New venture dives into business on Iowa

   Gone Diving, a new dive shop in Bellingham, is scheduled to open in January.
   Owner of the new venture, Charlynn Sutton, will lease a 1,720-square-foot space at 1740 Iowa Street for the business.
   The new shop will offer diving instruction for beginning to advanced divers, retail sales and both local and warm-water trips.
   For instruction, Sutton said the business will use the pool at nearby Arne Hanna Aquatic Center. The business will be a PADI affiliate, she said.
   Although Sutton currently owns a boat for diving trips, she is looking to get a different one for clients. She said the San Juan Islands are one of the best places in the world to go diving and Gone Diving will be running trips to the San Juan Islands out of Bellingham.
   Sutton said she decided to open the business after she noticed another dive shop in town, Aqua Sports, which used to be located on Maplewood Avenue, go out of business. She said that the closing created enough demand for another shop in the market.

Western grads open
home-décor store

   Recently married Western Washington University grads Brent and Linda Reed have opened an upscale home-décor store in Blossom Commons at 155 W. Kellogg Rd.
   The business, which features handcrafted furniture and décor, mostly imported from Mexico, opened in mid-November.
   The Reeds, who met in the Business Department at Western several years ago and married last January, both said they’d rather put their business skills to use for themselves rather than someone else’s company.
   The idea to sell custom-made Mexican products came about because of the couple’s frequent travels to Mexico to visit Linda’s family.
   “We wanted to bring something here that was very unique and Bellingham didn’t already have to offer,” said Linda.

New business
won’t go to the dogs

Anne Kneesch finally let the dogs out. And in doing so, at long last, she’s been able to open her own business.
   Kneesch, a 30-year veteran of the dog show circuit, primarily showing Russian Wolf Hounds, last month purchased Artesano’s from Ed and Linda Stonehouse.
   “I had wanted to own my own business since high school, and I’d found a few stores here and there I liked, but my lifestyle had never been right. For 30 years, I was tied up on the weekends with dog shows,” she said.
   Kneesch, a native Oklahoman, moved to Bellingham from Vancouver, B.C., three years ago and became a regular at Artesano’s. On a recent trip to the store — which sells unique imported gifts, accessories, jewelry and furniture — she learned the Stonehouses were moving to Vancouver, B.C., to focus on another store there and asked her if she’d be interested in buying their Fairhaven location.
   Kneesch said she’s always liked the store because most of the products are imported from Mexico and she’s always enjoyed traveling there and buying interesting items.
   Other than selling some candles that her boyfriend’s daughter makes, and some artwork by a favorite artist of hers, Kneesch doesn’t plan many changes at the store.
   “It’s going to stay the way it was because that’s the way I originally liked it,” she said.

scholarship available

   The Champagne Group, a 10-year-old business-coaching company in Birch Bay, is offering a business-coaching scholarship.
   Owner Pam Champagne, a Master Certified Coach, said she wants to give a local go-getter an opportunity to increase their chances of success through professional coaching.
   To qualify, an applicant needs to fulfill these basic requirements: have a clear and meaningful goal, strong desire, and a track record of success.
   Good candidates might include owners of a startup business, an executive in a nonprofit, or a professional with a new, creative idea.
   Applicants must be residents of Whatcom County. Applications for the coaching scholarship are available by e-mailing Champagne at The deadline for submitting an application is Feb. 10.

Indian restaurant gets new owner
   Although the new sign is not yet on the building, a new restaurant, Kamal Palace, has opened in the former location of Maharaja Cuisine of India.
   According to Kamal Prit, president of the new venture, the building will stay much the same, except for some new color schemes on the inside. She also said Kamal Palace, an Indian restaurant, will offer more entree choices.
   Prit said the ownership change happened in November. She did not disclose the amount of the deal to buy the restaurant at 3930 Meridian St. #J.

Fish on!
Mallahan starts guide service

   A Bellingham man wants anglers to get hooked on his new business, Dave’s Guide Service.
   Dave Mallahan, 36, a longtime commercial fisherman, and recreational fisher since third grade, started his fishing-guide business Nov. 17 and is currently offering drift-fishing trips for steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula.
   “I just decided to open up this business so I can try to make a little money doing what I love to do.”
   Mallahan, who operates a 17-foot Willy’s drift boat, can accommodate two passengers per trip. Cost is $150 per person, with all tackle provided for free. Customers must have a valid license and punch card.
   This winter, Mallahan said, he will mostly be offering guides on the Olympic Peninsula, but plans to return to Skagit and Whatcom county rivers later next year.
   For more information, contact Mallahan at 201-9313.

Tech firm opens
office in Fairhaven

Litzia, LLC, a locally owned and operated technology consulting firm, recently opened a business office at 300 Harris Avenue in Fairhaven inside the Brenthaven building.
   Litzia consultant and owner, Matt Henderson, believes the move will allow for greater visibility, business growth, and will provide customers greater access to Litzia’s resources.
   “The new location,” said Henderson, “provides the space and value to allow Litzia’s staff to offer training, demonstrate network technology solutions, and provide strategic technology planning for existing and prospective customers.”
   Established this year, Litzia clarifies today’s technology with integrated information technology solutions designed to help businesses of all sizes and budgets. Litzia works to empower and provide individuals and businesses with integral IT consulting and outsourced support for Window’s-based networks. For more information, contact Henderson at 360-714-0565 or visit

Bridal Inspirations expo
set for Jan. 13

   The 13th annual Bridal Inspirations Wedding Expo, the state’s largest wedding show north of Seattle, will be presented Jan. 8 in Bellingham.
   The event will feature a fashion show with local models displaying more than 100 dresses for brides, bridesmaids, mothers and flower girls, all in a wide range of sizes. Tuxedos for men also will be modeled.
   Bridal Inspirations will be open from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 8 at the Best Western Lakeway Inn & Convention Center, 714 Lakeway Drive. The fashion show starts at 4 p.m.
   About 50 businesses are expected to participate, offering services for weddings and other special events. Vendors that will be at Bridal Inspirations include photographers, venues, florists, caterers, hair stylists, spas, bridal registries, event and design coordinators, limousines, musicians and disc jockeys.
   Prospective brides can learn about the vast array of options they have, according to Pam Needham, owner of Alicia’s Bridal Shoppe and The Formal House. Off-the-shoulder bridal gowns and ruched skirts are among the latest trends, Needham said. Also, colored bridal gowns — such as ivory, champagne and light gold — rank close in popularity to traditional white gowns.
   Brides are encouraged to register for prizes online at to avoid lines at the show’s entrance. Tickets cost $10 and may be purchased at Alicia’s Bridal Shoppe, 1400 N. State St., or at the event.
   For more information, call Alicia’s Bridal Shoppe at 733-2563.

Upscale children’s boutique opens in 12th Street Village
   Spoiled Rotten, an upscale boutique with clothing and products for infants and young children, opened Nov. 18 in Fairhaven’s 12th Street Village.
   Owner Michelle Toctocan, a mother of four, said she launched Spoiled Rotten after becoming frustrated by the sameness of products, especially clothing, that are available at big-box and department stores.
   “You look twice at someone’s child with a different outfit,” she said.
   In preparation for the opening of Spoiled Rotten, Toctocan reached agreements with designers around the world, including those in Europe. Most of their products are not available at retailers within 50 to 300 miles of Bellingham.
   “These manufacturers are very selective,” Toctocan said. “It’s harder to get some of these clothing lines than it is to get a home loan.”
   Spoiled Rotten, located at the corner of 12th Street and Old Fairhaven Parkway, offers designer clothes, footwear, boots, skirts, dresses, blankets, diaper bags, round cribs and children’s rugs. A preemie line will be available by the end of December.
   Spoiled Rotten is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Hours will be extended in the spring and a Web site will be launched shortly. For more information, call (360) 527-8400.

Joint venture creates
solar-energy company

   Two Bellingham companies, Solar Design & Construction and Home Control Systems Inc., will, under a joint agreement, begin selling and installing photovoltaic (photo-electric) systems starting in January.
   The new venture, Solar Electric Systems, owned by Jack Hardy and Scott Hewitson, will be a certified installer of solar panels produced by Sharp Electronics.
   According to Hardy, who also owns Solar Design and Construction, the new business comes at a time when commercial and residential clients will be able to take advantage of several new economic incentives designed to reduce the cost of solar-generated electricity.
   Hardy said incentives include: no state sales tax on equipment or installation, a 30 percent federal tax credit, a Puget Sound Energy rebate of $575 per kW, and for businesses an accelerated five-year depreciation on solar equipment from the IRS.
   Rates of return of 10 percent to 15 percent on the purchase of solar electric systems are common, said Hardy.
   Hardy said the new business will operate from his current office.
   For more information contact Solar Electric Systems Jack Hardy (360-319-6273) or Scott Hewitson (360-220-0057),

Anacortes company buys Bosman Fuel
   Reisner Distributor Inc., an Anacortes-based fuel distributor and Pacific Pride commercial-fueling franchise owner, has bought out Bellingham’s Bosman Fuel.
   Reisner Distributor Vice President Dan Averill did not wish to comment on the price of the deal, in which the company acquired five Bosman Fuel locations.
   “Our goal is that Bosman Fuel customers will not see a change in customer service,” said Averill.
   Reisner Distributor will offer more service in terms of lubricants, said Averill. He said that Bosman Fuel customers have been notified of the change in ownership, which started Dec. 1.
   Reisner will move its operations at 2422 E. Bakerview Rd. into Bosman Fuel’s current location at 500 Kentucky St. The company will also continue to maintain Bosman Fuel’s office in Lynden.
   Both companies are family owned and Pacific Pride franchise owners. Reisner Distributor has been in business since 1968, and Bosman Fuel since 1972.

Holly Street Baskin Robbins closes, WECU to buy building
   The Whatcom Educational Credit Union has struck a deal with local Baskin Robbins’ owners to buy their location at 619 E. Holly St.
   According to Baskin Robbins owner Randy DeWees, the credit union made him a good offer for the business and the property. He declined to comment on the price.
   The Whatcom Educational Credit Union did not return phone calls regarding its plans for the site.
DeWees said the deal is something both parties will benefit from.
   Although the Baskin Robbins on Holly will close, DeWees said his location at 1235 W. Bakerview will continue to stay in business. He said the ice cream store on Bakerview, which he acquired about two years ago, is a newer building, making it a better place to operate. He also added that the Bakerview location is near the city’s new growth, and brings in more business.

Fancy a Bite closes,
Wasabee to open

   Major changes, it appears, are in store for a downtown restaurant.
    Daniel Kuss, owner of Fancy a Bite, East Meets West, said he has sold his business at 105 E. Chestnut St., after 11 months at the location.
   Kuss declined to go into details about the situation, saying only that he made the decision about two months ago and will now be pursuing different opportunities.
   According to recent liquor license activity, Izumi Asada and Yasuhiro Muramatsu have applied for a license at the location. The new business will be named Wasabee.
   Kuss said he doesn’t know much about the new owners, but said they’ll be taking over this month and will have a new menu.

Medical center set to open
in Ferndale

   Ferndale Family Medical Center is opening its state-of-the-art facility, with a ceremony at 9 a.m. Dec. 13.
   The new $1.8 million building is located at 5580 Nordic Way, just east of the Haggen supermarket. It has 10,780 square feet and room for six full-time doctors. Currently, Ferndale Family Medical Center has only 3,600 square feet and four family physicians — the only ones in Ferndale — serving a population of 9,305. In contrast, nine family physicians are based in Lynden, which has a population of 10,000.
   “We needed more room to attract physicians to the community,” said Dr. John Hruby, a physician at the Ferndale center since 1979.
   Ferndale Family Medical Center already has increased staffing by adding Annie Failoni, an adult nurse practitioner.
   In addition to more room for medical staff, the new center’s features include separate areas for adults and children and a meeting room to accommodate groups of patients with similar challenges.
   “We enjoyed being part of the design-build team for this project, which will improve patient access for the community,” said Gary Honcoop, president of general contractor Roosendaal-Honcoop Construction of Bellingham. Ferndale Family Medical Center is the ninth healthcare facility built by the company in northwest Washington.

Restaurant, clothing store open in Blaine
   Two new businesses opened recently in Blaine.
Ocean Bay, a Chinese restaurant operated by Kaiting and Peggy Huang, opened at 1210 3rd St., and Laura’s Treasure Chest, a used-clothing store specializing in children’s and maternity wear, operated by Kristen Swinford, opened at 215 Marine Drive.

Senior-housing community breaks ground
   Construction recently began on an assisted living and retirement community at 333 E. Bakerview Road, next to Petco.
   The development, being built by Oregon-based Mountain West Senior Housing LLC, is called Spring Creek Assisted Living & Retirement Community. The community will have 162 housing units and cover 145,000 square feet, said Susanna Owens, development manager for the company. Half of the housing units will be for those requiring assisted living and half will be for independent senior living, she said. Owens said the project is estimated to cost $19.5 million.
   In addition to the housing units, there will also be common rooms, a dining facility and a kitchen, said Owens. “We’re trying to keep the project as residential looking as possible,” said Owens.
   Maddox Construction, also from Oregon, is building the facility using local subcontractors, said Owens. She said her company chose Maddox Construction over a local contractor because of their track record in similar projects. According to Owens, building a retirement community is a unique job, requiring the ability to blend commercial and residential features into one, something Maddox Construction is experienced at.
   Although weather may push back the project’s completion, Owens said the development should be open by late fall 2006.
   Owens said market analysts for her company picked Bellingham, because of the need for senior housing and more assisted living. She said it will likely be about three years before demand rises enough to justify building another senior community.

Tasty expansion for
Blaine chocolatier

   Blaine’s Totally Chocolate, a producer of custom chocolate products, will break ground this month on a state-of-the-art 60,000-square-foot factory. The new plant will more than double the company’s existing manufacturing space and will begin operation in early summer 2006.
   According to Jeff Robinson, Totally Chocolate’s founder and CEO, demand for its custom chocolate bars and other business promotional items has skyrocketed over the past three years, stretching the current manufacturing facility to capacity limits. This year, Totally Chocolate will deliver over one million pounds of custom chocolate gifts — the largest amount of product in its history.
   “We were faced with a choice between putting the brakes on further sales growth or investing in a larger, more efficient plant,” said Robinson. “Continued strong customer demand made an excellent business case for expansion.”
   Totally Chocolate’s existing manufacturing plant will be leased or sold, possibly to another food manufacturer.

Port helps local
manufacturer expand

   With some help from the port, the Wood Stone Corporation will soon begin construction of a new manufacturing facility.
   The board of directors (the three port commissioners) of the Industrial Development Corporation of the Port of Bellingham has approved the issuance and sale of up to $8 million in nonrecourse revenue bonds. The bonds will be used to finance the construction of a 52,000-square-foot facility next to its current 60,000-square-foot building at 1801 W. Bakerview Road.
   Industrial Revenue Bonds, through the port, have been utilized to provide tax-exempt, long-term financing for expansion projects for other Whatcom County firms in the past. The process is similar to borrowing money, said John Carter, the port’s chief financial officer, and Wood Stone will be required to pay back the money.
   Officials with Wood Stone, a manufacturer of stone-fired cooking equipment, have said the new facility will focus more on home versions of their ovens, popular in many commercial kitchens. Also, the new facility could allow the company to expand its workforce by as many as 35 people.
   Justin Mitchell, Wood Stone’s vice president of finance, said architects have completed renderings for the project but a general contractor has not yet been selected.
   The company would like to begin construction early next year and complete the project by late 2006 or early 2007, he said.

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