Owners: Brent and Linda Reed
Address: 155 W. Kellogg Rd.
Web site: bellemirage.com
Startup date: Mid November
Square footage: 2,000
Initial investment: $100,000
Don’t be fooled by their ages, say 26-year-olds Linda and Brent Reed — they know the furniture business.
The Reeds, recent Western Washington University grads who married last year, have opened Belle Mirage, a showroom in the Blossom Commons building featuring upscale, handcrafted furniture and décor.
And if customers want to know just about any detail on pieces in their store, the Reeds will likely have an answer, as they carry their own line of furniture, designed specifically for their store by craftspeople who live near Linda’s parents in Jalisco, Mexico.
“I know the people making it, so I feel close to the furniture,” Linda said. “Everything has a nice history.”
The Reeds — who often finish each other’s sentences in cute-couple fashion — said they got the idea for the store in 2004. In traveling to Mexico on visits to see Linda’s parents and plan their wedding, they often found themselves strolling through local shops, where they came across the unique furniture and got to know the artisans.
“I’d go down there and think, ‘How can I get this stuff up here,’” said Brent.
“There’s a lot of furniture stores in Bellingham. We wanted something that was very distinct that Bellingham didn’t already offer,” added Linda.
Among other pieces in the showroom: bedroom and dining sets, bars, hutches, mirrors and chandeliers, all with a variety of finishes and colors to choose from. The Reeds describe the style as Mediterranean.
Prices range from around $20, for home décor items, to more than $5,000 for a hand-carved dining set. Furniture is shipped directly from Mexico and Belle Mirage employees go to customers’ homes to help them set it up.
In addition to the furniture, the experience of shopping at Belle Mirage is also a unique experience, akin to visiting a day spa.
The soft-colored walls, classical music playing, and constant trickle from a water feature make for a relaxing visit. Oftentimes, there’s also homemade apple cider and cookies for customers.
The Reeds said they want a visit to their store to be a breathtaking excursion.
“I love helping people,” Linda said. “We went with custom-made furniture so we can work with people even more.”
While Linda, who grew up in Lynden, and Brent, from the Sammamish area, had opportunities to work in management positions at larger companies, they both said they’d always wanted to own their own business and, fresh out of business school, felt now was a good time to give it a go.
“We’re two very ambitious people,” said Brent.
Added Linda: “This is what we went to college for and we have a great opportunity to put our abilities to use. This is what we’ve always wanted to do.”
— J.J. Jensen
Dave’s Guide Service
Owner: Dave Mallahan
Address: 2704 Old Fairhaven Parkway
Startup date: Nov. 17
Square footage: 180
Initial investment: $14,000
You know that “I’d rather be fishing” bumper sticker? Well, Dave Mallahan is living the dream.
After nearly 20 years as a commercial fisherman, Mallahan, 36, a Sehome High School graduate, has decided to spend less time on the open ocean, fishing with nets on purse seiners and gill netters, and instead do his fishing these days with rods and reels on the serene rivers of the Olympic Peninsula.
In November, he started Dave’s Guide Service, offering drift-fishing trips for steelhead.
“I love being outdoors — it’s my passion,” he said recently on a windy afternoon at his Alabama Hill home, as he tied flies for upcoming trips. “Being outside in nature is so beautiful.”
Mallahan, who went on his first drift-fishing trip in third grade with his dad, said commercial fishing has paid the bills over the years, but he’s always found more personal enjoyment fishing on rivers and being out in the wilderness.
“I’ve been a commercial fisherman for years, but I always sport fished too,” he said. “People thought I was nuts because as soon I came back from commercial fishing I’d go straight to sport fishing.”
Fishing on rivers can be more of a challenge, he said.
In addition to navigating currents, rocks and rapids, it’s Mallahan’s job as a guide to keep an eye out for places salmon typically gather — such as log jams, brush piles, drop offs and the bottoms of steep banks — and put his passengers in a position to land the fish.
Because his customers are often novice anglers, he said, one of the highlights of the job is seeing the looks on their faces when they catch their first salmon.
“It’s really cool when someone who hasn’t fished before hooks into a big one,” Mallahan said. “They get pretty excited — and I get pretty jacked up, too.”
Mallahan, who operates a 17-foot Willy’s drift boat that can accommodate two passengers per trip, said he tries to make the experience as easy as possible for his customers by providing everything needed to fish. About the only things they need to bring are a valid fishing license and punch card and snacks and beverages.
Cost is $100 per person for a half day and $150 per person for a full day.
Originally, Mallahan had hoped to offer guided trips in Skagit and Whatcom county rivers, but now said that’s not too likely because the rivers here aren’t usually in very good fishing shape for too long.
In addition to starting the business as a way to make a living doing what he loves, Mallahan said it’s also a way to get more people hooked on fishing, especially kids.
“I don’t see too many young kids fishing today, they’re all stuck on the computer,” he said. “It’s a shame because they’re missing out on the outdoors and being outside. I couldn’t imagine not being outdoors as a kid, especially growing up around here.”
— J.J. Jensen
Owner: Gary Stephens
Address: 2120 Grant St., Suite 1
Web site: www.WashingtonChoppers.com
Startup date: May 5
Square footage: 900
Initial investment: $50,000
Gary Stephens has it good.
For the last seven years, he’s made one of his passions — graphic design — his profession, serving as owner of WebReign Graphics. Recently, he turned his other passion — motorcycles — into a business, too.
This spring, Stephens, 52, who’s been riding motorcycles since he was 11, opened Washington Choppers, a motorcycle parts and accessories store. Now, when he’s not working on Web and graphic design on the top floor of his Grant Street warehouse, he’s helping build motorcycles on the bottom floor.
“It’s a pleasure to come to work,” said Stephens. “You always do great things when you’re working with your passion.”
Stephens, who’s owned dirt bikes, street bikes and the “more civilized” custom bikes, said he decided to open the shop, in part, because of the resurgence in popularity — thanks to television shows like “Orange County Choppers” and “Biker Build-Off” — of custom-built bikes and choppers.
Washington Choppers, he said, specializes in parts for custom builds, bobbers and choppers — bikes that have been created by “chopping” components off stock motorcycles and then rebuilding them with specific parts the owner would rather have.
The shop, Stephens said, is an authorized dealer for Big Bear Choppers, Custom Chrome, Jammer, Motorcycle Stuff and Mid-West Ultima and thus has access to more than 40,000 parts and accessories.
The bulk of customers so far, he said, have been Canadians who save a great deal on international shipping and handling costs by buying from Stephens rather than ordering online from other U.S. stores.
Locally, the majority of customers have been custom-bike owners who need parts that aren’t normally carried at typical bike shops.
“What I focus on is the builder,” Stephens said. “I get parts for the guy who wants to get his hands dirty. I help them figure out what components they need and make it happen.”
While Stephens, who also operates RocketRom, a CD duplication and DVD replication business at the warehouse, plans to spend the majority of his time focusing on his tech companies, he said he gets equal enjoyment out of helping people design Web sites and motorcycles.
“I’ll never be rich (with Washington Choppers) like the boys on TV, but it’s fun,” he said. “And hopefully I’m going to get to help some people fulfill some of their dreams.”
— J.J. Jensen