Baker Marley Shain Rall. (Photo by Will Forester)
Baker Marley Shain Rall. (Photo by Will Forester)

By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC

RENTON, Wash. – When Marley Shain Rall wanted to open a retail store to sell beer-themed baked goods, she decided to run her idea past an expert advisor at the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) who was encouraging – and skeptical.

The advisor, Parteek Singh, who was working at the SBDC office at Green River College, pushed Rall to research examples of successful, narrow-niche bakeries similar to what she envisioned.

Will Forester photo

As they discussed ways to build a broader customer base, Singh suggested pairing the bakery with a taproom. Rall liked the idea, but that led to more sobering discussions about the cost. She credits Singh with helping her understand why access to capital was critical.

“It really doesn’t matter how great an idea you have,” she said. “If you aren’t appropriately capitalized, your business isn’t going to go anywhere.” She and her husband refinanced their home to pull out some equity and arranged to live on his construction salary for several years.

“It’s not easy,” she said, “and I think people really need to understand that. But the SBDC really is an amazing resource and guiding light in helping to make it more manageable.”

Tasty use for spent brewing grains

Taproom. (Photo by Matt Monick)
Taproom. (Photo by Matt Monick)

At The Brewmaster’s Bakery and Taproom (http://www.thebrewmastersbakery.com), everything Rall sells – beer bread, granola, dog treats and hops tea – contains spent grain, beer, brewer’s yeast or hops as a main ingredient.

With so many craft breweries in the Seattle region, she said, it was fairly simple to find local sources of high-quality spent grain. In the beer-making process, grains such as wheat, rye or barley are milled and boiled to extract sugar, which is then fed to yeast to make alcohol.

The leftover, or spent, grain is sometimes used for cattle feed, but most often is composted. When Rall showed up at local breweries and asked if she could have some, most brewers were only too happy to send her off with a five-gallon bucket.

Cooperative relationships with local brewers

Her day typically starts about 5 a.m. with baking projects and doesn’t end until the taproom (http://www.thebrewmasterstaproom.com/) on Benson Road South (in the Enterprise Plaza) closes at 11 p.m. or midnight. While she works to expand the baked goods side of her business, the taproom helps pay the bills and is a way to support the many craft breweries that support her.

With the help of four employees, she serves beer from more than 20 taps, including permanent tap handles from HiFi, Ghostfish, Airways and Postdoc. Several of those breweries sell Rall’s baked goods at their own establishments. For instance, at Cloudburst Brewing in Seattle patrons can purchase Brew Dog Treats made of Cloudburst’s spent grain.

Dog treats to farmers’ markets to business success

Rall first started baking with spent grain in 2011 when her then-fiancé and his brother were home brewing. She began with dog treats, then moved on to granola. When she married in 2013, guests were sent home with a pint mug filled with her granola – and the phone calls followed: “Where can I buy it?”

She began selling granola and dog treats at farmers’ markets and festivals. As her business and customer base grew, she added more products. But she wasn’t sure what her next steps should be.

Supporter Dione Dittmar, co-owner of Airways Brewing in Kent, Wash., suggested that Rall reach out to the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

The Washington SBDC (http://wsbdc.org/) is a network of more than two dozen certified business advisors working in communities across the state to help business owners start, grow or transition a business. The SBDC was established in Washington more than 35 years ago and receives support from Washington State University, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other institutions of higher education and economic development.

 

News media contacts:
Marley Shain Rall, The Brewmaster’s Bakery and Taproom, 425-264-6391, marley@thebrewmastersbakery.com