Friday through Sunday. For the past few months, R.J. has been brewing like a madman, producing enough beer on his tiny garage brew system — oh, and a couple of collaborations with Seattle beer stalwarts Reuben’s Brews and Georgetown — to fill 24 taps.

As it became clear the situation with the ownership of the Lake Stevens building was untenable and would have to be abandoned, R.J. and Kristi relied on each other and their faith. R.J., who formerly worked for Northshore Christian Church, admitted that he was hurt and angry over what happened in Lake Stevens and confused that a door that seemed so wide open would shut so suddenly. But he also understood that 5 Rights landed where it did for a reason.

R.J. Whitlow (center) talks with customers during the soft opening of 5 Rights Brewing Taproom in Marysville on March 15. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

R.J. Whitlow (center) talks with customers during the soft opening of 5 Rights Brewing Taproom in Marysville on March 15. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

“We feel like we got a second chance,” R.J. said. “I feel like we worked hard for this. We weathered the storm and believed in what we’re doing. We’re excited to see the next chapter.

R.J. said he realizes that 5 Rights would no longer exist without Kristi and the countless friends he’s made through the process.

“I learned to value my family and people close to me. My priorities shifted,” R.J. said. “I realized my family and specifically Kristi felt the brunt of this. I had to refocus on what was important.”

What became important wasn’t having the grandest brewery in the land, but rather one that fit what R.J. and Krist wanted to do. So when the Whitlows found a space in the old Carr’s Hardware building they approached owner Maurice and Gail Libbing about possibly occupying it. It turned out to be a great fit.

“Two years ago we never would have thought about this,” he said of opening a space in the former Carr Hardware on Third Street in downtown Marysville. “But there’s a lot about this opportunity that we never expected. There’s room to grow, storage options and long-term possibilities to create a restaurant and taproom.”

After closing the hardware store two years ago, the Libbings decided to split the building up and lease it to an antique store and coffee shop. The Whitlows already knew the owners of the coffee shop, Wander Coffee Bar, so they approached them about possibly increasing their food options, something they gladly embraced.

In designing the new space, R.J. embraced the history of the building, including keeping the oiled hardwood floors and large wall of wooden bins that once held screws, nuts, bolts and nails. To aid in beer production, R.J. is preparing to set up a four-barrel brew system he recently purchased from Auburn’s Geaux Brewing and a couple of new 10-barrel fermenters in the back storeroom.

“There’s more than 90 years of history in this building,” said R.J. “That’s exciting for us. A lot of people reached out and said they used to shop at Carr’s. We’re excited to meet new customers here and reach a new audience.”

There’s plenty of upside potential in Marysville. Just two breweries — 5 Rights and Whitewall Brewing on the north side of town — serve the city of nearly 70,000. Also, a new onramp/offramp project near Ebey Slough will soon direct cars off I-5 right to 5 Rights’ front door.

“We reached out to Sean and Aaron (Whitewall owners) early on and they encouraged us and said the city was good to work with,” R.J. said. “And it was true. We met Mayor Jon Nehring early on, and he was very supportive. He worked with us to get inspectors lined up, feasibility and occupation studies done. The city has been great.”

The Whitlows expects the brewery and 5 Rights’ beer drinkers to be community-focused. The brewery’s Founders Club offers the usual special access to one-off beers and even experiential brewing opportunities, but it also asks them to give back to their community.

“We want to offer more than just beer but rather community,” R.J. said.

Throughout the past two years, as the Whitlows’ dream crumbled and then rose from the ashes in an entirely new city, they leaned on friends and family for encouragement.

“Our friends and supporters seemed to always show up at the right time with the right amount of encouragement,” R.J. said. “That kept us going. People were like, “You can’t stop now!” I always thought I was a grateful person, but I’ve learned how much more I could be grateful. I am taking none of this for granted.”

One of the 24 beers on tap this weekend is called 3rd Street Sunrise. It’s a special one to R.J. and Kristi.

“We feel liberated that we’ve moved on and put it to rest,” said R.J. “This is a new sunrise for us. We may be two years behind our original plan, but we feel like our calling is here and this is the right place.

“There’s always another sunrise.”

If you go

5 Rights Brewing’s grand opening is March 22-24 at the brewery’s new location, 1514 Third St., Marysville. Hours are 2 to 10 p.m. March 22, noon to 10 p.m. March 23, noon to 8 p.m. March 24.

There will be 24 beers on tap, including collaborations with Reuben’s Brews and Georgetown Brewing. The collaboration with Reuben’s is a hazy IPA called Crush the Groove. The Georgetown Brewing collaboration is also a hazy IPA called Arctic Delay because brewing of the beer was delayed due to last month’s snowstorm.

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