Innate Snow & Skate
Owners: Dylan Warnberg, Bruce and Kathy Warnberg, Aaron O’Dell
Address: 1215 Cornwall Ave.
Startup date: Nov. 3
Square footage: 3,200
Web site: innation.com
Photo by Isaac Bonnell
Last April, on the final day of skiing at the Mount Baker Ski Area, Corey Warren came home with a chair from the aging Chair 1 lift.
The ski area auctioned off all but 10 of the two-person chairs and held a contest for the remaining relics. Warren’s love letter to Mt. Baker won him a chance to pick through all the chairs to find one he liked.
“They had a whole yard of them and I picked one with the number ‘8,’” he said.
At the time, he didn’t think that his prize would one day be on display at a gear shop he ran with his ski buddy Dylan Warnberg.
But Innate Snow & Skate is more than just a gear shop — it’s part music venue, part art gallery, and part screen printing shop as well.
“Being a gear shop is kind of a disguise. It’s a way to bring people together in one space,” said Warren, who is a co-creator of the shop. “We wanted to start a cooperative art gallery at first. Then we realized it would be difficult to run that kind of business.”
With a love of art, music and snow, Warnberg and a crew of fellow enthusiasts have transformed the former Edge skate shop into a hub of cultural activity. A giant mural, courtesy of artist Yale Wolf, displays local icons such as Mt. Baker and the Herald building — except in this case the red neon sign defines this place as “Heaven.”
The shop is on the monthly Downtown Art Walk and recently showcased the work of local photographer Joe Briggs. One of his photos of Seattle rappers Common Market performing at the store’s grand opening is proudly displayed above the front counter.
Music is also a constant. Already the small stage at the front of the store has hosted local bands Acorn Project and Sweet Beets. During normal business hours, a set of congas sits patiently on stage waiting for anyone to play them. Afternoon jam sessions are common and encouraged, Warnberg said.
In terms of snow gear, the shop offers high-end apparel and equipment designed to handle the wet and windy Northwest weather. The shop offers equal choices for skiers and snowboarders and doesn’t perpetuate the old “us versus them” attitude, Warren said.
“We’re all going to the same spot and we’re all craving the same runs,” Warren said.
After all, searching for the best snow is innate among all skiers and snowboarders.
— Isaac Bonnell
Owner: Heather Fenstermaker
Address: 202 E. Holly St. Suite 118
Startup date: Dec. 5
Square footage: 600
Photo by Lance Henderson
Clothing store owner Heather Fenstermaker can sum up her aesthetic tastes with one quirky example: her vintage 1960s Huffy bicycle that she holds near and dear to her heart.
“I’ve always wanted to fix it up and make it bright and pretty again,” Fenstermaker said. “But right now it is anything but.”
Although restoring her favorite vintage bicycle is not yet on her list of accomplishments, Fenstermaker did recently open a new clothing and accessories boutique for men, women and children, called Swell, in the Gateway Building along Railroad Avenue and Holly Street.
“The store looks like my bike if I ever fixed it up — bright, colorful with a bit of a retro feel to it,” she said.
Fenstermaker’s Swell is located in the former Left Right Left Shoes location, next to Frank James clothing, where it appeared that the former tenant had more storage space than retail space. Fenstermaker took advantage of this opportunity by busting through the wall and uniting the space.
Like many folks in this town, Fenstermaker initially came to Bellingham for the university but stayed for the lovely community.
Fenstermaker was raised in the Mill Creek area near Everett and moved to Bellingham in 2000 to go to school. She graduated in 2005 with a psychology degree and quickly began pursuing her MBA through an online university.
In the meantime, she worked and managed at different apparel stores, including three months as manager of her now-neighbor, Frank James.
It was during her time at Frank James that Fenstermaker noticed the business opportunity next door.
“It had always been a dream of mine to open my own store, plus my MBA is quickly approaching and I need a new challenge,” she said.
Fenstermaker said her store is meant to be a complement to Frank James. While Frank James carries the main clothing items, such as pants, skirts, blouses and sweaters, her store features the layering items and accessories that would complete the ensemble.
In a struggling economy, Fenstermaker said several of her friends have questioned her decision to open a store now, but she is confident in her decision.
“I feel very optimistic,” she said, “and if I am not optimistic, who will be?”
Fenstermaker said she made it her goal to be open by Christmas and along with her eco-friendly, organic clothing items, she offered gift items, such as socks and candles.
She said that new people discover her little corner of Railroad Avenue every day and the area is growing.
“I really enjoy this side of Railroad,” she said.
Fenstermaker said she will hold a grand opening for her store on Jan. 17.
— Lance Henderson
Owners: Jeff Hopwood, Margaret Vlahos, and Matthew and Sara Liao-Troth
Address: 5305 Northwest Ave.
Startup date: Aug. 9
Square footage: 3,840
Photo by Lance Henderson
Every day that Sara Liao-Troth would take her daughter to school in North Bellingham, she would notice the old Pynor’s Market building at the corner of Smith Road and Northwest Avenue.
“I had noticed this sad, little building and I thought what a lost opportunity it was to anchor this neighborhood,” Liao-Troth said.
The market was operational from 1922 until just a few years ago, but Liao-Troth said the location still had limitless possibilities.
In August, Liao-Troth, her husband Matthew, and their business partners Jeff Hopwood and Margaret Vlahos reopened the market as Greene’s Corner, a market and café with a drive-through coffee stand that boasts the convenience of a neighborhood market with a little urban flare.
Hopwood owned the property and said that a market/café with a drive-through coffee component had always been envisioned for the space but it never really got off the ground.
“This neighborhood had always supported a market like this and nobody has really done it in a while,” Hopwood said
Liao-Troth and Hopwood both said they used the Granville Island Market as a model for Greene’s Corner because of its eclectic but sophisticated atmosphere.
“We wanted it (Greene’s Corner) to be casual to reflect the surrounding area but it’s also a bit sophisticated,” Liao-Troth said.
A walk through Greene’s Corner helps to understand the business’s blend of services.
First, customers encounter a café lounge area filled with free wireless Internet and streamlined, comfortable chairs, where customers can enjoy some of the café’s homemade sandwiches, soups or baked goods.
Next, customers are greeted with a few aisles of groceries that include snacks for a drive into the county or items for that evening’s dinner.
“We carry a lot of local, organic products,” Hopwood said. “You can probably get 70 percent of what you need on a weekly basis here. You get the convenience factor without the convenience store prices.”
Finally, customers reach the food and coffee counter.
“Our food is really of the highest quality,” Liao-Troth said. “I really think when people try our sandwiches, soups and baked goods, they will really see a difference from anything else they have tasted in Whatcom County.”
The business also has a commercial-kitchen facility, which it utilizes to create to-go lunch packages for local businesses in need of a good lunch.
“We are delivering tasty packages to people who are a bit more isolated and can’t get to a little café for lunch,” Liao-Troth said.
Hopwood said the North Bellingham area lacks a regional identifier because it is not really out in Whatcom County, but it is not really Ferndale or Bellingham either, although it has a Bellingham address.
Hopwood said the area is similar to around Nugents Corner, which straddles parts of Everson and Deming. However, Hopwood said Nugents Corner has become that area’s regional identifier.
“So Greene’s Corner can become sort of like a locale,” Hopwood said. “We always wanted it to be a comfortable place, where you can say, ‘I’ll meet you at Greene’s Corner.’”
— Lance Henderson