Skookum Sail Repair meets needs of local sailors

On July 1, Hilary Neevel and Chris Tretwold opened Skookum Sail Repair to serve local sailors who were having to...

By Anne Maertens

Skookum Sail Repair
Owners: Hilary Neevel, Chris Tretwold
Opening Date: July 1
Address: 1101 N. State St., Suite 107
Phone: (360) 734-2443
Square Footage: 3,000

Repairing sails requires a lot of space.

In order to spread out sails to make measurements and assess damages, Skookum Sail Repair Owner Hilary Neevel said she and her business partner, Chris Tretwold, needed a location with a large, open floor plan.

They eventually found the bottom floor space at their new State Street location, which was exactly what they needed, she said.

Previously, Staaf Sails was the only repair shop in Bellingham, but it closed in the fall of 2008. Neevel, who spent three years working at Staaf, said it was a valuable learning experience, as well as a great opportunity to get to know local sailors.

A lot of those sailors helped convince Neevel and Tretwold to open a sail repair business.

“People were basically freaking out because there was no one locally [who fixed sails],” Neevel said. “I’ve run into a number of people who knew me at Staaf sails, and they were all encouraging me [to start a shop].”

The next closest sail repair shop is located in Anacortes, a trip that for many people who moor in Bellingham and Birch Bay either takes approximately an hour to drive or six hours to sail.

Although a recession isn’t the ideal time to start a business, Neevel said it might be a better time than any to start a repair shop.

“If anything people are trying to do repairs rather than buying new sails,” Neevel said. “It’s kind of a niche that somebody needed to fill.”

So far business has been better than they expected, but they’re hoping to pick up more through word of mouth. Neevel said a lot of the work they have been doing so far involves making UV covers, which protect sails when the boats are docked.

One sail in need of repair had turned yellow along the seam because it had been “sun burnt” from over exposure. This deteriorates sails and makes them subject to wear and tear.

Neevel said she was working to determine whether it would be cost efficient to cut off the worn edge and create a smaller sail.

Although Skookum has the material and equipment to build sails from scratch, she said it would be pretty hard to compete with the overseas market, but it is something they would be willing to venture into.

In addition to repairing sails, they can repair kite boarding sails, as well as canvases for bike trailers and anything that requires a large, industrial sewing machine.

If a sailor is unsure what repairs need to be made, Neevel said she will do an assessment for $15 and make a list of the necessary repairs.

When it comes to making any repair, Neevel said she is careful to do the job correctly.

“I’m very detail oriented,” Neevel said. “I definitely take pride in doing things the right way.”

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