Owner: Leslie Jackson
Address: 929 State St.
Startup date: Oct. 1
Square footage: 660
Initial investment: $1,000
Leslie Jackson, 41, is truly happy these days.
For years, she said, whether it was working in retail or for a general contractor, she was never really doing what she wanted or having very much fun.
A couple months ago, though, Jackson, a lifelong packrat and collector of knickknacks, decided to start her own business selling — well, for lack of a better word — stuff.
Last month, she opened Finn’s Phunk & Junk, a second-hand/consignment/junk store, at 929 State St., Suite B.
“It’s been a really fulfilling experience so far,” said Jackson, on a recent sunny afternoon, as a steady flow of customers cruised her kitschy shop, checking out old bamboo fishing poles, Woody Allen posters and Jell-o molds. “It sounds corny, but I was in a funk a few months ago. I followed my heart and things are working out well.”
Jackson, a native of Tacoma who’s lived in Bellingham since 1989, said she likely got her collecting traits from her mom, who was always bringing home random stuff and today has a garage full of various household items and collectibles.
“I grew up in a pretty eclectic house,” she said. “We’d go out and get weird things, like old glass street lamps and newspaper-printing machines. It was a big, old weird house.”
After leaving home, Jackson continued the collecting craze. When it came time to stock her store, she said, all she had to do was clean out her garage and attic. She also went to friends and relatives and cleared out their storage spaces.
Currently, Jackson has more than 1,000 items in her store, including goods customers are selling through consignment. Items on hand continue to grow, as customers drop off things they no longer need.
Because most items in the store are hers, or from family and friends, Jackson said she enjoys telling customers about a product’s past. Every item, she said, from the “Merv Griffin chair” to the “make-out couch,” has a story behind it.
“I’ve worked in retail before but I was always grumpy,” she said. “Now, because what I’m selling is mine, and it’s stuff I like and I pretty much know the history of everything, it’s a lot of fun.”
Jackson, who has a degree in cultural anthropology from Western, said her new job is also more suited to her education than her previous places of employment.
“This is urban anthropology,” she said.
With a large number of college students frequenting the store, Jackson said she tries to keep her prices as low as possible. Costs currently range from daily free items, like old clothes, to $550 for an antique oak dresser.
In the future, she said, she plans to add local art and help customers sell their old junk on eBay.
Jackson said she is also on the lookout for a new location because her lease with the building’s owner expires in April, and she’s heard rumors of a new building — possibly a hotel — eventually going up on the site.
As for the store’s name, she said, it’s named after her old Irish Wolfhound, Finnbar. And funk is spelled with a PH because, among other reasons, “a friend said ‘funk’looked like a curse word when you drove by.”
— J.J. Jensen
Construction Information Centers, Inc.
Owner: Greg Guajardo
Address: #24 Harbor Mall
Startup date: Oct. 18
Square footage: 300
Initial investment: $50,000
Getting a foot in the door and building a good reputation in the building industry can be difficult projects.
But, says Greg Guajardo, a former finishing carpenter, his new business, Construction Information Centers, Inc., which has offices in Bellingham and Tacoma, can make those tasks a little easier.
“We help people bid on jobs and find jobs,” said the high-energy Guajardo, a native of Texas who’s worked locally in sales and marketing in recent years. “If a business has anything to do with construction, or they’re a new guy or a small guy, they need us.”
Using various sources, Construction Information Centers produces a bi-monthly publication that includes listings for construction jobs in the region that are currently available to bid on, and building permits that have been recently issued.
In addition, Guajardo said, he also has initial consultations with clients so he can learn exactly what they’re looking for, such as jobs seeking only masons or carpenters, and then tailors information to their specific needs. Information can be sent out by e-mail or regular mail.
Obtaining current building information can be especially helpful to subcontractors, new, small- and mid-sized businesses, which don’t always have the same number of contacts as larger, more-established businesses, Guajardo said.
Prices for the service range from $395 to $795, depending on how often clients are seeking information.
“This gives them the edge on their competition, as far as a time frame is concerned,” Guajardo said. “If you’re the first in with a bid, chances are you can get the best bid in and then win the contract. Timing is everything. The sooner you can get information, the more leverage you have in bidding a job.”
As a finishing carpenter in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Guajardo, 48, said he learned how hard it could be to get jobs and win bids, and empathizes with new and small construction business owners in the same position.
“It used to be all word-of-mouth, and as good as you were, how were the builders supposed to find you?,” he said. “Now, it doesn’t have to be like that.”
— J.J. Jensen
Owners: Barb Sobjack and Caree Brownfield
Address: 2422 Crestline Drive
Phone: 671-2198 or 738-7639
Startup date: Nov. 1
Square footage: 150
Initial investment: $25,000
Christmas shopping just became easy. Very easy.
That’s because longtime friends Barb Sobjack and Caree Brownfield can now pretty much do it for you.
The two working moms this month started a side business, www.StockingStuffersToGo.com, a one-stop virtual shop to order pre-packaged gift bags for men, women and pets.
“We just thought we’d make things easier on people by picking out things we’d like or our spouses would like,” said Sobjack.
Gift packs for men and women, wrapped in organza sacks and tied with ribbons, both come with eight different items and cost $74.95.
The men’s bag includes a Pocket Ref 3rd Edition, tire gauge, Sweet Petula Bay Rum and Lime Soap, and a dice game. The women’s package includes lavender dryer bags, aromatherapy candles, step pedometer, teas and handmade caramels. A $21.95 pooch pack includes shampoo, aromatic spritzer and dog treats.
Sobjack, 52, and Brownfield, 33, who’ve worked together at Bellingham Asthma Allergy Clinic for 15 years, said they came up with the idea after Christmas last year, and thought the service could be a way to make the holidays less stressful for some.
“Right before Christmas, people are frazzled,” Sobjack said.
Brownfield added the service could be particularly helpful to men.
“My husband goes out the night before Christmas and by then you’re dealing with the picked-over items,” she said.
Because the items in the gift packs aren’t too age- or lifestyle-specific, Sobjack and Brownfield believe they cater to a wide audience. And they’re something different from typical last-minute presents like fruit baskets and gift certificates.
“They appeal to most people,” Brownfield said. “We got what we’d like and we’re pretty fussy.”
Currently, they have about 500 packs wrapped, which can be shipped by FedEx, UPS or Postal Service. The two have started to receive a steady stream of orders and expect business to pick up as the holidays near. For local orders, they said, customers can pick up orders in person.
If all goes well, Sobjack and Brownfield said they could provide a similar service for other holidays, like Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day.
Brownfield said it feels good to know they’re helping others.
“Every time we put one of these baskets together, we get excited,” she said.
— J.J. Jensen