EATONVILLE, Wash. — On a sunny afternoon at Mill Haus Cider Company in Eatonville, co-owner Steve Schmidt passed out cushions to visitors who decided to stay longer than planned.
"People really enjoy coming here," Schmidt said. "They enjoy the beauty of the grounds and the good food and drinks and meeting people and just being outside."
This is a place that celebrates Eatonville's past when a sawmill was the town's biggest employer.
"I really enjoy looking into the past and the way the old-timers did stuff," Schmidt said. "That's why we have old logging equipment in the taproom and the photos to go with it, just as a reminder of what used to be."
Schmidt built the water wheel out of reclaimed wood and added water features, including a koi pond. He set up the grounds so groups of all sizes could gather around campfires.
"Most of our evenings are pretty cool here," he said, "and to sit around a fire is, for a lot of people, as close to camping as they're going to get, and they just love the atmosphere here."
In the taproom, things are hopping. On a weekend Mill Haus will sell a pint of handcrafted cider every 45 seconds. The kitchen churns out flatbread pizzas delivered to tables by fast-walking servers. There was a scallops special on the day we visited and some tasty desserts.
As a businessman, Schmidt is always happy to see new faces.
"We have over 2 million people that go to Mount Rainier National Park every year and a lot of them drive right past here," he said.
But deep down, Schmidt gets the biggest kick out of seeing local families gathering here.
"This is a very special town," he said. "When people become ill or someone passes, it's amazing how this town rises up and supports its people so I guess I felt inclined to build something that was worthy of the town itself."