Changes brewing in Railroad Avenue building

By Ryan Wynne

Offices are out and studio apartments are going in on the second floor of 202 E. Holly Street, next door to Glow and Bob’s Burgers & Brew. Activity isn’t isolated to the top floor of that building, though. The Black Pearl, currently located on Barkley Boulevard, is opening a second location on the bottom floor.

Lisa Woo bought the building in 1999 and did a massive renovation on it about five years ago. At that point, the second floor was designed for offices.

She recently decided to convert the top floor of the building to nine studio apartments because there’s more demand for them than second floor offices, she said.

The start date for the construction part of the second-floor project, projected to cost $125,000, is still unknown because Woo is waiting for the city to approve permits. Architectural and interior drawings have already been done and Woo said the apartments would be geared toward young professionals.

On the lower level, the Black Pearl, now in its third year, is in the process of renovating three first-floor spaces in the building

“The Black Pearl will be a really good addition in downtown Bellingham,” Woo said.

Black Pearl owner Laila Yusufali said her business is doing better than she expected, especially considering the economy.

“I’m just trying to cover my territory,” Yusufali said. “We are doing so well here, and I’m thinking bubble tea goes anywhere.”

Opening a downtown location just seemed like the logical next step, Yusufali said. She said the new location will reach those who stick to the downtown shopping district and that her inexpensive, healthy food will likely appeal to health conscious and financially conscious people exploring downtown.

Construction is underway, but Yusufali said she doesn’t know how long it will take because they have to hook the facility up to a gas line. She said they are shooting for a July opening.

The new location will have a large enough space to serve as a meeting area for businesses and the menu includes pho, bubble teas, crepes, teriyaki, thai curries, asian salads and gluten-free foods. Food items range in price from $4 to $12.

To see the full menu, visit

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