On a budget that would make shoestring finances look abundant, Derrick Garrett and Belinda Ferguson made the former home of The Swinging Arm in Black Diamond into a place they could call their own, Taphouse, Ink.
“When we first came in, we really had no money,” Ferguson said. “We decided, let’s just do what we can on our own.”
A group of friends came into the bar and restaurant, which is for patrons 21 and over only, to paint as a birthday gift for Ferguson.
Ferguson had put art on the walls of the business, which is split into two rooms, but Jill Drllevich had a suggestion.
“We wanted to have kind of an industrial, urban feel and we wanted to use re-purposed materials,” Ferguson said. “Jill came in and said, ‘I can bring in amazing art.’ We said we couldn’t afford it. Jill said, ‘We just want a venue.’”
Paintings, bronze sculptures and more add to the decor. Items are provided by Drllevich, who is the founder of the nonprofit Ravenstone Arts, and are pieces are done by local artists. Patrons can browse and purchase what’s on the wall.
Garrett, a Maple Valley native, had originally been involved with the previous incarnation of the business but stepped away but the community had tugged at him to get involved in some kind of venture again.
“When we started four years ago we, we were very successful, we knew it could be successful,” he said. “In talking with Belinda and friends and family and seeing what kind of support we had, we knew the venue and the formula it had to take to make it work.”
Part of that formula was creating an atmosphere that would be suited to their crowd of friends who are in their 30s.
“In a nutshell, it was just a good business opportunity for us,” Garrett said. “One of the things that we really wanted, we wanted to dictate the atmosphere here. The overall goal is just giving adults a place where they feel comfortable.”
The landlord for the building, which is on the west side of Maple Valley-Black Diamond Road, called them in mid-November, Garrett said. They signed the lease in December and opened the doors in mid-March.
“The city has been very helpful, the landlords have been very helpful,” Garrett said. “We’ve gotten a lot of good support from a lot of people.”
Another element that has been key to Garrett and Ferguson has been sourcing local from beers to ingredients for the food which comes out of the kitchen.
Most of the 16 brews on tap are craft beers from microbreweries in the Puget Sound region.
“We try to say that we’re a pub with a good menu,” Garrett said. “We use a local berry. We make our own sauces. I would say we’re 80 to 90 percent scratch.”
Creating a unique atmosphere from the food to the kitchen to the decor shows up in other ways Taphouse, Ink.
For instance, that partnership with Jill Drllevich would likely not have happened had they not worked to stretch their tiny budget by working with her husband, Dan Drllevich, who owns Millworks Outlet in Maple Valley.
Garrett said Millworks is the best place to get re-purposed materials such as the pool cue rack that started out as a gun rack.
Or the steel rail that goes along the wall in the room with the pool table.
The list goes on.
“Once we started working with Dan, we got involved with his wife,” Garrett said. “It’s been a nice addition. We sold a handful of (art) pieces out of here already. For me, it’s one less thing I had to deal with.”
It makes sense that Garrett and Ferguson want the business to run like a well-oiled machine. Both of them work full time but they have four full time employees they rely on.
“It was something that we hadn’t even planned,” Ferguson said. “We thought about it a lot, especially given the recession. All of his staff, when they found out he was back, they all returned. His brother, my son work here also. That’s why this is so special to us, we consider our staff family. After a month of being open, Derrick and I don’t even need to be here.”
Thus far, that’s why the place has been successful, Garrett said.
All the support, the family feel, it set Taphouse, Ink, apart.
A customer and long time friend of Garrett’s said, “it’s like Facebook, but with beer.”
Garrett agreed with that assessment.
“It’s a community here,” he said. “We all enjoy each other.”
That’s what keeps it going despite the virtually nonexistent budget when the bar opened.