R.J. Whitlow, co-owner of 5 Rights Brewery in Marysville, recently expanded to the neighboring shop, formerly Carr’s Hardware. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

R.J. Whitlow, co-owner of 5 Rights Brewery in Marysville, recently expanded to the neighboring shop, formerly Carr’s Hardware. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

County craft breweries’ past lives: hardware store, jail

Most breweries in Snohomish County operate in spaces that formerly housed something far different — from boat builders to banks.

Gail Libbing remembers running up and down the aisles of Carr’s Hardware with her sister Janice and brother David. She’d sweep the floors, organize paint brochures and wrap gifts for customers at Christmastime.

For Libbing, the hardware store, founded by her grandfather Milford Carr on Third Street in downtown Marysville in 1923, was home.

For 93 years, Carr’s was Marysville’s go-to hardware store. Now, the paint, nails and screwdrivers are gone.

Three years ago, 5 Rights Brewing co-owner and head brewer R.J. Whitlow started making beer where Libbing once hung out for hours after school.

“It makes us happy to see people mingling in the brewery now,” Libbing said. She and husband Maurice rent the space to R.J. and Kristi Whitlow.

“It was sad to close the store, but I’m so glad that such a community-oriented business has taken its place,” she said.

But remnants of the hardware store live on. R.J. oils the vintage wood floors, the rolling ladder still stands, and pipe pockets and nail bins can be seen from the bar.

“It’ll always be the hardware store to me,” Gail Libbing said. “We just serve beer now.”

Most breweries in Snohomish County are like 5 Rights. They operate in spaces that formerly housed something far different — from boat builders to banks. If the ceilings are high enough for fermenters and there’s enough space for some chairs and tables, a brewer will think about calling it home.

From nuts and bolts to hops and malts

In 2017, R.J. and Kristi Whitlow were looking to expand their brewery, which they had been running out of their garage since 2015.

After a location in Lake Stevens didn’t work out, Kristi learned about the vacant space for rent in Carr’s Hardware. Soon, they built a taproom and brewhouse in Carr’s former storehouse. Since then, they’ve taken over the entire building, and constructed an outdoor pavilion.

The Whitlows embraced the hardware store vibe, right down to making the bar out of wood that matches the nail bins.

“We love the history and story that this building tells and feel fortunate that Maurice and Gail have entrusted us with this space,” R.J. Whitlow said. “It’s been a challenging road to get here, but we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

From hoses and ladders to kegs and fermenters

When Matt Stromberg and Kristine Birkenkopf wanted to cut drains in the kitchen of their new brewery and restaurant in Stanwood, they faced a major challenge: the concrete floor was nearly a foot thick. It needed to be extra strong, as 20-ton fire trucks were once parked on it.

Stromberg and Birkenkopf own SAAL Brewing Co. SAAL, pronounced “sail,” is an acronym that stands for Stanwood Artisan Ales & Lager.

SAAL, Stanwood’s first brewery, is housed in the former West Stanwood Fire Hall. Built in 1929, the fire station originally stood near Twin City Foods on the bank of the Stillaguamish River.

It moved a few blocks north across 268th Street in the 1950s, and later became a public works building.

But more than 60 years later, the building still feels like a fire hall. SAAL has maintained the firefighter motif. The building features red walls, firefighter memorabilia and equipment, a brass firehouse pole and even a fire hydrant. Photos of firefighters adorn the walls.

Upstairs, in the former sleeping quarters, is the official flag of the Leatherheads, a firefighters’ fraternity.

“We have the family and friends of former firefighters come in and say, ‘Hey, that’s my grandfather in that picture,’ ” Stromberg said. “It’s a connection to the past that we wanted to embrace.”

From town hall to beer hall

Have a few beers at River Time Brewing in Darrington, then head downstairs. What you’ll find there might sober you up real quick.

It’s a jail.

River Time is housed in what was Darrington’s town hall. The basement cell, complete with bars, held the town’s miscreants.

If the walls of the two-story concrete-block building on Emens Street in downtown Darrington could talk, they’d have many tales to tell. Built in 1944, the building at one time or another also housed a library, a fire department, a police station, a food bank and a dance hall.

For River Time owners Troy Bullock and Lon Tierney, the building’s history was one of the reasons they chose it when they expanded in 2015. You’ll find old “Welcome to Darrington” signs in the beer garden and taproom.

“People are always excited to hear the history of the building and realize just how much of Darrington’s history is tied up in this building,” River Time head brewer Neil Comeau said.

Mayor Dan Rankin remembers being thrown in Darrington’s jail when he was a kid. He was picked up for jaywalking, put in the back of the patrol car and locked in the basement cell to teach him a lesson.

“I never walked outside of the crosswalk again,” Rankin said, with a laugh.

Rankin, mayor of Darrington for nine years, said he is overjoyed that River Time has rejuvenated a historic downtown building.

“I love going in there for a beer,” he said. “Responsibly, of course.”

Washington North Coast Magazine

This article is featured in the winter issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.

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