Rocket Donuts

Owners: Jim and Lucky Swift
Address: 306 W. Holly St.
Phone number: 671-6111
Web address:
Square footage: 800
Startup date: October 21

Jim and Lucky Swift have begun the countdown to what they hope will be a doughnuts empire at Rocket Donuts on Holly Street.

    Three … two … one … lift off!
   Doughnuts seem to be on their way back into orbit, and Jim Swift sure is glad about it.
   When Swift was growing up in Los Angeles, doughnuts didn’t have such a bad rap.
   “In those days, doughnut making was a somewhat legitimate profession, but it seems they have gone into a long, slow decline since then,” said Swift, owner of the new Rocket Donuts on Holly Street. “But there’s a new wave of more sophisticated, high-quality doughnuts.”
   It started with Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, he said, and now doughnut shops are sprouting up all across the United States.
   Swift and his wife, Lucky, purchased the building at 306 W. Holly St. 18 months ago and decided to put the fun back in the doughnut world.
   “I’m really into flavor and taste and satisfying products,” said Swift, who has owned a Mexican restaurant in San Luis Obispo and an ice cream franchise with more than 40 stores, and also developed a pie product still sold in Costco stores.
   The result is a galaxy for the senses on Holly Street glazed with ‘50s science fiction-movie nostalgia.
   Baked sugar and butter smells radiate from the kitchen.
   Original science-fiction movie posters from the ‘50s line one exposed-brick wall while a gigantic red rocket mural covers the other.
   Black-and-white science fiction movies play on two flat-screen TVs while vintage surf rock plays over speakers.
   The scene is a combination of modern, cozy and nostalgia, resonating the comforting idea of what people in the ’50s thought the future might be like.
   And then there are the doughnuts themselves, which take center stage in a large glass case in the middle of the store. There are doughnuts with pink frosting and sprinkles, chocolate frosting, glazed and chocolate-glazed doughnuts, powdered sugar sprinkled and raspberry-filled doughnuts.
   The shop seemed busy on its first Friday morning at 11 a.m., but Swift said even more people crowded into the store earlier in the day.
   Already, Swift is in the process of expanding the business. Recently he purchased the Pik-Me-Up Espresso stand on Samish Way and is turning it into a drive-through coffee and doughnut stand. Swift said he’d like to open more locations under the same company, but doesn’t want to franchise them, despite his franchise experience.
   In three years, he plans to redevelop the Holly Street property into a “retro-style, classic brick Old Town Bellingham building,” he said. He is currently working with RMC architects to do so.
   Rocket Donuts, therefore, is just in its initial launching phase and will eventually move to a new location when the building is redeveloped.
   “We may keep a satellite shop in there, but we’ll open in a larger location in the future,” he said. “It’s a test store.”
   Houston, we have doughnuts.

Owner: Django Bohren
Address: 126 W. Holly St.
Phone number: 733-2154
Web address:
Square footage: 1,650
Startup date: September 15

Django Bohren’s quirky T-shirts and novelty gift items have found a home at Merch-Bot, a new shop on Holly Street.

    Many customers who enter Django Bohren’s new T-shirt and novelty gift shop begin laughing as soon as they enter and don’t stop until they reach the back.
   “People come in and spend 20 minutes laughing at things,” he said. “And on the flip side, some people come in and spend two minutes and realize they’re in the wrong store for them and leave. Then we all laugh at them.”
   Indeed, if you’re not in the market for T-shirts featuring steak, zombie or Communist hammer-and-sickle prints, you might want to stay away.
   Then again, you’d be missing out on one of Bellingham’s quirkiest new retail destinations.
   Just one of the many in-store displays features a mannequin wearing a gas mask, toting a cloth armadillo-shaped purse.
   Amid the racks of T-shirts are novelty trinkets and toys such as packaged pirate flags, stick-on side burns and a crazy cat-lady action figure.
   This is where you go to buy the perfect gift for that geeky little brother or kooky friend who likes to laugh when they unwrap a present.
   Bohren’s life story is almost as eclectic as his merchandise.
   Born in New Orleans, as a child he traveled across the country with his father, who was a musician, in an Airstream trailer. As a young adult he worked in music stores and movie theatres, at a weekly newspaper in Casper, Wyo., as a designer-photographer-writer, and as a Web designer.
   After moving to Bellingham and having two children, Bohren decided it was time to settle down with a more consistent, better-paying job.
   That’s when he started Seatthole, a T-shirt company specializing in Seattle bands’ T-shirts. He began printing his own T-shirt line, which he then started selling on his Web site,
   “I started Merch-Bot with a Web site to sell caustic political slogans and as a way to sell local bands’ T-shirts online,” he said.
   In September, he decided to give Merch-Bot a storefront and found a space on Holly Street to sell his wares.
   “The storefront is an extension of the Web site,” he said. “Part of it was to get the warehouse out of my home.”
   Seatthole makes the store’s T-shirts and he orders the novelty toys and knick-knacks from wholesale distributors such as Archie McPhee’s.
   He runs both Seatthole and Merch-Bot from the location, as well as a small Web-design business.
   “It’s a little empire back here,” he said.

Bellingham Family Health Clinic
Owner: Bonnie Sprague
Address: 302 36th St. (in Sehome Village)
Phone number: 756-9793
Web address:
Square footage: 1,500
Startup date: May 23

Bonnie Sprague’s new Bellingham Family Health Clinic in Sehome Village is positioned to draw clientele from Western Washington University and its surroundings.

    They don’t really look like physicians and they don’t really act like physicians, but the nurse practitioners at Bellingham Family Health Clinic perform many of the same duties as physicians.
   The two nurse practitioners at the clinic in Sehome Village offer pregnancy tests, strep and mono tests, liver function tests and draw blood.
   They give injections for birth control and vitamin B12 supplements as well as for a range of vaccines. They can prescribe medications, although they tend not to prescribe many narcotics and they charge about the same as physicians do for similar services.
   Owner and nurse practitioner Bonnie Sprague said nurse practitioners tend to take a more holistic approach to health care and focus on the “whole person.”
   “The draw is that there is more connection,” she said. “You’ll be listened to.”
   Whereas physicians tend to have training in a hospital setting, nurse practitioners are trained in clinics, giving them a different perspective from spending a great deal of time with patients.
   Six years ago, after working at Interfaith Community Health as a nurse practitioner for 13 years, Sprague turned this perspective into her own small clinic in the Squalicum area, staffed by nurse practitioners and nurses, no physicians.
   In May, she closed that clinic and opened a new one in Sehome Village.
   “We felt this location had a lot of people seeing it, a lot of parking, and it’s close to the university,” she said.
   A large white sign posted in the clinic’s window reads “Welcome Students.” Sprague said she wanted to get away from Squalicum to bring more accessible health care to different areas of town. Sehome was perfect because of its proximity to Western Washington University, and Sprague expects a large portion of her patients to be students.
   The clinic has four exam rooms and two nurse practitioners, including Sprague, who specializes in women’s health, and Kirsten Curtis, who specializes in dermatology.
   While there are a few similar all-nurse-practitioner clinics in Bellingham, Sprague said she thinks the idea is a growing trend because of how full physician clinics have become. She said she hopes her clinic will be able to accommodate walk-in patients.
   “There is a need for more access to health care in the primary care realm,” she said.
   And with the influx of students for fall quarter and the corresponding flu season in full swing, Sprague’s clinic is booming.
   “Business is good when it’s cold and flu season,” she said.

— Heidi Schiller



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