It’s been six years, and Scratch Distillery is celebrating. Co-founder Kim Karrick took time to visit with Restaurant News about the distillery
I had lots of questions:
Did you envision or expect the ways your business has grown?
“Not exactly,” she answered. Kim shared that they did not expect to focus — to the extreme they do — on sales from the tasting room. “About a year into the business we reviewed our brand’s purpose and formalized that we are a social business,” she said. Scratch Distillery intends to develop growth in keeping with that priority, which includes the sales and support of their fun and loyal Scratch Pride Spirits Club.
“We also never planned to make 20-plus different spirits,” Kim said. “This keeps it fun for us, and our club engaged, and offers a wide variety. Anyone who comes for a tasting is to likely find at least one item they’d like to take home.”
Outreach is important: Scratch has a distributor who helps get their product further and wider within the state, but about 80% of the distillery’s sales are generated at the tasting room.
A two part question: What has gone “according to the plans…
Kim and Bryan hoped for the success that they’ve experienced with their flagship gins. The conviction that most people will find that they do like gin rings true, she said, especially when folks attend their unique GINiology class.
And…what has happened to change the focus at Scratch Distillery?
Kim said that the industry standard for production uses inexpensive bulk spirits, made in the Midwest by huge, refinery-type stills where corn is available in abundance. The couple named their business “Scratch” for a reason. The Karricks believe it is important to actually make the product with grains from the Skagit Valley to support our local farm economy. Scratch uses organic, non-GMO grains as a way to reward the farmers who take on that financial risk.
Kim went on to explain: “We are not getting into the (organic) certification process as that would actually really increase our costs.” It costs “big dollars” to become certified, she said, “so at this point we just do it (use organic ingredients) because we think it’s a good thing to do. As a producer that makes everything from scratch, it took years to find a distributor that understood what our price points need to be and why the quality justifies it.”
The result? A shift to focus on their tasting room, their in-person tasting room supporters and their Spirits Club, the people who “get us,” Kim explained.
Outcomes that became unexpected improvements or surprises?
“The interest in all of the products that Bryan and I dream up!” Kim said, adding that this surprised them, in a good way. “We create some truly seasonal products, but as soon as that initial batch runs out, people demand more.” Kim smiled when she said this.“Seasonal experiments end up as yet one more product in the regular line-up,” she said.
I know the pandemic dealt all of our food and beverage purveyors a blow, yet Scratch Distillery pivoted and kept folks supplied with hand sanitizer in the early days. Just one example: What are other ways that Scratch Distillery “adapted?”
“We are so fortunate to have wonderful staff,” Kim said. “Most have other jobs or are retired, but love working with us. When the pandemic hit and we transitioned to focusing primarily on hand sanitizer, most of the staff were not dependent on their wage from us to survive, which in turn helped us survive.”
Among the lessons from COVID: The Karricks focused on expenses and became very conscientious and purposeful about Scratch’s re-open hours. Hours the tasting room is officially open are still reduced, but they host private party tours, events and classes, all of which help to cover operating costs.
To celebrate six years, Scratch is helping its friends at Bridge Animal Referral Center (BARC), which is in need of large towels, flat sheets and old but clean comforters or blankets for the animals in their care. Drop off items that you wish to donate anytime during Scratch business hours, and they will be donated to BARC. If you drop the items off during the next two Sundays — July 24 and 31 — from 2-6 pm — you will receive a Fever Tree Pink Grapefruit Tonic four-pack gift, or can take advantage of $6 gin and tonics (or citrus vodka and tonics).
I love the focus on supporting BARC, and I’m personally thrilled, as I have plenty to donate. As many folks have done, some of my “COVID time” was spent cleaning out closets, sorting through what I hadn’t used, worn, etc. Thanks to the Scratch campaign, I have a way to give aid to a good cause.
I know the folks at Scratch are dog lovers. A pup named Cannoli is the poster image on the BARC flyer.
Tell me about your experiences with “canine guests” at the distillery? There’s got to be at least one good “dog story” from the last six years?
Laughter ensues. “We have many regular canine visitors, so much so that we did a professional photo shoot,” Kim said.
“One of the dogs is named Ceora,” Kim explained. “When her owner leaves the distillery with her, sometimes she sits down at the top of the stairs, looks back over her shoulder to our deck, and refuses to get up.” This memory elicits another big grin.“How many people have a regular bunny that comes o their establishment?” Kim asked. “Piper has been coming to the distillery in her baby carriage since our first year open!”
Lastly, what do you see as the future for Scratch?
“We have the ability to open additional tasting rooms now, and had been approached about a wonderful project in Woodinville,” Kim shared. “It was extremely tempting.” But, between the distillery and Bryan Karrick’s optometry practice, the pair work seven days a week. “We don’t mind it because three days of the week Bryan and I get to work together,” Kim said.
And they truly love working together. “It occurred to us that a new second location would stretch us and threaten our ability to work side by side too often,” Kim added. The couple explored their desire to expand, considered the expenses, and decided that any expansion will occur in Edmonds first.
Any plans to increase distribution, and new areas into which you all would like to venture?
“Right now we are focused on increasing our distribution with our existing distributor, including getting our whiskey into more places outside of the distillery tasting room,” Kim said. “Our Edmonds Own Whiskey is now flowing freely, and no longer only available by buying ‘futures, or being a club member.”
Kim added that a spin-off project from the Scratch GINiology class is in the works. “Clients will have the ability to order a custom gin via our website,” she said. “In the process, they will answer many questions. Results compiled will assist Scratch Distillery to hone in and create a specific recipe, personal to their tastes or to a lucky ‘giftee.'” It’s a great option, she said, for those outside the local area or who don’t have time to go through the GINiology class.
Congratulations to Kim, Bryan and the staff at Scratch Distillery for weathering the recent storms and for being such a vibrant member of our Edmonds community.
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Restaurant News task: Keeping up with the “new” can be daunting, but here’s what I’ve discovered on my recent noshing excursions:
New menu items at Jaiya Café
CTBF Toast: Fresh crisp English cucumbers with juicy heirloom tomatoes and basil on feta and cream cheese spread. This combination makes a great topper on a crisp, toasted oat sourdough bread drizzled with olive oil, salt flakes and pepper. A cool and refreshing toast for the summer!
In the “bowl” department, a favorite noodle entrée was “summer-ized” to become Matcha Green Salad: Placed over a bed of spring greens are quinoa, English cucumber, heirloom tomatoes, feta cheese and avocado, dressed with a house-made matcha dressing. Add some chicken for that extra protein too. The perfect way to welcome the warmer days.
A new twist on the Proscuitt of Happiness is the Prosciutto Swiss Croissant, which has thin slices of Italian ham and melty Swiss cheese tucked into a fresh buttery pastry.
Lastly and the best: Jaiya Café has switched over to local coffee roaster Café Vita.
At the Cottage Community Bakery, I’ll be a guinea pig for sure on these Blueberry Galettes.
If pre-ordering isn’t your thing, swing by the soon-to-be-open shop Friday between 5-7 p.m. to pick up your baked goods for the weekend!
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New from Vinbero: Mojo Mushroom grilled sandwich.
So much texture: Shiitake mushrooms are amazing in themselves, and a great replacement for ground beef if you are looking to reduce your consumption — just saying. There is an herbal-infused mojo sauce, blended with avocado, plus caramelized onion and Swiss cheese, which made it taste like a bite of French Onion soup. Plus a garlic aioli — all on Grand Central Bakery’s Como loaf. Lots of flexibility for eaters here : Gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options.
— By Kathy Passage
A specialty gourmet food broker for over 30 years, Kathy Passage has in-depth knowledge on food and the special qualities of ingredients used in the exquisite products she helped bring to market. Kathy brings this unique perspective from the “other side of the plate” to writing about the food and restaurant scene in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.