Kim Karrick opened Scratch Distillery in 2015 in a redeveloped former antique mall near the ferry terminal in Edmonds, a community about 15 minutes north of downtown Seattle. She’d decided to start a distillery where she lived, to make gin, vodka, whiskey, aquavit and liqueurs.
The building’s owner planted lush gardens and encouraged Karrick to redevelop the interior space. Knowing of the owner’s plans for the gardens, she requested that they include rosemary, marjoram, geranium and sage to go into her distillates. The greenery borders the distillery’s deck area where tastings, cocktails and snacks are offered outdoors and in a high-ceilinged tasting room overlooking the deck and gardens.
For Karrick, the nearby Skagit Valley supplies organic grains like spelt, millet and malted barley for the distillery’s Edmonds Own Whiskey. The whiskey is aged in oak barrels on the premises, as is everything the distillery makes, from scratch, with 98% of ingredients from Washington State, including wheat, potatoes and apples.
Like many others, Karrick has found that the aesthetics of place can impact a business’s development. Natural beauty, together with a strong sense of community, work together to fuel creativity, as well as bring in customers.
“There are so many great restaurants, and there’s a small-town feel, but not too small,” she says of Edmonds. About 10 years ago, Edmonds began changing quickly, she says. Younger families moved in, the monthly art walk expanded to include wine walks, more galleries opened, and artists enhanced local architecture with murals.
“More restaurants have been able to draw a lot of people here for a daytime adventure,” says Andy Cline, second-generation owner of Edmonds-based Cline Jewelers. That’s been good for his jewelry business. “Edmonds is a great destination to commemorate special life events. It’s a friendly town, and very walkable,” he says. “You’re footsteps away from the Sound and the ferry, with spectacular mountain views.”
To recharge creative batteries, employees of the design firm Ten Gun Design often take in natural scenery. With an office just three blocks from the water, staff take lunchbreak walks to the beach, watching for seals. One-on-one meetings might take place en route to and through the nearby City Park or the Edmonds Marsh.
“There are multiple ecosystems within the same walk,” says Janelle Milodragovich, CEO of Ten Gun Design. “It’s possible to go from city to forest within three minutes if driving to Yost Park.”
Recharging can come through the city’s designated Creative District, too. “When you walk through the community, you pass murals, and a vibrant art and bookstore scene,” she says. Coffee breaks take place at Walnut Street Coffee, lunch at The Cheesemonger’s Table, and birthday celebrations at Salish Sea Brewing — everything within walking distance and independently owned.
“Business owners in Edmonds are hands-on owners, and there’s a feel of family-run operations,” Cline says.
Those restaurants have also provided opportunities for cross-business collaboration. For example, in the past, Cline has provided restaurant certificates to jewelry buyers as a gift with a purchase. “We like to support our favorite businesses and business owners,” he says. That generosity has extended to local nonprofits during these leaner pandemic times — such as a recent $25 Edmonds Food Bank donation for every $100 gift card sold.
For Ten Gun, sense of place leads to customer satisfaction; the 101-employee agency works with Microsoft, Amazon, Paccar, and other top clients. Clients are attracted to the design firm’s light-filled offices — spacious due to the lower price per square foot in Edmonds.
“We have clients who could request meetings at their locations, but they’d rather come to our location in Edmonds because they love it,” she says. Clients even develop preferences for favorite Edmonds restaurants.
A community of creatives
Local business owners say the town’s relative affordability and feel helps them attract and retain talent. “We employ design, 3D and motion folks who were effectively priced out of the real estate market,” Milodragovich says. “But these creative types could still find a more-affordable home in Edmonds.”
The Edmonds community has led to innovation in Karrick’s business, too. She created the Scratch Pride Club, where members can try out new flavors. “It’s like a playground for feedback,” she says. Members often suggest or even bring her ingredients from their gardens, such as sage for a limited-edition blackberry-sage liqueur.
Typically, Karrick teaches classes on gin and cocktail making. The pandemic has demanded extra creativity from everyone, Karrick included. So, she’s scheduled online cocktail classes and a “Giniology” course — shipping ingredients to participants in advance.
In 2020 more of the town’s thriving arts scene has gone online. Edmonds is home to a creative community of art and performance, hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. But innovative solutions are coming forth, as expected.
For example, the 2020 Puget Sound Bird Fest took place online, with webinars, photo contests and workshops, while the 2020 Write on the Sound conference similarly was held online, with attendees from throughout the country and beyond. The Edmonds Center for the Arts — a usual hub — is currently unable to host live events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so moved to livestreamed events. Likewise, the Cascade Symphony Orchestra (CSO) curates virtual events. In December, the Edmonds Center for the Arts will host WE SPEAK Festival, an evening-long, spoken-word poetry and storytelling celebration, targeted at youth.
“What makes Edmonds special is that you have a wide range of individuals coming together to be creative in the community,” Milodragovich says. Ten Gun’s partners participated in the committee to refresh murals — a mural is on the wall at Ten Gun, too — and Ten Gun’s talents rebranded Taste of Edmonds and the Cascadia Art Museum.
“The city is a welcoming place for creatives of all ages and types,” she says. “There are activities for kids, and the senior crowd. This intermingling is really something that sparks better outcomes for everyone.”
The Edmonds Creative District is a traditional, walkable small-city downtown featuring a rich mix of arts, culture, creative-sector businesses, public gathering spaces, and historic structures — all on the shores of Puget Sound with panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains.