Monroe business getting signed up

NW Signs taps Sharinabean’s on Main for $10,000 in signage, rebranding after contest review

Kelly Sullivan

A new downtown Monroe business owner is receiving $10,000 in signage and rebranding that could provide a shot in the arm at a pivotal time in the young company’s development.

Sharina McCrain opened Sharinabean’s on Main nearly seven months ago, and last month it was announced she beat out around a dozen other business owners in the city’s historic corridor for a donation by NW Signs, which also recently opened in the area. NW Signs staff chose McCrain because her background.

“We looked at who could really benefit the most as far as what they had now, and traffic that went by — where we knew it could make a big impact,” said the NW Signs owner Brian Stoddard. “There was also a bit of human interest with Sharina. She just has a fantastic story.”

McCrain said after nearly 15 years at a banking company she’d had enough of the brief time spent with her daughter, Ciarra. The commute was too much, and her parents were raising her 10-year-old. The two “had no life together,” she said.

The single mother was waiting for the right site while making plans to open her business last year in Monroe. In fact, McCrain said if the space on the corner of Lewis and Main streets not become available for rent, she wouldn’t have opened her doors.

“It just felt like what I needed to do. It was the right move for me — to try down here,” McCrain said. “In my mind it was either going to be downtown, or I wasn’t going to open the location. It just has the feel I was looking for.”

That vibe was conducive to growing a family business and a community, McCrain said. Starting out on U.S. Highway 2 wasn’t an option, she said.

Stoddard said McCrain’s long-term interests are what sold him and his wife on the pick. The couple first walked into Sharinabean’s while on an outing to meet the different business owners that applied for their donation; the application period closed at the end of May.

Stoddard has been in business for about 24 years. The company relocated from Duvall to Monroe in January. Operations outgrew the old site, he said. The family also made the move as well, and now live near the Evergreen State Fairgrounds.

“We were looking at the potential for growth, and saw where things are headed in Snohomish County,” Stoddard said. “We felt Monroe would be a good gateway for that.”

Stoddard connected with the city’s Downtown Monroe Association shortly after relocating, which he partnered with to advertise the offer. He has offered similar donations in communities around the region in the past. None were so hefty as what is planned for McCrain’s shop. While the $10,000 was what was promised, he said the final designs aren’t bound to that amount.

McCrain said the estimate is beyond anything she would have been able to afford. She said every penny has gone into keeping the doors open at Sharinabean’s. Right now the store is supporting itself. She has made no additional income for almost a year, she said.

McCrain said before starting the process she knew she was going to have to get things done cheaply. Tables, chairs, utensils, storage and equipment found in the shop are almost all secondhand. Purchases were sought out largely in thrift stores and garage sales. Items were upcycled and recycled.

Some were also surprise donations from the community, McCrain said.

McCrain is also usually the one at the front counter and manning the espresso machine. Business hours are from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. She works the bulk of those hours almost always with her daughter by her side. She has hired one employee to help out, but can only afford to pay for a part-time position.

“It definitely needs to grow more for me to be able to support myself,” McCrain said.

McCrain plans to build the company into a resource that can help put her daughter through medical school. She also hopes to eventually purchase the other branches of Sharinabean’s that are owned by her parents, including the stand inside the Sky River Medical Center next door to EvergreenHealth Monroe. The couple started their end of the business in 2013, which McCrain helped staff for many years.

“My whole thing with the shop is to make it feel like my home,” McCrain said. “I am a single mom and can’t always afford the newest and the best...”

Even when she could, McCrain found her friends didn’t want it. Usually when people would come over to the house they chose comfort over style — everyone would prefer a well-loved and well-worn couch. So she chose furniture for her store that could be scuffed up, marked with pens and crayons, and games that had already been put to use.

McCrain said she has started to see the fruits of her many labors. She considers herself close friends with the majority of her customers. The game nights she hosts on weekends continue to create ties between all age groups in the community, she said.

That effort is what Stoddard saw when he came into her store. McCrain recently sat down with NW Signs’ designer Dale McLam. He said the announcement posted on social media that McCrain had won the donation was approved and commented on by hundreds of people, many of whom he expects are friends.

“She is great,” he said. “She is a really nice person and she is very community orientated.”

McLam said he will work closely with McCrain to come up with a logo and sign design. He said NW Signs helps businesses build a brand that can be used for years, and in the event that a business owner decides to expand.

For McCrain that translates into continuing to make the storefront a community destination, McLam said. In Monroe, it also means preserving the historic downtown. Both McLam and Stoddard said they have experience working with organizations and city governments that focus on preserving and revitalizing the past.

McCrain said as plans progress, she hopes the designs maintain the essence of her current logo — an image of a coffee cup with a heart formed by steam. She said years ago she was told by a customer she puts some of her own heart into every drink.

McCrain said she hopes to keep that sentiment alive in her shop — to continue to make connections with anyone who comes through the door.

“That is what we need to do as humans,” she said. “We live next door to each other — we should build each other up and reach out and help each other be successful.”


Photo by Kelly Sullivan: Store owner Sharina McCrain helps a customer at Sharinabean’s on Main in Monroe on Thursday, July 6. McCrain will soon have new signage and some branding support courtesy of NW Signs, which also recently moved to Monroe.


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