The Buzz, January 2009


The Preserve Tea Lounge & Spa opening in March

A new business is hoping to offer solace and relaxation amongst the busy traffic along the Guide Meridian.

The Preserve Tea Lounge & Spa, located at 4220 Meridian St. Suite D across from Pro Golf Discount, will serve a variety of teas and offer several relaxing treatments, from massage to Japanese baths.

Owner Michael Shurte said the cozy tea lounge will take up about a third of the 2,000-square-foot space and will be able to seat about 14 people. The rest of the space will include three Japanese soaking tubs and five massage rooms.

Shurte, who is also a contractor on Orcas Island, said he hopes to be open by March 1. For more information, call (360) 376-2995.


Local dentist doubling space

Local dentists Dr. Randle Carr and Dr. Mathew Dorsch are in the process of doubling the size of their practice by expanding into a neighboring space at 3400 Squalicum Pkwy., Suite 107.

Dr. Carr said he simply outgrew the 1,500-square-foot office, especially after Dr. Dorsch joined the practice more than a year ago. So when the dentist next door in Suite 106 decided to move, he jumped at the opportunity to add more space.

Dr. Carr estimates that the expansion will be complete by the second quarter of 2009.

For more information, call (360) 734-9926 or visit


Pitch clinic to help entrepreneurs pitch to investors

Bellingham Angels, Technology Alliance Group, and Bellingham/Whatcom Economic Development Council are working together to present the Alliance of Angels 10-Minute Pitch Clinic for Entrepreneurs from 1:30 to 4 p.m., Jan. 29 in the DIS Building at 1315 Cornwall Ave.

The pitch clinic is an educational event tailored specifically to entrepreneurs on how to effectively pitch a startup business plan to angel investors. In this clinic, the Alliance of Angels program director will share insights on how to effectively present a business opportunity to angel investors, including fine-tuning messaging, fitting essential information into a 10-minute presentation, and providing a set of best practices for entrepreneurs to follow when developing their pitch.

The clinic will include an overview of the angel investment community, an in-depth review of the components of a good pitch, and an interactive component in which participants will receive feedback and coaching on their specific messaging.

There will be a wine and cheese networking reception immediately following the clinic.

The Alliance of Angels is a membership program of accredited investors interested in supporting early stage, high-tech and high-growth companies. Established in 1998, the alliance is dedicated to spurring entrepreneurial innovation through a screening and coaching program for entrepreneurs in the Pacific Northwest, and bringing the best deals to its members for investment.

Registration: $75 per person in advance; space is limited to 20 so sign up early to secure a seat. Register online at:


New wholesale pasta company opens

Whatcom County has a new wholesale local, organic fresh pasta company.

Bellingham Pasta Company began operating out of a 700-square-foot downtown commercial kitchen in September and now its fresh pastas can be found on the shelves of Terra Organica inside the Bellingham Public Market and will soon be carried at the Bellingham Food Co-op (Dec. 19) and all five Whatcom County Haggen grocery stores (after Jan. 1).

Owners Anna Rankin and Katie Hinton had been kicking around the idea of starting a fresh pasta company for a while but got serious earlier this year.

“It was our love of food that first led us to open the business but also because we live in this great community that supports local businesses,” Rankin said.

In their downtown commercial kitchen, Rankin and Hinton make spaghetti, fettuccine, fusilli, penne rigate and lasagna sheets by request. Rankin said they attempt to vary their type of pasta with the different recipes, which are semolina, spinach, whole wheat, roasted red pepper, and tri-color.

Rankin said pastas are the perfect food during a down economy.

“Pasta is the No. 1 recession food,” Rankin said. “You can buy it cheap. You can sauce it or eat it plain with butter. It’s good complex carbohydrate for active people and it’s a comforting winter dish.”

Rankin said she is also actively talking to local caterers and restaurants about making the switch to carrying their pastas.

For more information, call 441-7855 or visit


New law firm opening in Fairhaven

T.D. Knowles & Associates, located at 1200 Old Fairhaven Pkwy. Suite 203 in 12th Street Village, will open this month. The firm will focus primarily on immigration law, said Nick Berning, one of the partners.

The firm consists of Berning and two other attorneys, Tim Knowles and Bret Roberts. Berning said the 1,500-square-foot office should be open Jan. 5.

For more information, call 933-1612 or visit


Brooks Manufacturing appeals fine

The Brooks Manufacturing Company is appealing $65,500 in penalties issued to it by the Northwest Clean Air Agency for alleged odor-rule violations. The rules require using best practices to reduce odors and prohibit odor emissions detrimental to health.

The company states that it currently meets those odor-control standards and that similar wood treatment plants have not been fined for odor-related issues.

The fines are related to the “Sunnyland stench” that developed over the summer of 2007. The company has since changed one of the chemicals it uses to treat wood.

For more information, call 733-1700.


Feller Heating & Air Conditioning planning expansion

Feller Heating & Air Conditioning is planning to expand its facility at 501 Virginia St.

The company will be adding about 1,000 square feet of office space to its 4,000-square-foot facility, said John Larsen, who owns the company with Steve Felbinger. The company has simply outgrown the space and needs more, despite the down economy.

“We’re approaching this addition cautiously,” Larsen said. “Projects are getting more competitive and there are fewer of them. But we’re booked into mid-2009 on the commercial side.”

The company had been considering purchasing land outside the city and building a larger facility, but high land and building costs have put that project on hold, Larsen said.

“We were looking because we are very cramped in terms of yard space and parking here,” Larsen said. “But we like being so accessible and close to suppliers.”

Feller Heating & Air Conditioning has been doing commercial and residential heating and repair in Bellingham for 30 years. They are currently finishing a project for the new United Furniture Warehouse on Meridian Street.

For more information, call 733-4827 or visit


United Auto Electric closes

United Auto Electric, a family-owned parts store, closed last month.

The store, located at 2001 James St., kitty-corner from Hardware Sales, suffered from a drop in sales and stiff competition. Owner Terry Stone said he had to lay off six of his nine employees at the start of December before beginning the process of selling the remaining inventory.

“I’d like to thank all the people who came in the store and supported us over the years,” Stone said.

The store had been in business for 40 years. For more information, call 734-2360.


Lake Union Sea Ray opens in Bellingham

Lake Union Sea Ray, a Seattle-based boat dealership, opened its first Bellingham location in November in the former Olympic Boat Center space at 2121 Roeder Ave.

The company is planning to take over Olympic Boat Centers in other counties as well, said marketing manager Kay Woltman. Olympic Boat Center closed its Bellingham location in September after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July.

“It is a very exciting time for our company as we continue to grow,” Woltman said.

The Bellingham branch has five employees and sells Sea Ray, Bayliner, Boston Whaler, Trophy and Meridian yachts. The company also has showrooms in Seattle, Redmond and Fife.

For more information, call 671-5560 or visit


Performance Radiator moves in with Unlimited Service

Performance Radiator, a radiator manufacturer and aftermarket auto- parts dealer with 47 locations in Canada and the United States, is moving from its current Bellingham location to join Unlimited Service at 1515 N. Forest St. The business will take up approximately 3,400-square-feet of the building’s total 16,000 square feet.

Sheri Osborne, Performance Radiator’s assistant marketing director, said the company has maintained a Bellingham location that was more of a storage location at 700 Sunset Pond Lane, but has been looking to get more space due to increased demand.

“Business has really picked up, which is nice in an economy like this,” Osborne said. “So we just need more space.”

Todd Black, owner of Unlimited Service who moved his business’ second location downtown on Oct. 6, said he has worked with Performance Radiator before and thinks this move will help them.

“Now they will be more centrally located to other businesses,” Black said.

Black said the addition of Performance Radiator still leaves approximately 2,300 square feet of showroom-type space at Unlimited Service’s downtown location, which he would like to see filled with another auto-related business.

“I would like to see another business in there that we could have a symbiotic relationship with,” Black said.

Performance Radiator plans to move in just after the first of 2009.

For more information about Performance Radiator, call 1-800-273-0571 or visit For more information about Unlimited Service, call 734-4610 or visit


Dream Decks to open new showroom

Dream Decks & Siding is officially up and running in its new 2,400-square-foot location at 2119 Lincoln St., the former home of Sound Plumbing & Heating, which closed May 1. The custom deck and siding company moved in on Sept. 1 from its former location at 1025 Pasco St.

Scott Shuman, owner of Dream Decks & Siding, said right now the business has only been operating out of the new location’s 1,200-square-foot workshop, while he has been preparing a 1,200-square-foot custom design showroom to open Feb. 1.

Shuman said the showroom will showcase different decking, siding and railing types along with deck stains, custom benches and picnic tables.

“It’s going to be a complete custom design center where customers can come in and design their own decks or we can come to their home and do a free in-home estimate,” Shuman said.

Shuman said the showroom’s walls will be covered with examples of Dream Deck’s work to inspire the customer’s imaginationp; however, clients can also bring pictures of their own homes for inspiration.

For more information about Dream Decks & Siding, call 671-0311 or visit


Former Seahawk to open new fitness business

Former Seattle Seahawk special teams player Alex Bannister is starting up a boot-camp-style fitness business on Jan. 5, located inside North Coast Gymnastics Academy at 1710 Express Drive Suite G in Bellingham.

Joy Rustia, Bannister’s fiancée and co-owner of Lex Bannister Fitness, said she and Bannister moved to Whatcom County in the past year from Kirkland, where the gyms are constantly packed.

“We noticed that Bellingham is a pretty laid-back community with respect to fitness,” Rustia said. “Our main goal is to infuse new energy and excitement into this town and make fitness something to look forward to.”

Bannister’s six-week program will have 5:30 a.m., 6:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Alex Bannister played for six seasons in the NFL, five with the Seattle Seahawks, and went to the Pro Bowl in 2004.

For more information about Lex Bannister Fitness, call (513) 227-3837 or visit


Milagro Mexican Grill opens

Jesse Cantu, owner of Jalapeños Mexican Family Restaurant downtown, opened a new restaurant in Fairhaven.

The new eatery, called Milagro Mexican Grill, opened Dec. 22 in the former Fools Onion space at 1007 Harris Ave.

“I wasn’t going to open another location, but I’ve always liked Fairhaven. I think it’s a good place for a restaurant,” Cantu said.

The menu at Milagro, which means “miracle” in Spanish, is smaller and more specialized than the menu at Jalapeños, Cantu said. The salsas and seasonings are new and all of the tortillas will be handmade from scratch.

“When you have a meal with this kind of tortilla, it changes the whole meal,” Cantu said.

The space includes a second-floor dining area, which Cantu said he plans to turn into a lounge. The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week.

For more information, call 671-3099.


Local photographer launches newest venture

Mark Bergsma, acclaimed local photographer of Northwest scenes, has officially launched his new business, BeyondCapture IMAGING, in a 350-square-foot office at 12 Bellwether Way Suite 232, across from his old retail gallery, Mark Bergsma Gallery.

Bergsma’s new venture markets his photography and digital editing skills toward professional photographers, graphic designers and creative directors across the United States. He will specialize in “post capture” composite imaging, digital image editing and high-end retouching.

Bergsma said with today’s technology photographers can do so much with their photographs but they don’t really have the time.

“Photographers can’t orchestrate a photo-op, direct the photo shoot, shoot the photos and do all the digital editing,” Bergsma said. “Photography is such an extensive field. They can’t do it all.”

Bergsma said there really isn’t a market for this service in Bellingham, so he has been marketing his skills to photographers and designers in larger metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

“I’m sort of moving up to the big leagues,” Bergsma said.

After his gallery closed after 18 years at the end of August, Bergsma said he had mixed feelings because he missed the interactions that come with retail but he knew that retail was not his forte.

“Since I closed the gallery, it’s like I disappeared,” Bergsma said. “But this new venture utilizes more of my talents.”

For more information about Mark Bergsma’s BeyondCapture IMAGING, call 671-6818 or visit

Bergsma’s acclaimed Northwest scenes are still available through his gallery Web site:


Hand Crank Films upgrading to new studio

Hand Crank Films, a local film studio currently located in Sycamore Square in Fairhaven, moved to a larger space last month.

The new location in the Haskell Business Center at 1420 Meador Ave. is larger — about 2,000 square feet — and includes a full-size film studio and sound booth.

In the old space, director Max Kaiser had to move his desk whenever the group wanted to set up the studio, which was also his office. “It’s also noisy because there are a lot of windows and we pick up bus noises sometimes,” he said. “We’re really excited to have a more professional filming space.”

Kaiser said he hopes to be open in the new space starting Jan. 1.

For more information, call 752-0933 or visit


Bellingham Towers to see holiday renovations

The Bellingham Towers, located at 119 N. Commercial St., will see some renovations over the holiday season.

On Nov. 14, The Bellingham Towers LLC was issued a tenant improvement permit to divide a 2,000-square-foot space on the 13th floor into four spaces for smaller tenants and to upgrade the common bathroom.

The total cost of the improvements will be $37,000.

B.J. Westra, building manager for The Bellingham Towers, said the space was occupied by a law firm that recently split up and went their different ways. However, he declined to name the law firm.

Westra said the space will be split up into various sizes: one 800-square-foot space, one 500-square-foot space and two 350-square-foot spaces. The renovation is expected to be completed after the first of the year.

“I think a counselor is going into one and the rest are being built on spec,” Westra said.

But that’s not the only renovation happening without a tenant waiting in the wings.

On November 18, The Bellingham Towers LLC was issued a permit to renovate Suite 350, the former home of Sustainable Connections, which moved to 1701 Ellis St. Suite 235 on Aug. 11.

The cost of the renovation is estimated to be $10,500.

The permit states that The Bellingham Towers LLC plans to alter the layout of the office and remodel an existing common restroom.

For more information, call 647-1916.


New downtown clothing store opens

Swell, a new clothing store located in the old Left Right Left space at 202 E. Holly St. Suite 118, opened Dec. 5. Owner Heather Fenstermaker said the store offers simple but fashionable clothes — from basic T-shirts and hoodies to pants and socks — for men, women and children.

“I noticed that a lot of people in Bellingham like to dress comfortably, but are fashion forward,” she said.

This is Fenstermaker’s first time opening a business, but she is no stranger to the fashion world — she was previously the manager for Frank James next door to her new 600-square-foot shop. She is also busy completing her master’s degree in business administration.

For more information, call 778-3804 or visit

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