Rising with the summer sun

Morning people enjoy the city’s quiet hours


Photo by Paul Moore

The sun rises over downtown Bellingham and the empty intersection of State and Holly streets. In a few hours, this intersection will be packed with cars.


Sunrise: 5:35 a.m.

Gray clouds hang in the sky and a slight chill gives the air a hint of autumn rather than mid-July. The birds don’t seem to mind, though. Their chirping creates a low cacophony that heralds the start of another day. Other than the birds, Bellingham is quiet.

This is the world that is known only to morning people.

Over at Great Harvest Bread, things are astir. The first employee arrived at 3:45 a.m. to warm up the ovens and grind fresh grain. A second staff member came in an hour later to help prep the dough and ensure that when the shop opens at 7 a.m., there will be scones and cinnamon rolls coming out of the oven.

And by the time most Bellingham residents are checking their work e-mail, the early morning crew at the bakery is getting ready for lunch break.

Owner Hans Wendt admits that being a bread maker isn’t for everyone and he makes sure his employees know that being a morning person is “a skill of the job.”

“You probably don’t want to accept this job if you can’t get to bed early,” he tells potential new hires.

The trick to waking up early for work, Wendt said, is simple: Go to bed early. Getting a full eight hours of sleep makes it a lot easier to get up and go.

“It’s not hard to get up, it’s hard to go to bed,” he said, especially in the summer when the sun is still up late.

These days Wendt doesn’t have to be at the store until 7 a.m., since he has a full staff of 12, but he said he still gets worried if he’s not in bed before 10 p.m.

“I usually get up an hour before I go to work because I like to eat breakfast and be fully awake when I arrive,” he said.


Photo by Paul Moore

Great Harvest Bread co-owner Hans Wendt’s hands have rolled plenty of dough after being open for 11 years in Bellingham. Starting his days early means he gets more things done and feels more accomplished, Wendt said. “When I get up at nine, I feel like I’ve wasted my day,” he said.


Though it took a couple of years for Wendt to become accustomed to the life of a morning person, he said he now enjoys it and can stay awake without the assistance of caffeine. The town is quiet early in the morning, he said. Few cars are on the road and the commute is easy, especially by bike.

“I prefer being in the wilderness — I have to live in a town to make a living — and it feels very much like the wilderness in the morning,” he said. “The birds are singing and I find the town very peaceful.”

Another perk of starting work early is that it ends early. You can get a good part of your work done before most people are even at work, Wendt said.

“I like having the afternoon free,” he said. “Banks are open if you have errands to do and you have a nice window for recreation before you get yourself to bed early.”

Having the afternoons open means that Wendt has been able to attend nearly all of his children’s after-school events, from basketball games to dance recitals. And it gives him time to go for a jog before settling in for the evening.

For Jerry Zajackowski, a design engineering checker at Heath Tecna, morning is the time he has set aside for working out. Monday through Saturday, Zajackowski wakes up at 4:40 a.m. so he can get down to the YMCA right when it opens at 5:30 a.m.

Saturdays he gets to sleep in: The YMCA doesn’t open until 6:30 a.m.

“It gets to be habitual and if you miss a day you get out of sync,” he said. “Plus it fits in with my work schedule and there isn’t a crowd of people waiting for the equipment.”

On workdays, Zajackowski goes straight to Heath Tecna after his exercise routine. The morning workout, he said, helps get him through his 10-hour days at a desk.

“It may not be for everybody, but it’s a good way to start your day out,” he said. “I feel like I’ve accomplished something after my workouts. I don’t feel like I’m starting from a dead stop — I’ve got some momentum going into my workday.”

Zajackowski began exercising in the mornings in 1997 when he found that the company offered discounted memberships to the YMCA. Getting up early to work out wasn’t too difficult because he was already used to doing swing shift work and, over the years, being a morning person was just something he said he adapted to.

Some people are just naturally endowed with the ability to awake early in the morning. Nate Rosa, who works the morning shift at the YMCA four days a week, said he has always done morning jobs. From stocking grocery stores to mowing the greens at a golf course to his current opening shift at the YMCA, Rosa said he goes from morning job to morning job.

“I would rather get up early than work late,” Rosa said. “I just don’t function work-wise after 5 p.m.”

Plus, it is easier for Rosa to commute on his bike in the morning.

“The bike ride is invigorating this early in the morning,” he said. “It wakes me up and there are very few cars on the road.”

One thing Zajackowski said he enjoys about working out early is the camaraderie. There’s a consistent group of about 10 people who wait outside the YMCA waiting for the doors to open every morning. Rosa agrees that it’s pretty much the same crowd every day.

It’s pretty easy for morning people to recognize other morning people — they’re the only people awake at that hour to see the sunrise.

“There’s just something about being the person who opens the doors and turns on the lights,” Wendt said.

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