Kelly Dole is the co-owner of Growler Guys in NE Seattle. He’s lived in NE Seattle for 22 years and finally seized the opportunity to open a small business in his own neighborhood.
Kelly comes from previous careers in the action sports industry and his new venture in the beer world translates well. Especially since Seattleites love their craft beer!
When looking for a location for Growler Guys, Kelly looked at some of the typical hot spots like Ballard, Fremont, Magnolia and downtown. When his real estate agent mentioned an old building with a Chinese name in NE Seattle…Kelly knew it was the old Ying’s Drive-in. He also knew the building was old and special and he wanted it right away.
The Growler Guys building (formerly Ying’s Drive-in) was designed by Roland Terry. One of the northwest’s most famous architects, Terry is more recognized for designing the Canlis building, his work at Nordstrom downtown and Sun Mountain Lodge.
Built in 1961, the building was virtually original with only one permitted change over the years. In fact, it had fallen off the registry of Roland Terry buildings. Designed as a night-club, the property was used as a drive-in for decades. Likely because Terry demanded it, the materials used for the building were of the highest quality. So when Kelly showed up, the building was in great shape for a property with few changes since 1961.
The hip, circular mid-century building plays well to the vibe and service of Growler Guys. The bar is massive and wraps around multiple sides to accommodate their 60+ tap handles, 300 bottles as well as wine. Kelly is proud of the customer experience at Growler Guys and wants beer lovers and non-beer lovers to enjoy themselves.
When you show up, you’ll definitely get FREE beer. Growler Guys let’s you sample small tastes as much as you want. They want you to love your drink. So if you know what you want, they’ll even encourage you to try other beers to see if you’ll find a new favorite.
Growler Guys is truly a place where beer geeks can nerd out all day long on beer but the people who prefer a pinot grigio can also co-exist. Nobody is pretentious!
Growler Guys offers 1oz glasses for the samples.
Growler Guys offers 1oz glasses for the samples. When customers want a tasting journey, Kelly starts them with a low-alchohol blonde ale. He recommends starting light. A little sugar waterto cleanse the palate and then work your way towards darker beers.
The establishment is kid-friendly and even built out a space for kids to hang towards the back. Kelly remembers his parents taking him and his siblings to Shakey’s Pizza and felt a family space was important. Sandbox, toy section and kid furniture will make for a perfect family spot, especially when the weather warms up. Plus Growler Guys keeps 7-8 non-alcoholic taps going at any time! Bring on the kids!
If you’re hungry, you can buy pizzas at Growler Guys and a food truck rotation will be debuting soon.
When standing in front of the Growler Guys building, it’s impossible to miss the enormous, gnarled tree stump. The concrete planter in front of the building is huge and needed a piece of magnitude. Kelly found a 7,000 lb. stump in a field in Maltby, WA…paid the homeowner and muscled it to NE Seattle with a little help.
Small business in Seattle
Kelly feels Seattle is very friendly to small businesses. From the planning, permitting to actually executing, he thinks the city is encouraging and wants small businesses to flourish. $15 per hour is an initiative that Kelly supports and while he experiences that rate differently as a business owner paying it, he still believes it’s important.
NE Seattle has always trailed more popular neighborhoods infrastructure, establishments and identity. As the city center grows, NE Seattle is finding a lot of growth taking place. Some NE Seattle neighbors have even taken to the mantra, “Stop envisioning Ballard.” But Kelly has heard nothing but positive remarks and, “thank you” from his neighbors.
As Kelly looks forward into the future, he hopes that Growler Guys will encourage other small businesses, restaurants, music venues and more to land in NE Seattle. Kelly initially feared he was planting Growler Guys in a “sketchy” neighborhood but the longer Growler Guys has been open he sees all positive signs.
To follow along with Kelly and Growler Guys NE Seattle, visit:
Growler Guys NE Seattle website - Their tap list is updated within 60 seconds of changing out a keg!
Now let’s go have a beer!
Watch our interview with Kelly love on Facebook Live!