A1 Reglazing Tub
Owner: Lenny Warren
Address: 1012 W. Holly St.
Web site: www.A-1reglazingnw.com
Startup Date: Jan. 3
Square Footage: 1,400 square feet
Lenny Warren has always had a knack for working with old things. Old cars, old furniture and especially old bathtubs always seemed to pique Warren’s interest when he saw them discarded or left as garbage.
“There’s a magic in old things, and I hate when I see them sitting outside the junkyard,” Warren said.
So armed with his love of all things antique, Warren has opened A1 Reglazing Tub Company with a new showroom in Old Town. The company can refurbish bathtubs, refrigerators, pots and pans, metal chairs and other metal and fiberglass items upon request.
“I just kind of took the bull by the horns and made it into a business instead of just something I did on the side.”
Warren started reglazing bathtubs from his home, but business really took off for him when he displayed a reglazed claw-foot bathtub with his business information at the RE Store.
“After that, I had so much work I just had to expand,” Warren said. “It was like I was never at home. I was always working.”
Inside the showroom, customers are greeted with pastel green walls, Victorian furniture and rows of antique, claw-foot bathtubs. Shelves just below the ceiling display claw feet that range from gaudy to understated. Some of the tubs in the showroom have taken on new life and others are waiting in line for their transformation.
“It takes a special talent to be able to spray these tubs and make them look uniform,” Warren said. “And doing it in a confined area in a downward motion makes it tougher.”
Warren said he is fortunate to have been able to learn how to reglaze bathtubs because most people on the West Coast tend to simply replace aging bathtubs. However, Warren said, in the South reglazing is big business handled by companies that employ hundreds of people.
“It’s so old back there and nobody replaces their tubs. Everybody reglazes,” he said. “It’s common household work.”
To Warren, recycling is a hugely gratifying part of his business.
“Recycling helps so much,” Warren said. “If you look at the dumps and all the crap that is out there — half of that stuff can be recycled and we’re in a mess because of it.”
Warren said his location off West Holly Street really picked him. He saw the shop was being repainted, so he asked if the spot was for sale. The manager soon showed up and got the deal rolling.
“It was the easiest deal I have ever come across,” he said.
Citing waterfront redevelopment and news of a new Old Town brewpub, Warren said the area has an interesting dichotomy of new development amid historic Bellingham.
“It couldn’t be any better,” Warren said. “If you think about it, you’ve got all those antique shops going down [Holly Street] — my shop kind of blends right in.”
Right now, approximately 90 percent of Warren’s business takes place in his customers’ houses, but as word gets around, he would like to be selling more and more tubs out of his showroom.
“Word-of-mouth seems to have really kicked my butt and is keeping me busy.”
K Nails & Spa
Owners: Dam Pham and Kim Nguyen
Address: 105 E. Stuart Road
Startup Date: Feb. 12
Square Footage: 1,000 square feet
Kim Nguyen has been doing nails under someone else’s roof for the past five years. She worked and established a clientele, but she always had to pay rent to whomever had their name above the door.
But those days are long gone. On Feb. 12, Nguyen and her husband, Dam Pham, opened K Nails & Spa, a single stop for nails, spa pedicures, waxing and facials.
Pham said the couple works as a team, with Nguyen as the main operator in the salon and Pham doing mostly exterior work and administrative tasks.
“My wife is very good at what she does,” Pham said.
The two were both born and raised in Vietnam, but Pham lived in Saigon while Nguyen lived in the countryside. After the Vietnam War, Pham escaped to a refugee camp in Thailand where he spent a year studying English.
Pham came to the Bellingham in 1980 and attended Whatcom Community College and Western Washington University to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in industrial technology. He soon left to live in Puyallup and work in Boeing’s Auburn plant, but he couldn’t stay away from Bellingham for long.
“I just love the way of life here in Bellingham,” Pham said.
Upon his return, Pham met Nguyen, who had come to the United States in 1991. The couple were married in 1997.
Nguyen never studied English, but her work has helped because most of her clients are English-speaking.
“She really likes to focus on what she is doing but she always tries to engage in a conversation as much as her language skills allow,” Pham said.
The couple said they built up their salon from scratch and chose a decor that complements the services they provide, such as leather-bound pedicure chairs and a padded waxing table and nail table ledges for customer comfort.
“When we designed the place, we kept in mind an environment where the customers could come in and not only make themselves beautiful but also feel relaxed.”
Pham also took no chances on the off-white color that adorned the walls.
“The color we chose for the walls is called ‘Downey,’ and I looked it up in the dictionary and it means soft and soothing and that’s a perfect fit for the environment we are trying to create for our customers,” Pham said.
The couple chose the shop’s location, at 105 E. Stuart Road, for its good visibility. It is sandwiched between Wal-Mart and Costco, plus it can be seen from the Meridian/Stuart Road intersection.
“We have great exposure to the public,” he said.
The couple says their next main challenge is to find employees who are as skilled as Nguyen and will stay with the company for a long time. Although the salon already has one resident nail stylist, Pham said capable and loyal stylists are hard to come by.
“Most people who work in salons for a couple years end up moving on or starting their own shop — just like we did,” he said.
But despite future obstacles, Pham and Nguyen seem content to marvel at what they have accomplished so far.
“This is the first place she has actually owned herself, so this is truly a dream come true for her,” Pham said.
Owners: Kristi Birkeland and Wendy Keniepp
Address: 114 E. Chestnut St.
Web site: www.room2think.com
Startup Date: officially booking rooms in March
Square Footage: 2,800 square feet
So many new and innovative ideas require us to think outside the box. Perhaps in order to do that, one must leave the box behind.
That is what Kristi Birkeland and Wendy Keniepp found out about a year ago when they attended a community group meeting at Room2Think, a creative meeting space, which was then operated in extra office space owned by Logos Bible Software on Commercial Street.
“We loved it,” Birkeland said. “It was terrific.”
Later, when they wanted to schedule a meeting of their own, they found out the space had closed because the company needed the office to house some of their employees.
“So we decided, what the heck, let’s open it back up,” Keniepp said.
The new downtown Room2Think has two meeting spaces designed to facilitate any type of creative meeting. The first space is called “The Focus Room,” which has 350 square feet and is for smaller groups, while the second is “The ThinkBig Room,” which has 1,100 square feet and is for larger events.
“There are a lot of places to have meetings but truthfully they are kind of boring,” Keniepp said. “When you have a fun meeting environment, you end up with a different result. We want to recreate that and I think once you have been here, you’ll want to come back.”
The new Room2Think is splashed with pea greens and burnt oranges, which give the room a bright, fun vibe. The furnishings consist of understated but modern tables and chairs, which can be pulled apart and reorganized to facilitate any gathering. The rooms also have plush and comfortable “breakout areas” where thinktankers can lounge while they dream up the next big idea.
“There’s nothing like this available right now,” Birkeland said. “We’ve been to lots of meetings and the typical meeting venues are hotels.”
But Birkeland and Keniepp said most hotels are not geared toward corporate meetings.
“Sometimes they have the technical equipment you need and sometimes they don’t,” Birkeland said. “And most venues won’t let you put anything on the walls. No tape. No tacks.”
So Room2Think will offer on-site staff for technology needs and functional wall space for easy brainstorming such as graffiti glass, pull and tear paper, and stylishly etched metal board adorned with screw-magnets. This way, participants can scrawl out ideas, post them on the board and then roll them up and take them back to the office.
“We just kept coming up with different, creative ways to allow all the space to be usable, but we wanted it to look good in the process,” Keniepp said.
Birkeland and Keniepp also understand that great ideas are not born on an empty stomach, so all meetings include a snack and full beverage service.
As for meals, participants can either bring lunches to be stored in their commercial refrigerator, have Room2Think cater the meeting with food from a local restaurant for an additional fee or simply walk across the street to several downtown eateries.
Room2Think will also offer anonymous feedback surveys so meeting coordinators can see how participants perceived the event — but Birkeland and Keniepp are confident it will be like no other meeting experience they’ve had before.
“We want it to be fun. When you hold meetings in a hot, drab, small room, you don’t really accomplish a whole lot,” Birkeland said. “If you get out of your everyday environment, you start coming up with new things.”