By Emily Hamann
The Bellingham Business Journal
She just wanted a place to line dance with her friends.
There wasn’t one nearby, so she decided to make her own. Jessie Anderson opened Kickin’ A Saloon and Dance Hall in May.
She said the nearest places to go line dancing and country swing dancing were in Seattle or Vancouver. Those long trips were different to arrange, she said, so they ended up making the trips infrequently.
“We’d go out twice a year to go dancing,” she said. So she decided to make her own place closer to home. Whatcom County doesn’t have a whole to offer in the way of nightlife for the late 20- and 30-somethings, she said.
“We’re kind of, in this town, missing a place to go when you’re out of college,” she said.
She hopes Kickin’ A becomes that place. In addition to dancing, dance lessons and live music, the saloon offers a full-service bar and appetizers. It’s open Tuesday through Saturday.
She found a location in Ferndale, at 5225 Industrial Place, in the middle of an industrial park.
“We wanted a place that was a little off the beaten path and didn’t have any parking issues,” she said.
At a country dance hall, people tend to show up and stay all night, she said. They don’t hop from bar to bar.
Anderson was born and raised in Whatcom County and has years of experience in the hospitality industry. After graduating from Western Washington University, she moved to the Bay Area in California, where she got a job as the revenue manager at the San Jose Convention Center.
While she was there, Anderson went from managing a contract budget of $8 million to a budget of $40 million.
She left that job after her son was born.
“It was time to come home,” she said. She puts her experience to work running Kickin’ A.
“Pretty much everything that I did in the past helps up here,” she said. “While it wasn’t direct experience, it was all relatable.”
Except at Kickin’ A, she doesn’t have a team of 40 people running the show.
“It’s more intense, just from my perspective,” she said. “Because I’m doing it all.”
When she found the location, its was nothing but a dirt-floored warehouse. Construction took about three months; her dad helped most of the finishing work. Anderson’s mother helped her decorate it. Her son is now 5 years old. Her schedule works out, because she can spend time with him during the day and go off to work at night.
She said she wants Kickin’ A to be a “home for people to go out.”
“We want people who like country to like it here, and we want people who don’t to still have a good time,” she said.
Kickin’ A draws a crowd even on weeknights, Anderson said. People come out for the line dancing Tuesday through Thursday nights.
“A lot of people who have never tried it end up having fun,” she said. “My staff gets out there and dances.”
Then on Saturdays there’s live music. The bar is also good for local country artists.
While many of them play the normal bars, it’s good for them to have a place they can play where they know their style will be appreciated.
“It was something that was missing and there was definitely a demand for it,” she said.
Anderson grew up listening to country music
She loves the country music scene.
“It’s easy to feel like you fit in even if you don’t feel like you know everybody,” she said. “People are a little more down to earth, a little more friendly.”