Skein and Tipple: Whidbey Island’s new craft cocktail bar is also a yarn shop

Earlier this week, a new craft cocktail bar opened on Whidbey Island. But just like James Bond’s famous martini, Skein & Tipple has a twist: it’s a yarn shop in the front and a cocktail bar in the back.

“It confuses people at first,” said Marsha Owen, co-owner of Skein & Tipple. “The bar and the knitting, it is not, as far as I know, done before. It merges our two passions together.

She owns the place with her husband, Matt Owen.

“I’m a hand dyer, so I sell all the yarn and dye everything myself,” Marsha said. “And in the evening I am a cocktail waitress, bar back.”

Matt is the cocktail nerd and resident bartender.

“It’s called a Whidbey Bramble,” Matt says, referring to the cocktail in front of him, garnished with a handful of fresh mint and a toothpick strung with blackberries. “We use the Whidbey Island Distillery, which is about a mile and a half up the road here on the island. He uses their blackberry liqueur, which is amazing. And some of their Bunker Rye. I mix fresh mint and blackberries, it makes lemon, and it’s poured over crushed ice.

Matt and Marsha transformed the small space themselves. They covered the old popcorn ceiling with copper tin tiles, installed a copper-plated bar, and in his sleek waistcoat, tie and hat, Matt fits the speakeasy vibe of the 1920s perfectly.

“Since you can’t walk through the front door and into the bar, you have to go through the yarn store,” Marsha said. “The building tells us it’s supposed to be a speakeasy. They have to go through the velvet curtain.

Matt worked as a graphic designer for 35 years and Marsha was a lifelong postwoman, but throughout the pandemic her job started to feel impossible.

“Ninety-four hours a week until Christmas, then after Christmas it went to about 75 to 80 hours a week, no overtime,” Marsha said. “You don’t get paid for overtime, and so after two years of this…”

She was ready for something new.

“We always wanted to have a cocktail bar,” Marsha said.

Marsha quit her job and then Matt was fired. Together, they embarked on entirely new careers.

” In the middle Ages. That’s not scary at all!” Marsha laughed.

They found the perfect little spot near the ferry dock in Clinton.

“It was the original post office. I will never go out! Marsha joked.

And they asked for a liquor license.

“They said, ‘Okay, we’ll give you your liquor license. You’re going to need eight entrees cooked to order, without reheating the food. Well, our kitchen is not a kitchen. That’s about 100 square feet of a storage closet,” Marsha said. “So we said, ‘Huh? We go to a lot of bars that don’t have food, how is it? They said, ‘Oh, well, they’re considered nightclubs. And to be a nightclub, you have to be open late and have live shows. ”

Never specifying that it had to be music, just live entertainment, Matt built a scene.

“Every Tuesday, live entertainment will knit into the evening,” Marsha said. “Everyone knits, we all talk about knitting. Anytime someone wants to come up and talk about what they’re doing or their new boss, they can come on stage. There is a small stage light.

Last Tuesday was the grand opening and the tables were overflowing with knitters and skeins of yarn.

“I’ve never knitted in a bar, but I drink at home when I knit,” jokes April Ellis of Langley, knitting needles in hand.

Owning a small business isn’t easy, but now Matt and Marsha are putting in long hours doing what they love.

“We got married two and a half years ago,” Marsha said. “I was 49 years old. It was my first marriage, he didn’t move in with me until the day we got married. Then COVID hit and we’re together 24/7. Now we are opening a business together and then he was fired. So if we can do that, we can do anything! We think we are good!

On nights when no one is knitting, Skein and Tipple’s small stage will feature live local music.

About James K. Bonnette

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