Business Births, February 2009


Milagro Mexican Grill

Owners: Jesse and Alicia Cantu

Address: 1007 Harris Ave.

Phone: 671-3099

Startup Date: Dec. 27, 2008

Square Footage: 2,200

Jesse Cantu, owner of Jalapeños Family Restaurant, is opening Milagro Mexican Grill in the former Fools Onion spot on Harris Avenue in Fairhaven. This is Cantu’s second attempt at a restaurant venture in Fairhaven, after opening — and shortly after closing — a Jalapeños in the district five years ago.

After 32 years in the restaurant business — including establishing Jalapeños Family Mexican Restaurant as the home of the Big Mama Margarita — Jesse Cantu isn’t done yet.

In late December 2008 Cantu and his wife Alicia opened their second Mexican restaurant, Milagro Mexican Grill. With family seating on the main floor and a lounge with large windows and romantic lighting a flight of stairs above, the layout is just one difference between Cantu’s two restaurants.

“I wanted to give something different from Jalapeños,” Cantu said.

At Milagro, which means miracle, special attention is paid to the preparation of the food — all made from scratch. From their tortillas to their margarita mix, everything but the alcohol and the ice cream is made from scratch daily at the restaurant.

“We can’t make ice cream,” he said. “But if we could, we would.”

The menu at Milagro differs from other Mexican restaurants in that it serves food from the northern region of Mexico as opposed to the south as the other Bellingham restaurants do.

“Northern cuisine has a tendency to be more healthy,” Cantu said. They use different seasonings, never use lard and do more grilling and sautéing.

“You like it the first time, but the second and third time you love it,” he said.

Five years ago Cantu opened a second Jalapeños Restaurant in the strip mall across Harris Avenue from Sycamore Square, but he had to close it a year and a half later. He decided to try again in Fairhaven, this time in the space that once housed Mannino’s Italian Restaurant and Fools Onion.

Cantu said he feels his second attempt at a Fairhaven location will work better because Milagro is equipped with a full kitchen and enough space for a lounge, as opposed to the first Fairhaven location, which had very limited space. He also likes the terrace off the east side of the building, with potential for summer seating, and the balcony at the front.

“We will set up a table on the balcony for couples to celebrate anniversaries and light candles for them,” he said.

With neutral, warm colors and a quiet feel, he hopes people will find the atmosphere comfortable and enjoy their experience dining at Milagro.

“Milagro is like a therapy for people,” he said. “Whatever problems you have, you forget about when you are here. Because the most important thing at Milagro is you.”



Owners: Sally and Ray Poorman

Address: 1311 11th Street

Phone: 734-1382

Startup Date: Nov. 1, 2008

Square Footage: 1,600 square feet



Sally Poorman has opened Covet in Fairhaven — an eclectic mix of colorful, whimsical furniture and clothing.

Tucked in the alley between Harris and McKenzie avenues off 11th Street is one of Fairhaven’s newest specialty boutiques. Blues and reds contrast the pale yellow walls lining a collection of what owner Sally Poorman describes as an eclectic mix of colorful, whimsical products that are unique to her store.

“I want it to be a store for people who can’t find what they want anywhere else,” she said.

Covet carries three lines of furniture, including Cocopa and a line called Dust, that aren’t sold anywhere else in Washington. A red grandfather clock standing near one of the store’s many bay windows resembles something that could be found in a Dr. Seuss book, winding, curving, slightly crooked, and as one of only 10 made, extremely unique.

Not only does the store carry unique furniture items but also unique articles of clothing, including puppy-printed pajamas and cupcake-covered long johns. Onesies for newborns with slogans like “live life, love life” and children’s storybooks are also among the products sold at Covet.

The colorful products and easy-to-navigate layout of the store work well to warm up the area, which Poorman said was “an empty concrete shell” when she and her husband, Ray, purchased it.

With the help of her husband and their friend Josh Thompson, a general contractor, Poorman renovated the former restaurant space into 1,300 square feet of open retail space and a 300-square-foot storage space in the back.

“I’ve thought about setting up pilates equipment back there,” Poorman said. Before deciding to open Covet, she had apprenticed to be a pilates instructor in Seattle.

Poorman’s background includes everything from a minor stint in interior design to airline work to Web site design for the Tacoma News Tribune. After changing her mind about pilates, she wanted to find something that could be a creative outlet as well as an opportunity for social interaction. Several years were spent researching potential lines and products she wanted to include, and she admits she’s had a hard time narrowing down her wish-to-sell list. That’s why she named the store Covet.

“It’s the ‘stuff I like’ store,” she said. “It’s stuff you want.”

The Fairhaven location made sense to Poorman and her husband because of the specialty items they sell. She said she hopes jewelry lines like Dogeared, which is also sold at Macy’s, will draw in customers looking for unique pieces.

As for the grandfather clock, Poorman said it’s one of her favorite items and would be a good focal piece for any room.

“It’s unique,” she said. “It’s something your neighbors won’t have.”


Schmidt Orthodontics

Owners: Andrew and Terra Schmidt

Address: 3115 Howe Place #201

Phone: 738-4772

Startup Date: Oct. 1, 2008

Square Footage: 2,400


Andrew Schmidt is following in his father’s footsteps and opening his own orthodontics business in Barkley Village.

In October, Dr. Andrew Schmidt opened his orthodontics practice with the future in mind. With cutting-edge technology, Schmidt looks to give his patients access to nearly every kind of orthodontic treatment available.

Schmidt, who grew up in Wisconsin, got his doctorate of dental surgery from the University of Iowa in 2002 and his certificate of orthodontics and master’s of science in dentistry from University of Washington in 2004. It was at the UW that Schmidt met his wife, Terra, who currently practices dentistry in Fairhaven. Both Andrew and Terra had more in common than just going to school together — her father was a dentist and his father was an orthodontist, so both were following in their fathers’ footsteps.

Recognizing Barkley Village as a growing area for business, the Schmidts decided it was the perfect location to open shop. Construction lasted six months and the result was a serenely colored, functional and efficient office to cater to families and young patients alike.

“It was a pretty in-depth process,” Schmidt said. “We took ideas from other offices that we liked.”

Because he designed the floor plan with room to grow, he plans on practicing in the same location for the duration of his career.

The waiting room has a corner with shelving containing children’s toys and books. Photos of happy people with straight teeth line the wall — a promise of things to come.

Schmidt offers treatment ranging from interceptive care like palate expanders in children, to functional devices and braces, to adult care and surgery. Using the cutting-edge technology of Suresmile, Schmidt is able to digitally map the inside of a patient’s mouth. He then manipulates the digital image in order to design a custom wire for the patient, which is manufactured by a robot. As a result, treatment time can be shortened by 30 percent to 40 percent, he said. Suresmile is just one of the patients’ many options for treatment.

A large room facing west is the main treatment room. A counter with sanitizing equipment serves as the prep area and each of the four dental chairs facing the large windows is paired with work station and a laptop. The laptops display the patient’s digital charts and X-rays since the office is paperless.

The digital X-rays used at the office have approximately half the radiation and need none of the chemicals film-based X-rays do. The results are immediate and can be displayed on any computer in the building or easily sent to a patient’s primary-care dentist.

Schmidt said the building reflects his vision for the his practice. A friendly, comfortable place with a fun environment and treatment that is tailored to the needs of each patient.

— Amanda Winters

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