Owners: Dan Kuss, Kinuko Kuss
Address: 105 E. Chestnut St.
Startup date: Dec. 22
Square footage: 1,300
Initial investment: Did not disclose
Opening their own restaurant has been a lifelong dream for Dan and Kinuko Kuss, and they feel their travel experiences play a crucial role in the atmosphere of Fancy a Bite East Meets West.
Kinuko Kuss has lived in Japan most of her life and has traveled the world, attending French culinary schools and working at restaurants in several different countries. Dan Kuss moved to Japan 33 years ago and his previous work allowed him to travel the world, sampling different eateries along the way.
“I think those experiences that we both have added a totally international flavor to this restaurant,” said Dan Kuss. “We have a different approach to how we prepare and present our food to customers.”
The “East Meets West” part of the name doesn’t refer to the orient, even though both of them are from Japan.
“With that part of the name, we wanted to convey the idea that no matter where you are, east and west meet, so this restaurant has a bit of flavor from all over the world,” Kuss said.
One of the challenges the Kusses have encountered opening a restaurant in Bellingham is getting people to try them out.
“We already have a good base of regulars here, but I’m hopeful that others will come by,” Dan Kuss said. “I think we offer something unique to Bellingham that is at least worth checking out.”
Kuss said he likes the location of the restaurant because of the potential of the downtown core and the former Georgia-Pacific property.
“I enjoy the way Bellingham is now, but I also think changes being made will continue to improve the city,” Kuss said. “It is not like the entire city is being recreated, what’s being done is improving what we already have.”
The restaurant has three different menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and they can handle special requests if customers call ahead of time.
“We want to have a wide variety to choose from, improving on some familiar meals as well as offering something a customer hasn’t seen before,” Kuss said.
Moosage to go
Owner: Aard Jordan
Address: N/A (mobile service)
Startup date: March 24
Initial investment: Around $1,500
With so many people pounding away on their computers at work, muscle tension in the shoulders and upper back is becoming a common problem. How can employees get rid of that tension during a coffee break? Aard Jordan believes he has the solution not only for those on computers all day, but just about every type of worker.
Jordan’s mobile massage service will come out to a person’s workplace with a massage chair and offer a menu of 15-minute massages that help relieve tensions so employees can get back to work feeling refreshed.
“Everyone is stressed out these days, whether it’s work or the double-income lifestyle,” Jordan said. “This service gives people a chance to relax, which will ultimately help them work better.”
Jordan had previously been in sales and noticed that for him, sore feet became part of the job. So when he started this massage business, he decided to create a massage menu to address problems created by a wide variety of jobs: Included on the menu is the Keyboard Crunch, Lumbago Melt, Foot Wrap and The Works.
“I wanted to give people a choice of techniques that are consistent,” Jordan said. “That way they know what to expect.”
The Moosage technique is a way of facilitating stress reduction using the practice of appropriate touch in a clothed, seated situation.
“It had to be a massage technique where people feel comfortable in an open office setting,” Jordan said.
Jordan said the key to making this service work is by networking. He realizes that it will take time for employers and employees to embrace this concept.
“In any kind of service business, you should expect it to be a situation where you earn people’s business,” Jordan said. “You shouldn’t expect to be welcomed with open arms. My job is to do this the best I can and hope that word will get around.”
He expects his low price tag to also be an attractive feature. His regular 15-minute massages range from $15 to $25, because he doesn’t have much overhead to pay for.
Jordan said he will market his services toward employees and hopes to convince their bosses that his service is a benefit for the workplace.
“Bringing in someone like myself is a nice little perk that could do a lot toward morale,” Jordan said.
Century 21 Bay Properties
Owners: Carl W.R. Dufton, Diane A. Dufton
Address: 1301 W. Bakerview Rd.
Startup date: March 21
Square footage: 1,479
Initial investment: $80,000
The day someone opens a business can be an exciting experience, but Carl Dufton got a little more than he bargained for when he opened Century 21 Bay Properties in late March.
The opening of the location on March 21 went well, but that evening Dufton started experiencing some chest pains. The pains continued to get worse and he went to the hospital, only to discover he was having a heart attack. It turned one of his arteries was clogged, and doctors put in a stent to remedy the situation. Dufton was able to return to work a few days later.
“It took me completely by surprise, because I never had any cardiac issues to this point, but I feel very lucky,” Dufton said. “It could have been a much worse situation and it really sent a message to me to take better care of myself. I feel fine now, and I’m extremely grateful for the support I’ve received in the real estate community.”
Now that Dufton is back at work, he can see the fruits of his labor. Although the Bellingham office is new, Dufton has quite a bit of experience in the Whatcom County real estate market. He moved to Whatcom County in 1984 and became an agent, selling homes in the Semiahmoo area. By 1997 he opened Semiahmoo Homes, a property management and real estate brokerage. He eventually sold the property-management aspect of the company and changed the name to Bay Properties
As Bay Properties continued to grow in Birch Bay, he was approached by Century 21 on the idea of becoming a franchisee.
“At first I had said no, because I thought we were growing quite nicely from a boutique brokerage to something larger,” Dufton said. “The more I thought about the idea, the more I realized it was a better fit for my company’s future. In order to take that next step, the best way to do it was to associate ourselves with one of the largest real estate firms in the world. With their backing, we were able to take a step forward and open a Bellingham office.”
This agreement also enabled Century 21 to re-establish a presence in the Whatcom County real estate market. Dufton said the last time Century 21 had an office in the area was eight years ago.
Dufton, who has 22 agents in Birch Bay, expects to have between 20 and 25 agents in the Bellingham office in the coming months. He hopes to open other offices in the county in the coming year.
“The real estate market in this area is still quite brisk, and there is room here for more choices when it comes to buying and selling homes,” Dufton said.
As home prices continue to rise, Dufton is mindful of the reports that speculate that Bellingham’s real estate market is a bubble that is getting ready to burst, but he doesn’t think that will happen.
“I think there will be a stabilization of housing prices soon, but it would take a recession for at least three quarters to drive down housing prices,” Dufton said. “Bellingham has too much going for it, and there will continue to be more demand than supply for homes.”
The Duftons recently named Ray Pelletti as branch manager for the Bellingham office, and aside from the heart issue, Carl Dufton said the process of opening the business has gone smoothly.
“What has really made a difference early on is that people recognize the Century 21 brand. We’re a relative newcomer to the Bellingham market, but we’ve been able to get off to a good start when it comes to getting listings and clients,” Dufton said.