Online tutoring company for elite students opens doors

   Partners Eric Kean and Owen Emlen recently opened the electronic doors of an online business designed to help elite students get to the next level. The locally based company, My Elite Tutor (, was an idea the two men developed over the past year, Kean said.
   The business employs the efforts of approximately 10 tutors — including several instructors based locally with ties to Western Washington University (WWU) and Whatcom Community College, Kean said. Other tutors hail from around the United States, including as far away as New York and Boston.
   Kean, a math instructor at WWU, said the company is in the process of spreading the word.
   “We’re trying to target students who want to get into top-tier schools,” he said. This includes helping students with Advanced Placement and SAT exams. “Our little marketing spiel is that all of our tutors are either Ivy League-caliber graduates, or they are Ph.D.s, or they teach at universities.”
   The company utilizes one-on-one communication software designed so students and tutors interact in real-time. The system includes an application-sharing program that allows students and teachers to work on the same project simultaneously.
   Each tutoring session lasts one hour and the cost per session varies according to a tutor’s qualifications and experience. For a tutor who is at the bachelor’s level from an Ivy League level school, the cost is $39.95 per session. For a tutor at the master’s level from an Ivy League-level school, the cost is $64.95 per session. For a tutor at the Ph.D. level or with a law degree, or for a tutor who holds a position at a U.S. university or college, the cost is $89.95 per session.
   For more information, go online at
   Faber Brothers to break ground on two business centers
   Faber Brothers Construction and Bayfield Development Group are about to break ground on two developments just north of Bellingham.
   The first, called the Pacific Commerce Center, will be a 30,000 square-foot condo retail facility at 5060 Pacific Highway, next to Wilson’s Furniture, said David Vargo, project planner for Faber Brothers. The center will feature six condo spaces envisioned for businesses that would complement Wilson’s, such as design and home interior retail uses. The land is zoned for shopping center retail, Vargo said.
   The smallest condo space will be 3,400 square feet and the largest will be 15,700 square feet for an anchor tenant. Vargo said he already has received a letter of intent from a hot- tub company for one of the spaces.
   For more information on this project, call Jeff Hopwood at 734-7500.
   The second project, called the Frontier Commerce Center, will be located across the street on the corner of Rural Road and Sunset Drive. The 12-acre business center will feature eight lots for sale, from one-to-three acres each, that Faber will build to suit. Vargo said the site is zoned for light industrial, warehousing and manufacturing uses.
   He said he has already received letters of intent for four of the spaces. For more information on this project, call Ron Faber at (360) 815-3447.
   Faber Brothers will submit building permits for both projects to the City of Ferndale in the near future and hopes to break ground on each within the month.

Thiel Plumbing liquidating 97-year-old downtown business
   Thiel Plumbing, a 97-year-old business in downtown Bellingham, is liquiding its store and downsizing.
   Dale McAtee, who owns the plumbing service and repair business at 1806 Cornwall Ave. with his wife, Janeen, said the building was recently sold and they must vacate it by March 31.
   “The business climate in Bellingham is such that we can’t afford to relocate it in entirety, so we are downsizing,” he said. The company’s six employees have found work elsewhere, he said.
   McAtee and his wife will continue offering specialty services out of their home office.
   They will offer plumbing consultations on new house construction and remodels, as well as act as a liaison between homeowners and material wholesalers, McAtee said.
   “It’s a part of the business we have been doing for years and can continue doing at home without the storefront,” he said.
   The new owners of the building, Judy McCarthy and Gary Palmer, who also own Blacktop Inc. on Grant Street, purchased the 8,000-square-foot building a few weeks ago. The two have no major plans for the building other than leasing it to new tenants. McCarthy said Thiel Plumbing could have remained a tenant as long as they wished, but chose not to.
   “We’re both really sad to see them go,” she said.
   For more information on Thiel Plumbing, call 733-0860. For more information on the building, call Gary Palmer at 815-4426.

Technical college offers free workshop for women
   Bellingham Technical College will offer a free workshop on March 16 from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The event, in Building G at 3028 Lindbergh in Bellingham, will help women to explore careers in trades and technology.
   Attendees will learn about high-wage/high-skill jobs, get hands-on demonstrations in non-traditional jobs and meet women working successfully as carpenters, computer technicians, electricians, construction workers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, engineering technicians, truck drivers, instrumentation technicians, welders and more. Those who wish to attend can simply drop by. Register by calling 752-8350.
   For more information, call 752-8370 or 752-8441, or visit

Hannegan Seafoods reopens
   After approximately one month of ceased operations, Hannegan Seafoods is back in business. The company, owned by Andy Bitaljic, closed in late January to make improvements to the store and reopened Feb. 23, said new manager Linda Edwards.
   “We did an extreme remodel. We put in more varieties of fish, and we have live crab and lobster,” she said. “We’re going to be a factory outlet.”
   The business, at 6069 Hannegan Road, will continue to specialize in smoked salmon, she said.
   “We have several different varieties, and we do special-custom orders,” she said. Part of the remodel included the creation of a “dry area store,” said Edwards. That portion of the store will feature various items, such as oils, spices and rubs, and Edwards said she plans to create recipes once per month, and make taste tests available for customers.
   For more information, call 398-0442.

Gunsmith opens
   There’s a new gunsmithing business in town.
   Owner Elizabeth Rose got the idea for Pe Ell Enterprises from participating in “cowboy action shooting” competitions at the Custer Sportsman’s Club, where participants dress up in cowboy and cowgirl costumes for shooting competitions. Rose noticed many of the participants weren’t too keen on cleaning their guns.
   The business, which she hopes to have up and running soon, will offer gun cleaning, checkering, refinishing and smithing services, she said. Her idea is to start out by cleaning guns in order to save up for the smithing equipment, she said.
   Starting the business has been a long process. After spending six months researching the market, she’s spent another three months getting a federal firearms license.
   “That’s a procedure unto itself, especially since 9/11,” she said.
   The business is named after the town where Rose’s husband grew up — Pe Ell, Wash. The name also refers to his alias at the action shooting competitions — Pe Ell Slim. The business will be based out of Rose’s shop on Smith Road.
   For more information call 398-7614, or e-mail Rose at

Partners buy historic Fussner Building
   Running, Saratoga Commercial Management, Whatcom Environmental Services, and the law firm of Brownlie Evans Wolf & Lee recently joined forces to purchase the historic Fussner monument building at the corner of State Street and Champion Street in downtown Bellingham.
   The Fussner family built the building in 1922 to house a granite and tombstone carving business. The new partnership plans to remodel the existing building to include office and retail spaces for themselves and tenants.
   Construction is expected to begin this summer and to be completed before the end of 2007. Once construction is completed, a new 1,100-square-foot retail space at the corner location of State and Champion streets will be available for lease.
   For more information, contact Murphy Evans of Brownlie Evans Wolf & Lee at 676-0306; Ken Reinschmidt of Saratoga Commercial Management at 676-4866; Jim Clevenger of Running at 738-6900; and Harold Cashman of Whatcom Environmental Services at 752-9571.

Video store relocates to new space from Sunnyland Square
   Premier Video has moved from its former Sunnyland Square location to 1538 Birchwood Ave., Suite C, in the Albertson’s shopping center.
   Owner Jay Benton said he moved the business from 2414 James St. at the end of January. Benton said his lease at Sunnyland Square was up in August, but that he and the owners struck a deal for him to move before then because of the retail center’s remodel.
   Benton’s video store was located in Sunnyland Square for eight years. He said business has been slow at the new location so far because he doesn’t have his sign up yet, but anticipates it will get busier soon.
   For more information, call 671-0340.

Downtown doughnut shop expands
   Rocket Donuts, located at 306 W. Holly St., has doubled its seating area by expanding into the space next door.
   Owner Jim Swift said he decided to enlarge the space because the shop’s tables were filling up and people started taking doughnuts to go. Swift also said the shop now offers free wireless Internet.
   Swift bought the building a year and a half ago and opened Rocket Donuts in October. After the next-door antique store owners moved to Lynden, he decided to remodel the space and expand into it.
   He also added an eight-foot-tall animatronic robot — a replica from the 1950s science fiction film, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” — to complement his shop’s nostalgic science fiction movie theme.
   Swift opened the new seating area at the end of February and said “lots of people were hanging out, playing chess and working on their laptops.” This month, Swift will also put the finishing touches on the shop’s Web site,, which will allow downtown businesses to order doughnuts online to be delivered.
   “It will be good for meetings, or for when bosses want to be really nice to all their employees,” he said.
   Swift is also getting ready to open his Samish Way Rocket Donuts drive-through stand in the next two weeks.
   For more information, call 671-6111.

Ferndale Retail Center sells for $4 million
   Approximately 13,068 square feet of commercial retail space have sold in downtown Ferndale for $4 million, according to a press release from the Whatcom County Treasurer’s Office. The property, at 1873 Main St., is adjacent to Walgreen Drug Store.
   The site, formerly owned by Ferndale Shops LLC, was sold to Kenneth A. Dayton, Lynn E. Gitlin and Lynn E. Gitlin, Trustee of the Harry Lawson Trust. The new owners were unavailable for comment.
   Current tenants at the site include Hollywood Video, Quiznos and Cash Advance America.

Fairhaven flower shop owner denies demolition rumor
   The owner of Fairhaven’s A Lot of Flowers said a recent letter to the editor in The Bellingham Herald stating the business was slated for demolition is untrue.
   Owner Penny Ferguson said A Lot of Flowers, located on the corner of 11th Street and Harris Avenue, is not slated for demolition and she has not heard anything about the property being sold recently. The business is not closing anytime soon, although she said it might close in the future due to difficulty affording the space’s rent.
   In the letter, the writer also stated she was told a developer had purchased the property.
   Developer David Ebenal owns the property located at 1208 through 1212 11th St., home to A Lot of Flowers and the Knights of Pythias building, where the Colophon Café is located. Wayne Weed, vice president of operations for Ebenal’s company, Ebenal General, said that while the property was on the market for about six months with an asking price of $2.6 million, it has been off the market for the past three months and Ebenal has no intention of listing it any time soon, or to demolish A Lot of Flowers.
   “We had multiple offers on the building, but none materialized,” he said.
   Weed said Ebenal may develop and restore the site in the future, but probably not for another four or five years, and said that every concept he has reviewed for the site has included A Lot of Flowers as a viable tenant, although likely not in the free-standing structure the business is currently located in.
   For more information, call Weed at 738-1940.

New storage facility caters to boats, RVs
   A new RV and boat storage facility recently opened near the airport.
   Gotcha Covered NW RV and Boat Storage is located at 4212 Curtis Road, west of Bellingham International Airport. Owner Steve Sergent got the idea for a covered boat and RV storage facility after owning an RV and boat dealership in Anacortes for six years.
   “That experience really gave me insight into how effective it is to cover your vehicles, in terms of their resale value,” Sergent said.
   The seven-acre site offers 208 canopy-style storage slips ranging in length from 15 to 60 feet, and also features electricity, a dump station, and black-top asphalt so that vehicles don’t get dusty and dirty, he said. The facility is also secured by a fence and managed during the day.
   Sergent said this type of covered storage facility is a new product in this area, but that they are very popular in the South.
   For more information, call 676-7111 or visit

Nutritional therapy clinic opens in Ferndale
   Wellness Connection, a nutritional therapy clinic, has opened in Ferndale. The medical business, owned by certified nutritional therapist Lloyd Zimmerman — who also owns Frank-N-Stein pub — recently started operations at 2116 Main St., where he shares office space with chiropractor Terry Rouse.
   “Wellness Connection focuses on restoring digestive health, correcting vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and developing positive healing attitudes through education and knowledge,” Zimmerman said. “We try to explain to people what’s going on in their body and how it works from a cellular level on up and tracing it back to digestion.”
   Zimmerman said he also works with people on detoxification and food-allergy issues, as well as balancing body pH and chemistry. For more information, call 739-0408.

Laser eye institute to move near airport
   Pacific Cataract and Laser Surgery Institute plans to build a 7,500-square-foot eye-surgery facility on Mitchell Way.
   The Port of Bellingham Board of Commissioners approved a land lease agreement in February with the institute for 1.9 acres near the Bellingham International Airport, according to a press release.
   The institute plans to begin construction as soon as building permits can be obtained. Their goal is to open the facility within eight months of beginning construction. About 12 employees will work at the Bellingham location.
   Founded in 1985 in Chehalis, the company operates 13 surgery centers throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska. Family eye doctors throughout the Pacific Northwest refer patients to its surgery centers. The Institute provides medical eye care with special expertise in cataract surgery and laser vision correction, according to the press release.

Audio/video company opens in Fairhaven
   Erik Wrolson, owner of Reference Media, LLC, said he is planning to open a retail space at the 12th Street Village in Fairhaven. The business, which specializes in installing and selling high-end audio and video gear, should open in Ste. 104 by April 1, Wrolson said.
   “We’ve been providing a retail environment for people to come and listen to and look at high-end audio and video gear at Sycamore Square, but we’re moving to a retail center so we can have a little more separation (between the retail side and the home theater and custom division sides of the business),” said Wrolson, who started the company in early 2004.

Fairhaven gallery and gift shop to move
   When Tracie Barrick opened The Bunch, a gallery in Fairhaven’s Harris Square in May, she didn’t realize she’d be moving quite so soon.
   The shop, featuring works of local artists and craftspeople, soap and body products made at the gallery, and lavender items from her mother’s Sequim farm, already needs more showroom space, according to a press release. The shop will relocate to 1005 Harris Ave Ste. 104 in March, next to Rebecca’s Flower Shoppe.
   “Even tucked away in the Harris Square courtyard, people have been finding me,” Barrick said. “But the new space on Harris Avenue will be more visible.”
   Although the new store space has slightly less square footage, the layout comes with an office loft and no back room, offering more sales floor. The loft will also serve as a work area for hand crafting soap and body products, and a classroom for workshops.
   The Bunch is currently located at 960 Harris Ave., Suite B104.
   For more information, visit or call 671-5769.

Thai eatery opens in Ferndale
   Luxe Thai Cuisine recently opened in the former spot of Poor Siamese Cafe at 5687 3rd Ave. in Ferndale. The business has replaced the void that opened after Poor Siamese moved to Mount Vernon earlier this year.
   Sue Suphapphorn Nuntalogawithoon, who owns Luxe Thai Cuisine with her sister-in-law and a friend, opened the restaurant Feb. 9. Sue moved to Ferndale from Seattle, where she owned a Thai restaurant. When the Poor Siamese owners — who were longtime friends with Sue — decided to move south, Sue decided to move in.
   “The food is similar (to Poor Siamese),” said Sue, who is from Bangkok, Thailand. “We have more different Thai styles.”
   Fans of Poor Siamese Cafe, don’t fret: The business plans to open at 410 Gate St. — in Mount Vernon’s Old Town — by the end of February.



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