By Paul Schlienz

A native of Shelton, Wash., and a realtor since 1976, Scott Barnard fulfilled a longstanding desire to bring craft beer to his hometown when he opened the Railroad Tap Station in the heart of Shelton’s historic downtown in October 2018.

“I was looking for something new to keep me occupied,” Barnard said, who had been a craft beer devotee since the late 1980s.

Barnard had already contributed greatly to revitalizing Shelton’s center when, in 1998, he purchased the abandoned building that would one day house the Railroad Tap Station.

“The building was a beautiful one that was built in 1912 by the Simpson Timber Company,” Barnard said. “It was called the Lumberman’s Mercantile Building because it housed a store where the timber industry workers who were employed by Simpson could purchase their supplies. Later it became known as the Miller Building when a department store named Miller’s took it over. By the time I bought it, however, the building had been abandoned for many years.”

Barnard set about renovating the former Lumberman’s Mercantile Building, rechristening it as the 1912 Building. One of its best-known tenants was Xinh’s Clam & Oyster House, which closed in 2016 after a 20-year run. Following Xinh’s closure, Barnard expanded a taproom he had already opened in the building into a full-scale restaurant and pub, seating 86 people.

“So, I’m now a restaurant owner,” Barnard said. “We’ve got 25 taps, we serve Italian food and we have six employees. It’s fun and challenging. I really enjoy working with my employees and watching them grow.”

The Railroad Tap Station gets its name from its location along Railroad Avenue, directly across the street from one of Shelton’s best-known landmarks – a vintage logging train. It is very much a labor of love for Barnard.

“This is not so much about dollars and cents, but giving back to the community,” Barnard said, who envisions the Railroad Tap Station as a community gathering spot. “This is a new kind of community service project. This is a kind of niche business we very much needed in our little town. My desire is to put smiles on faces and make friends.”

One of Barnard’s many fans is Elizabeth Arbaugh, director of the Mason County Historical Society, which operates a museum in downtown Shelton.

“Scott brought that old building back to what it was as much as he could,” Arbaugh said. “I really appreciate his restoration of the building. It’s really nice to see that the Railroad Tap Station does a good business, so the sidewalks downtown don’t roll up at 5 p.m. I just wish there were more people like Scott.”

Heidi McCutcheon, executive director of the Shelton-Mason County Chamber of Commerce, said the 1912 Building is also of great benefit to Shelton’s community of small businesses and sole proprietors.

“There are many of these businesses in Shelton, and by buying and renovating that building, Scott created business space so these proprietors can have their own office downtown rather than working from home,” McCutcheon said. “It has certainly added economic vitality to our downtown core.”

In the future, Barnard plans to transition out of real estate, freeing up even more of his time to help grow the Railroad Tap Station.

“I’m going to keep working on the business, watching it grow,” Barnard said.

Possibilities for the future include expanding the building, but for now, Barnard is pleased with the Railroad Tap Station. He especially enjoys getting to know his customers.

“If you ask me how I’m doing on any given day at the restaurant, I’ll tell you that I just made 20 new friends today.”