Have visitors traveling to Bellingham? They now have somewhere to stay right downtown.
The Hamlet Hotel is on the second floor of 1202 Railroad Ave., in downtown Bellingham. It sits above Benchmark Document Solutions and Jimmy John’s.
Fred and Colleen Schacht have owned the building since 2005. For more than 20 years, it has been the location of their Xerox dealership, Benchmark Document Solutions. Recently they sold that business, but kept ownership of the building.
Their vision turned to the second story, a mostly-empty shell space that they had been using for storage.
“This was The Cottage Hotel back in the day,” Fred Schacht said. The building was built in 1906, and originally had a 12-room hotel upstairs and a bar downstairs.
The Schachts decided to bring the hotel back.
They had their work cut out for them. The original windows had been boarded up and stuccoed over. The studs that supported the original walls were there, but the walls were gone.
“Let’s just say it was pretty rough,” Fred Schacht said. They were determined to keep as much of the original building as they could, including the original wood floors and the exposed brick walls.
“We loved this upstairs even when it was abandoned,” Colleen Schacht said. “It was really fun to design the layout to create four rooms, but out of the existing rooms.” They used where the original rooms had been, but combined them to form four larger, one-bedroom suites, each with a bathroom and kitchen. What had been the communal bathroom became the laundry room and housekeeping space.
“I was blown away by how much work it was to furnish the apartments,” Fred Schacht said. “I thought it would just be a weekend.” They tried to find unique things, to make each suite a little different, and call back to some of Bellingham’s history with old photos and decorations.
“It all takes time,” he said. “But it’s because we wanted the end result to be special.”
They hosted their first guest on Jan. 15.
“It’s more fun than I was expecting,” Fred Schacht said. “Even though I was expecting it to be fun, it’s better.”
They’re able to meet people from all over the country, who are visiting Bellingham to visit their kids in college, go skiing, go to conferences, see a concert and more. Soon, they’ll be hosting an entire wedding party.
They chose to do all their bookings through the website Airbnb. Airbnb is most commonly aimed at people looking to rent out space in their homes, but the Schachts said it’s also just a great way to tap into the community of people looking for lodging.
“It’s like Google for short-term accommodations,” Fred Schacht said. Using the Airbnb website is also a great way to get their name out there.
“It helps us market outside of our local area very effectively,” he said.
Through the site the Schacht’s are able to communicate with their guests before they even arrive, and find out the purpose of their trip and offer as much, or as little, help as the guest wants.
“We don’t have a front desk,” Colleen Schacht said. “We’re not standing in the hall when they get here.”
If they ask, however, she’s more than willing to give advice on restaurants, activities and local sights. Talking to tourists has given them even more appreciation for how much Bellingham is growing, and how much there is to do here.
“We wouldn’t have gotten this far if it hadn’t been for us witnessing other business people downtown putting their treasure and their heart and soul into their business and creating a really unique experience,” Fred Schacht said.
Hotels, in part, rely on the surrounding community to create a place that tourists want to visit. The Schachts have watched new businesses open downtown and expand, and that’s part of what motivated them to open the hotel. They knew people would come.
“This is really cool, people are going to want to come here and experience this,” Fred Schacht said.