Owner: Giuseppe Mauro
Address: 1414 Cornwall Ave.
Startup date: early September
Square footage: 6,000
Initial investment: $450,000
It’s been an arduous journey, but Giuseppe Mauro’s restaurant has returned.
It took about three months of remodeling an historic 1912 building, but Mauro was able to rekindle Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant, an eatery that was destroyed by a fire nine months ago.
Mauro said opening the restaurant on Cornwall Avenue has been much more challenging than when he originally opened Giuseppe’s on 1309 Commercial St. in 2002.
“On Commercial Street, the location was ready to go, because the previous tenant was a restaurant,” Mauro said. “With this location (on Cornwall), it was much more challenging because we’ve had to do things like replace all of the electrical wiring and fix the plumbing.”
While the remodeling of the building was difficult (and expensive, contributing significantly to the $450,000 start-up costs), Mauro enjoyed the experience.
“I’d rather start from scratch because it has allowed me the chance to be creative, to design a restaurant just the way I want it,” Mauro said.
What has been particularly satisfying for Mauro is the support he’s received from the community, either from people dropping by during the remodel project or just in casual conversations with people around town.
“In the three years we were open, we were able to build a loyal clientele, and I’m grateful they have waited patiently while I get this new location ready,” Mauro said.
While the atmosphere will be different (the new location includes a water fountain, large Roman columns, chandeliers and separate dining rooms), the menu will be similar to what people saw at the old location.
“One thing I think my customers will enjoy is the open kitchen that we’ve built in this location. They’ll be able to smell the aromas and see their meals being prepared, which I hope will add to their dining experience,” Mauro said.
With the restaurant open, Mauro has other plans in the works. He hopes to open a night club by Christmas in the basement of the building.
“I want the club to be a nice, classy place where couples can go dancing after they’ve enjoyed dinner; it will have a wide variety of music,” Mauro said.
Owners: Fahri Ugurlu, Bryan Ugurlu
Address: 960 Harris Ave.
Startup date: end of August
Square footage: 677 square feet
Initial investment: more than $300,000 (includes purchase of space)
While recently traveling in Italy, Bryan Ugurlu noticed that on nearly ever street corner there was a gelato stand.
“What really caught my eye was that they were always full of American tourists,” Ugurlu said. “It happened so often you just couldn’t help noticing how popular the gelato was.”
Upon returning to the states, Bryan Ugurlu convinced his dad, Fahri Ugurlu, that it’s something that could work in Bellingham.
“It seemed like a calculated risk to me, but I felt if the product was top-notch, this business plan would be a success,” said Fahri Ugurlu, who owns the Coppa restaurant and the Harborside Bistro.
The Ugurlus came across some gelato recipes they liked, and Brian Ugurlu learned how to make the Italian dessert. Combined with other desserts and specialty coffees, they expect Sirena to be a place for people to go for a quick treat, particularly after dinner.
“There is a tremendous amount of restaurant traffic in this area, and people enjoy wandering around after they eat,” Fahri Ugurlu said. “Fairhaven also has more of a European feel to it, with lots of small shops encouraging people to walk around. It’s the perfect fit for this kind of business.”
While Fahri Ugurlu expects quite a bit of after-dinner traffic to come through Sirena, the plan is to be open around 11 a.m. every day, closing at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
“We’ve been studying this concept for several years, and we’re confident it will work year-round,” Fahri Ugurlu said. “Gelato is very light compared to ice cream, and it is quickly becoming something that people think of as a dessert, rather than something you eat only on a warm day. We looked at the gelato market in Vancouver (B.C.) and sales were just as strong in the winter as the summer.”
Bryan and Fahri are already moving forward with plans to open two other Sirena eateries in Bellingham, one in the downtown area and another in Barkley Village in 2006. They also plan on getting their gelato into local grocery stores. With the equipment they already have in place, the business can produce up to 800 liters a day.
“It’s a product that is easy to learn, but hard to master,” said Bryan Ugurlu, a recent graduate of the University of Washington. “I’m very excited about getting this start. I feel like we already have a good team in place. I think this will be a popular Bellingham product.”
Much of the startup costs went toward the purchase of the equipment as well as buying the space.
Owners: Michael and Florita D’Anna
Address: 113 E. Magnolia St.
Website: Under construction
Startup date: Aug. 12
Square footage: 2,800 square feet
Initial investment: $120,000
Opening a second restaurant that is completely different from D’Anna’s Café Italiano helps satisfy two needs for Michael D’Anna: He can offer something that his customers have been requesting for years, and it gives him a chance to be more creative in the culinary world.
“Guests kept telling me they’d like to see a place where they could get a great-tasting burger, as well as a lot of other comfort food,” D’Anna said. “I just waited for the right spot to become available, and I’ve always thought the (former) Calumet space had great potential.”
Offering a completely different menu at Chiribin’s —, ranging from hamburgers to steaks as well as other “comfort” dishes — gives Michael D’Anna a chance to show his culinary expertise in something other than Italian food.
“I enjoy the restaurant business, and I want to broaden what I do when it comes to preparing meals,” D’Anna said.
The process of opening Chiribin’s was less challenging than opening D’Anna’s eight years ago. Much of the equipment and furniture D’Anna wanted at Chiribin’s was already in place, and he didn’t have to go through the building-permit process. With D’Anna’s, he started with an empty shell in what was considered at the time a less-than-desirable part of town.
“Opening D’Anna’s was the most challenging thing I’ve done in my life,” D’Anna said. “I’m sure there were a lot of people who said I wouldn’t make it in that location (at 1317 N. State St.). With Chiribin’s the big thing was changing the color scheme inside the restaurant. Everything else fell into place and it was a very smooth opening.”
The name Chiribin comes from the name of a pet chicken D’Anna had as a child. A large mural of the pet is painted in the back of the restaurant.
“It’s something I just wanted to have some fun with,” D’Anna said.
Creating a menu that is completely different from D’Anna’s will help strengthen the overall business plan, D’Anna said.
“There is a theory out there that the second restaurant often fails, but I think that happens because a restaurant owner tries to duplicate the first restaurant in a new location,” D’Anna said. By creating a much different eatery, D’Anna said he is giving Chiribin’s a chance to stand on its own merits.
“The main emphasis is to go with the best quality products I can find locally,” said D’Anna. “It’s so important in Bellingham to leave a good first impression, because word gets around quickly, whether its good or bad.”
D’Anna is content with the idea of having a second restaurant. He recently sold his wholesale business before starting Chiribin’s.
“My comfort level is inside a restaurant, not in operating other types of businesses,” D’Anna said. “The hours are long, and you can never really get away from it, but it’s more a way of life than a job.”