Extremes Sports Grill

Owners: Carl and Patty Schuessler
Phone number: 647-7066
Address: 4156 Guide Meridian
E-mail address: extremessportsgrill@yahoo.com
Square footage: 4,500
Startup date: August 10

Carl Schuessler and his wife, Patty, have opened Extremes Sports Grill in the former Meridian Grill location, and hope to lure families into the eatery by making the space more kid-friendly.

    Carl Schuessler followed his love of extreme mountain sports from Colorado to Bend, Ore., and finally set up camp in Bellingham. He and his wife, Patty, wanted to be near Mount Baker’s skiing and snowboarding opportunities after reading an article about the area in a ski magazine.
   Ironically, since he moved here five years ago, he’s spent less time on the mountain after discovering the area’s wealth of water sports.
   And he’ll likely spend even less time adventuring — by mountain or by sea — now that he and Patty have opened Extremes Sports Grill in the former Meridian Grill space.
   Schuessler has worked in the restaurant business for 27 years. He opened his first grill in Colorado and managed the former Elephant & Castle restaurant in Bellingham as well as the Burlington Applebee’s.
   After commuting to work in Burlington while living in Bellingham for several years, Schuessler grew tired of the community limbo.
   “I was detached from this community, but I wasn’t part of their community,” he said.
   He had always dreamed of opening a sports grill that catered to fans of extreme sports as well as traditional ones, such as mountain biking, skateboarding, snowboarding, motorcycle riding, snowmobiling, surfing and skydiving. When the former Meridian Grill owners decided to close and rent out the space, he scored.
   Schuessler and his wife decided to add a unique component to the sports-grill genre: kids. He said he wanted to provide a place where parents could bring their children to catch a ball game together, and, up until now, Bellingham didn’t have anyplace like that.
   “I don’t think there’s a place in town that’s conducive to kids,” he said. “You know, a place you would take a 13-year-old to watch a basketball game. I wanted to broaden the appeal (of sports grills).”
   Schuessler has created a pizza and burger grill — that still includes a bar for adults — where families can watch their favorite extreme or traditional sports on one of the restaurant’s 19 screens, including seven high-definition screens with satellite feeds.
   Five of those screens also have video feeds so customers can bring in recorded videos of their own sports exploits. Schuessler envisions sports teams coming in for post-game reviews or tournament-win parties, where they can watch their own play-by-play action on the big screen to a family-friendly crowd of adoring fans.
   “I hope to one day be the person behind the video camera,” Schuessler said. “Not just the restaurant owner.”

— Heidi Schiller

Fitness Exotica
Owner: Yolanda Hughes
Phone number: 647-1777
Address: 1400 N. State St., Ste. 103
Square footage: 1,100
Startup date: August 2

Yolanda Hughes, a former competitive bodybuilder, has opened Fitness Exotica on State Street.

    Not many gyms around town can boast a class selection that includes Cardio Striptease, Booty Camp, Sexy Flexy and Pole Dancing 101.
   The classes are the brainchildren of Yolanda Hughes, who opened Fitness Exotica, a new fitness studio for women who want to tone up while stripping down.
   Hughes said her driving force for opening the studio is her desire to empower women through what she calls “feminine strength,” or, recognizing the power of their bodies to make them healthier, happier and more alive.
   The small studio is innocuously located next door to Alicia’s Bridal Shoppe on State Street — you could almost miss it. Once inside, however, the high-ceilinged, light and airy space feels larger than it looks from the outside. The studio has polished-wood floors, one wall of floor-to-ceiling mirrors and another with three gilded-frame mirrors. Six brass poles are evenly interspersed throughout the room.
   In addition to working as a personal trainer for Gold’s Gym for the past 10 years, Hughes has trained and competed as an amateur body builder for the past 20. In 1992 she won the World Amateur Championship and also won the Ms. International titles consecutively in 1997 and 1998.
   Four years ago, she took a pole-dancing class in Los Angeles and was immediately hooked.
   “It was fun,” she said of the experience. “I looked like a klutz…but it was fun.”
   After she watched an episode of Oprah devoted to the new trend in pole dancing and strip tease fitness, she started thinking about opening a studio in Bellingham.
   In Vancouver, Hughes trained with a pole-dancing fitness instructor — a Ms. World Pole Fit champion who won the best contortionist category — before opening the studio in August.
   She said that in addition to providing an outlet for women to get in touch with their sensual side, the classes provide a rigorous work out — it’s not just dancing around a pole.
   “You take the same moves and make them more physical,” she said. “I certainly have a whole new appreciation for pole dancing. It’s really an art.”
   She said the pole-dancing aspect of the exercise is especially strength building because many of the moves require the person to hold their own weight up on the pole.
   Hughes has never owned a business before and was frustrated that some of her attempts to market her new business were met with opposition. For example, she said the phone book hassled her when she wanted to place an ad because of her studio’s provocative name and that a local festival organizer refused to let her have a booth for the same reason.
   “Coming into this I knew there would be obstacles, but when you’re on the front of something new, you’re going to face obstacles,” she said. “But that’s okay. I like a challenge.”

— Heidi Schiller

Valhalla Marine
Owner: Hamilton Hayes
Phone number: 671-0646
Address: Bellingham Cruise Terminal
Square footage: 500
Startup date: April 1

Hamilton Hayes has opened Valhalla Marine, where clients can rent either Hayes’ motorboat, the ‘Wahoo’ (pictured), or his sailboat, the 32-foot ‘Piquero,’ with him as captain for a day’s adventure in the San Juans.

    Hamilton Hayes believes boating is a spiritual experience that rejuvenates the body and soul, and he has turned that belief into a career with a new charter business.
   After semi-retiring from his career as a high-tech consultant in the aerospace and computer software industry all over the United States, Hayes moved to Bellingham and took a deep breath of fresh air.
   He’s always been a seafarer, starting in high school as a helping hand on his uncle’s fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico, and has continued the hobby ever since. Recently, his love of boating in the Pacific Northwest inspired him to turn that hobby into a business.
   “I love the islands, and I love to boat and sail, and I decided it would be cool to share that with people,” he said.
   Hayes offers customers two types of charter adventures in which he is the captain: by motorboat or sailboat. Either way, the customer can customize their trip within the range of the San Juan Islands for either a day or an overnight excursion.
   “It’s ideal because I can ask the question, What would you like to do?” he said.
   His high-speed motorboat, the Wahoo — named after his uncle’s fishing boat — seats six passengers and is ideal for short trips to the islands, he said.
   His other craft, a 32-foot-sailboat named Piquero — the name of an ocean bird found on the Galapagos Islands — is perfect for “folks who want to feel the wind in their hair,” he said.
   Hayes also offers boating and sailing training, either separately or as part of an excursion, he said.
   The area around Bellingham’s water is a uniquely beautiful place, Hayes said, and the experience of being on the water can inspire a love of the environment.
   “This is an incredibly beautiful area with incredibly diverse marine wildlife,” he said. “It’s a great thing to connect with who we are, to relax and forget our stresses. It’s a fabulous way of renewing our energy and spirit.”
   Hayes said being on the water heightens senses and allows people to experience new colors, smells and rhythms.
   “Emotionally, we begin to sense how important our environment is around us, how important the species around us are,” he said. “It renews our sense that there’s something bigger that we’re a part of.”

— Heidi Schiller



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