Photo by Chaunce Shrewsbury: Mill Haus Cider Company employee Nick Baublit and owner Steve Schmidt fill bottles after brewing 300 gallons of huckleberry cider, Sunday. Schmidt has begun a construction project on Eatonville's Center Street that will house his business and a local produce business once complete.
Photo by Chaunce Shrewsbury: Mill Haus Cider Company employee Nick Baublit and owner Steve Schmidt fill bottles after brewing 300 gallons of huckleberry cider, Sunday. Schmidt has begun a construction project on Eatonville's Center Street that will house his business and a local produce business once complete.
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The recently poured foundation off Eatonville’s Center Street, across from Puerto Vallarta and near the newly built Aileen’s Smoke shop, will be the new location of two local businesses within the next year.

Mill Haus Cider Company, an award-winning local cidery, will share the space with The Produce Palace, currently an outdoor produce market.

Mill Haus runs its cidery out of the warehouse behind the Plaza Market, and The Produce Palace, which sells fresh produce during the summer months, is currently situated on Eatonville Cutoff Road near Barney’s Corner.

Steve Schmidt, longtime resident of Eatonville, and owner of Mill Haus bought the land where the new construction is taking place nearly three years ago. After 30 months of working with the city's planning department on permits, taxes and permissions, the foundation has been laid, and construction will begin within the next few weeks.

“Our goal is by the end of the summer to be open for business,” Schmidt said.

The vision for the project, Schmidt said, includes a produce market, a large taproom with kitchen and a 3,200-square-foot warehouse for fermenting, aging and bottling Mill Haus cider. The venue will also feature an outdoor stage for live music and covered patios with fire pits for customers to enjoy during the summer months.

The end product is a huge step from where Schmidt began. His journey began 15 years ago when he established a beer brewing club in Eatonville. One year the club experimented with brewing cider, and Schmidt has been creating cider recipes ever since. Schmidt began selling independently but has since created a much larger operation.

Schmidt’s business has been bottling in its current warehouse for two and a half years but will be moving to the new warehouse once it is completed.

Schmidt runs his business with his son, Caleb Schmidt, who he said is the brains of the new operation. His son graduated with a physics degree from Seattle University four years ago and decided it would be great to work for himself. He positioned his father to sell his cider, which began their current trajectory.

Caleb Schmidt does marketing and accounting for Muir Haus, while his father is the creative mind behind designing the new venue and selling his product. Nick Baublits, Caleb Schmidt's best friend, and his older brother, Justin Bablits, have taken on delivery and operations.

“I’m 60 now, so I need to surround myself with some young guys,” Steve Schmidt said.

Schmidt said his decision to include a produce market within the venue was because it fit well with his theme. Mill Haus uses all locally produced products – apples from Yakima and Grandview and naturally produced concentrates from a cold storage company in eastern Washington. He said he wanted to lease the space to a local company with the same value for local products.

Schmidt met Heather Muirhead, owner of Produce Palace, when she first opened shop and the two became friends. He offered the space to her because of her skill and knowledge in the produce industry.

“She is very good at produce,” Schmidt said. “It will be a great addition to the overall venue.”

Muirhead has been welcoming customers at the Produce Palace for the last three summers and began her fourth this year. She moved to Eatonville with some friends several years ago and fell in love with the area and the small community.

With 20 years of experience in produce — farming, selling and previously owning another produce stand — Muirhead saw an opportunity to open her shop. She said she felt the community would benefit from a small local market.

“I love the customers,” she said. “I love being outside, and I honestly love what I do. I love this community, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know everybody out here. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Muirhead said her business has grown over the years, and she has sought out additional help to meet the demand. Her boyfriend, Rory Harrison, began helping with delivery two and a half years ago, and she hired her first employee four weeks ago. With business growing, she said she is ready to open a year-round establishment.

The Produce Palace is open from April to October each year, ending with a pumpkin patch for Halloween. Muirhead sells local products wherever possible, recently adding local honey, chips and salsa from Penny’s in Sumner, and Rainier cherries. Moving into her first brick and motor location will allow her to operate year round and offer additional products she is unable to keep in an outdoor environment.

Steve Schmidt said Muirhead's facility will be built first. Depending on how construction progresses, he said the new taproom may have to share space with Muirhead for several months, but everyone should have their own space by next summer.

Schmidt said he has plans for various add ons over they next couple of years and looks forward to serving the community with the new venture and a fun environment.

Email info@drinkmillhaus.com for more information on Mill Haus Cider Company, or visit its Facebook page, facebook.com/drinkmillhaus/. Call the Produce Palace at 253-961-4264 or visit its Facebook page, facebook.com/theproducepalace.