By Emily Hamann
The Bellingham Business Journal
It’s downtown Bellingham’s newest coffee shop — and was born from one of Bellingham’s oldest coffee institutions.
The cafe and restaurant Camber opened in August on Holly Street, in the space that used to house The Comics Place. This is Camber’s first retail shop, but it has been roasting and shipping coffee beans to shops around the country since 2015.
David Yake and Andrew Bowman were working at Tony’s Coffee when they started Camber. They each have more than 10 years of experience in the coffee industry.
Yake has been in the coffee world since he was a barista in college, and Bowman’s background is in restaurants.
Todd Elliott, the CEO of Tony’s, also signed on as a co-founder of Camber.
Camber beans are roasted at Tony’s facility in north Bellingham. Camber operates as a sister company to Tony’s.
“There’s definitely no competition there,” Yake said. “We’re doing such a different style of coffee there’s no fear of that.”
Tony’s is known for dark and medium-roasted blends, and can be found on grocery store shelves around Western Washington
Camber specializes in lighter roasts, and focuses on single-origin coffees with beans that come from one region or even one specific farm.
“It’s about highlighting those single estates and bringing coffees that have unique flavors,” Yake said
Camber started selling its coffee in late 2015, and was quickly picked up at a number of cafes.
“We were really lucky to have a really warm reception right out of the gate,” Yake said. “We pretty immediately had a number of cafes come on board and start carrying our coffees.”
Now their coffee is served at 25 coffee shops, mostly in the Pacific Northwest.
They had always had plans to open a cafe, but pushed up the timeline when The Comics Place moved to a bigger storefront up the street, vacating its corner spot at 221 Holly St.
“We had to have it,” Yake said. “We love that corner.”
The space was designed by Dan Welch of Bundle Design Studio and Michelle Banks of Spiral Studios, both of Bellingham. Chuckanut Builders did the buildout.
To make things even more complicated for themselves, they decided to add full morning and evening menus with table service as well.
“We’re really equal parts coffee shop and restaurant,” Yake said. “Part of that is we don’t know how to check our ambitions.
The space is big enough to support a restaurant, Yake said, and also all the owners have a passion for food and wanted to get involved in a restaurant.
“We didn’t want to just do coffee,” he said. “Having been in coffee for so long, it was exciting to do something new.”
One of the biggest challenges so far, Yake said, has been getting the word out about their menu options, and getting customers to think of Camber as an evening hang-out, as well as a morning one.
“One of the bigger obstacles is communicating that we’re a restaurant and also a coffee shop,” Yake said. “People just naturally put businesses in boxes.”
In September they rolled out a new happy hour menu, with some exclusive menu items, as well as deals on beer, cider and wine.
They offer an “eclectic wine list,” Yake said, as well as an extensive beer menu.
They brought on Steven Wiederspohn, formerly of The Local, as beer director.
“Part of what Steven has been really amazing at is building relationships with a lot of breweries that don’t have distribution in Bellingham yet,” Yake said. “We’re excited to have those hard-to-find beers on tap that people can come in and try for the first time with us.”
Their menu includes buttermilk waffles, and the evening menu features items like steamed clams, spaghetti carbonara and roast chicken.
They designed their menu using local ingredients whenever possible.
“Coffee is only grown half a world away,” Yake said. “So it’s a nice complement to coffee to have relationships with local producers wand highlight what’s so amazing about Whatcom County.”