The Buzz


Controversial pawn shop approved for
development permit

The city of Bellingham has just approved a permit at 3325 Northwest Ave. for the construction of a new 4,500 square-foot, two-story building with a pawnshop on the first floor and associated storage on the second floor.

Checkmate Pawn, the business that would occupy the site, has been controversial because of its ability to sell firearms in close proximity to Shuksan Middle School.

Planner Brian Smart said the planning department could not restrict the business from buying and selling guns but they could mandate certain operational conditions.

The permit requires that the business owner install “Gun Free School Zone” signage along Northwest Avenue both north and south of the property and signage that notifies customers that guns must be transported in a locked case for delivery, pickup and purchase.

The permits calls for the demolition of an existing single-family home, which currently sits on the 12,318-square-foot site. The proposal also includes construction of associated parking and storm water facilities.

For more information, contact planner Brian Smart at 778-8355.


The Rustic Coffee Bar opening in Fairhaven

Fairhaven will soon have a new coffee shop.

The Rustic Coffee Bar, located at 1319 11th St. next to Nostalgia in the Young Building, should be open by mid-May, said owners Norm and Donna Heerspink.

The Heerspink’s own Muddy Waters, a drive-though coffee stand in Lynden that opened in 2005.

“We’ve been looking to open a second one for about the last year,” Donna said.

However, the couple wanted to try a sit-down coffee shop this time rather than another drive-through. The high ceilings of the 800-square-foot space combined with the general Fairhaven atmosphere are what attracted them to the location. The Rustic Coffee Bar will be a higher-end shop, featuring leather sofas and bar stools, earthy décor, and free Wi-Fi.

The shop will be open seven days a week, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the weekends. For more information, call 318-9306.


University names new president

The Western Washington University board of trustees has selected Bruce Shepard, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, as Western’s 13th president.

“The board of trustees strongly believes that Bruce Shepard is the person we need to lead Western Washington University into its increasingly bright future,” said board chair Kevin Raymond in a press release. “Dr. Shepard is a compelling leader who listens and inspires, with a demonstrated record of achievement.”

Shepard will succeed current President Karen W. Morse, who is retiring Sept. 1 after 15 years at Western. Shepard will assume his new duties on Sept. 1.

Shepard said he is honored to become Western’s next president and that he and his wife, Cyndie, are eager to learn more about Western and its community.

“We are so excited to be joining a university that is recognized across the country for its excellent programs made so by the outstanding people who are the university. We very much look forward to calling Bellingham home,” Shepard said.


All American Marine receives grant

All American Marine is one of several boatyards in the region to receive a federal grant under the Small Shipyards Grant Program.

The boat manufacturer will receive a total of $285,000 to purchase metal-cutting machinery and boat-transfer equipment, said CEO Matt Mullett. The grant will cover 75 percent of the upgrade costs and the company will pay the remaining 25 percent.

The grant comes at a time when the company is actively negotiating with the port of Bellingham to relocate to the Marine Trades Center in the waterfront district. Currently, it costs the company $20,000 to $30,000, depending on the size of the boat, to launch a vessel from their location at 200 Harris Ave. in Fairhaven.

“We’re glad to see that the government recognizes the value of small to medium-sized boat yards,” Mullet said. “If companies like us close down, you lose the tradesmen capable of doing that work.”

For more information, call 647-7602 or visit


Jump Around Fun Zone to open in early May

A new indoor play center will soon open its doors.

On May 2, Jump Around Fun Zone will open at 4600 Meridian St. Suite 108 with several inflatable bounce houses, including an 18-foot-tall, two-lane slide and a 22-foot-long obstacle course.

Co-owner Matt Robison said the business would offer two private party rooms, a toddler area, and free wireless Internet in an area just for parents.

Owners Matt and Sarah Robison and Cris and Nikki Wesselman have seven children between them with ages that range from 2 to 9 and Matt said the business really came out of their families’ needs.

“When the weather isn’t cooperating here in Bellingham, it’s hard to find an indoor place to take the kids,” Matt said. “We wanted to create a clean, safe and fun environment for kids and parents to enjoy year-round.”

Jump Around Fun Zone began as a home-based business last summer with only two bounce houses for home delivery.

For more information, call 647-JUMP.


Wags & Rags to reopen on North St. in May

After closing shop in January, Wags & Rags will reopen next month in a new location and with a new business plan.

Owner Eleanor Harbord said she will open the pet boutique in a 700-square-foot space at 805 E. North St., a block away from Trader Joe’s on James Street. Harbord recently finished repainting the store herself and is planning to open shop in mid-May.

Harbord said she was a bit dejected after closing the pet boutique in Fairhaven, especially since she had just opened it in May 2007.

“I thought I’d find something else to do for a living,” she said, adding that she contemplated moving the business back to Oregon.

Harbord started the business 12 years ago in La Conner and then moved it Cannon Beach, Ore. When she came to Bellingham, she said she expected Fairhaven to have the amount of tourist traffic that had kept the business alive in previous locations.

“I thought Fairhaven was at that point,” she said. “It’s trying to become a tourist destination, but it’s not quite there.”

With the new location, Harbord has revamped the business to be an “eco-friendly pet boutique” to attract locals more than tourists. It will carry a large variety of organic items, from pet food to beds to collars.

“If I’m going to do a proper pet boutique in Bellingham it should be ‘going green,’” Harbord said.

For more information, call 756-8887 or visit


Schmidt Orthodontics to open in Barkley District

The Barkley District will have a new orthodontist this fall.

Schmidt Orthodontics is planning to open at 3115 Howe Place. The building is now under construction and will have a 2,400-square-foot office for the all-ages orthodontics practice.

Owner Dr. Andrew Schmidt and his wife, Terra, moved to Bellingham in March 2007 with the goal of providing a high level of professional care and service while creating a caring and fun atmosphere for patients and families.

“We’re hoping to be open in early September,” Terra Schmidt said.

Schmidt was born in Wisconsin where he graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with high honors. After college, he spent a year as a certified tennis professional before attending dental school at the University of Iowa.

Schmidt came to Washington state when he was accepted to the University of Washington’s orthodontics program in 2002. There he met his wife, Terra, who is a 2003 graduate of the University of Washington’s School of Dentistry.

For more information about Schmidt Orthodontics, call 738-4772.


Hometown Maintenance & Repair opens

Some new handymen are in town.

Hometown Maintenance & Repair has opened a 500-square-foot office at 4200 Meridian St. Suite 216.

Owners Matt and Randi Woolsey have created a business that specializes in smaller residential repairs such as painting a wall or replacing a rotting fascia board.

“Most general contractors just don’t see enough money in these smaller repairs,” Matt said. “We are trying to fill that gap.”

In an attempt to be more proactive, the Woolseys are also contacting real estate agents and property management firms. Woolsey said his company could do all the maintenance for existing properties and get new properties ready to rent or sell.

For more information, call 224-9550.


Safe & Easy Recycling opens on Iowa Street

A new Bellingham recycling business will make it easier to recycle old electronics.

Safe & Easy Recycling, owned by Carl and Elizabeth Lundgren, is opening April 14 at 2001 Iowa St. Suite F, across the street from Northwest Honda. Recent studies estimate that up to 400 million electronic units are placed into landfills or storage each year as they become obsolete or no longer function effectively, Carl said.

“While there is growing awareness about the e-waste problem, electronics recycling has been limited by the fees charged for acting responsibly,” Lundgren said in a press release. “Safe & Easy Recycling has developed a business model that doesn’t include overhead costs such as large warehouses that are incurred by disposal companies.”

Safe & Easy Recycling doesn’t charge a fee for accepting computer monitors, computer towers, keyboards, routers, printers, copiers, stereo systems, speakers, telephones, cell phones, plasma screens and more. Also, Safe & Easy Recycling will ensure that all hard drives and memory devices are wiped clean of any sensitive data to the same security level that the U.S. Department of Defense requires.

The business will make money from the value of precious metals retrieved from obsolete products. The primary exception to its no-fee policy is televisions, because they don’t contain any precious metals. The drop-off fee is $5 for televisions 15 inches and smaller, $10 for televisions 16-30 inches and $15 for televisions 31 inches and larger.

Safe & Easy Recycling will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call 360-715-3279 or visit


Lowery Furniture moving to Ferndale

Lowery Furniture, located at 4145 Meridian St., is planning to move to a larger location in Ferndale along the Pacific Highway.

The new store will have twice the square footage of the current one and will allow the business to carry more inventory, said customer-service manager Summer Davis.

“We think it will be a very beneficial move,” Davis said.

The furniture store has been in its current location for eight years and simply outgrew the space, she said. The new space is still under construction and a move-in date has yet to be set, but the business will move as soon as the building is ready.

For more information, call 733-1179 or visit


Plantas Nativa moves to Laurel Street

Plantas Nativa, a local supplier of native plants and seeds, has moved from their old space at the corner of Sunset Avenue and Ellis Street to 310 E. Laurel St. in downtown.

The nursery moved to the 4,000-square-foot space at the end of March. For now, the business is open Friday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., or by appointment. Owner Bay Renaud said he likes the new location because it’s more visible than the previous one.

“We’re trying to make retail native plants available to the public,” he said.

Renaud started the business in 1994 and does retail and commercial sales of native plants and seeds. The business also does consulting and restoration projects. For more information, call 715-9655 or visit


ACB partners with NAF to open welding school

Local manufacturer Aluminum Chambered Boats has partnered with Native American Fabricators to open an aluminum welding school in response to the need for skilled, experienced, and certified aluminum welders.

“It is a ‘hands-on’ program with more than 80 percent of the time spent in actual welding practice,” said NAF director Art George. “Graduates will be very prepared to enter manufacturing and marine industries with practical experience and certified training.”

The school is located on the ACB manufacturing facility at 811 Harris Ave. The course is eight weeks of intensive training in aluminum welding. It includes instruction in blue print reading, layout, fitting, and GMAT (gas metal arc) or MIG welding and GWAT (gas tungsten arc) or TIG welding. Tuition is $5,500 for the session with scholarships from NAF and ACB up to $3,700.

Upon passing final examinations, students will become certified aluminum welders commensurate with U.S. Coast Guard standards.

For course and enrollment information, contact Scott Cravens at 594-4426.


Ferndale Chamber sponsors commercial
real estate showcase

The Ferndale Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring its first annual Commercial Real Estate Showcase. The showcase will be Thursday, May 29th, beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m. The showcase will be for anyone looking to relocate or expand a business into the Ferndale area.

The showcase will feature a variety of available retail, office, industrial, and land development opportunities of all sizes in and around the city of Ferndale. The event will include a self-guided tour of more than 20 properties, a free lunch for the first 150 attendees, and city planners on site to answer questions.

The showcase will begin at the City Hall Annex front lawn at 5694 2nd Ave. All visitors will be given showcase information on the featured properties, maps, lunch tickets, and other goodies.

For more information, contact Guy Occhiogrosso at (360) 384-3042 or e-mail him


New name for Toad Mountain Coffee

Toad Mountain Coffee, located at 2075 Barkley Blvd. Suite 105 in the Barkley Medical Center, changed its name last month to The Mount Baker Coffee Company.

Everything about the company is still the same and they still brew the same coffees, said manager Victoria Knott. The name change has been in the works for a few months and came about as a way to freshen up the business’ image.

The coffee shop is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. It has been in its current location for a little over a year. For more information, call 733-9756 or visit


Pacific Crest moves upstairs in Northwest Plaza building

Pacific Crest Partners, a development and property management firm, moved into a 1,000-square-foot office space on April 1, but they did not leave the Northwest Plaza building at the corner of Grand Avenue and Champion Street.

The business’ new address at 220 W. Champion St. Suite 260 is actually upstairs from its former 2,152-square-foot location at 110 Grand Ave. Pacific Crest Partners owns the Northwest Plaza building, which has offices facing both streets.

Ethan Potts, office manager for Pacific Crest Partners, said the business just fits better in the new, smaller space. He also said that a division of The Bank of the Pacific would move into the downstairs space.

“They fit a little better in there and we fit a little better in here,” Potts said.

For more information, call 752-1806.


Woods Design Studio moves to 12th Street

Fairhaven’s design community has another member.

On March 17, Woods Design Studio, an interior design company that specializes in residential and commercial designs, moved into an 800-square-foot office space in Fairhaven’s 12th Street Village at 1200 Old Fairhaven Parkway Suite 103.

Owner Tirzah Woods said she moved her company from its previous 400-square-foot location at 1117 Ellis St. for more space and a better location.

“It’s a little bit more space than we need but it gives us room to grow,” Woods said.

Woods has been working steadily via word-of-mouth for the past four years and has designed interiors for Bellingham Golf and Country Club, Dawson Construction and Mallard Ice Cream.

For more information, call 714-8971 or visit


Surfside Marine expands to waterfront

Surfside Marine, a maritime fiberglass manufacturing and repair shop, has expanded into a new facility.

The new 3,000-square-foot finish facility at 2694 Roeder Ave. Suites 102 and 103 will allow Surfside Marine to have a clean facility to perform boat-interior work such as teak installation, carpeting, detailing and overall finish work.

Rhonda Anderson, president and co-owner of Surfside Marine, said the new facility provides an opportunity to have a greater presence on the waterfront.

“It’s nicer to be close to the waterfront because it’s more convenient for us to do jobs,” Anderson said.

The new facility joins Surfside’s family of facilities, which includes a 600-square-foot canvas shop at 2620 N. Harbor Loop Drive Suite 27 and a 6,000-square-foot laminating shop where the business does most of its fiberglass work and repair.

The business also builds 31-foot yachts from concept to completion and manufactures fiberglass parts for some of Bellingham’s premier yacht builders.

For more information, call 398-1328 or visit


Pastázza planning to remodel

Pastázza, located in the Barkley District at 2945 Newmarket St. Suite 101, is preparing to renovate and add a pizza oven from Wood Stone, a local manufacturing company.

The restaurant is just waiting for the necessary permits and is tentatively planning to close for two weeks in mid-May to begin the renovations, said owner Lynn Berman.

With the new pizza oven will come a new menu, and the oven will be used for more than just pizza, Berman added.

“It’s not just for pizzas but for all other types of food,” she said. “It’s great for roasting vegetables and it makes a fabulous roasted chicken.”

This is not Berman’s first time branching out from pasta to pizza. She and her husband, Frank, owned Pizzazza in Fairhaven for two years and just sold the business last year. The couple used a Wood Stone oven at that restaurant and Berman said she was so impressed with the oven that it was an easy decision to get one for Pastázza.

Pastázza has been serving Mediterranean pastas and soups in its current location for 11 years. For more information, call 714-1168 or visit


Northwest Hot Springs moves to Ferndale

Northwest Hot Springs, which had a showroom at 1511 Iowa St., recently moved to a larger space at 5060 Pacific Highway Suite 151 in Ferndale, near Wilson’s Furniture.

“We wanted to have a bigger space so we can feature more products,” said marketing manager Carmen Andrew.

The new 4,000-square-foot store features a “mood room” with dimmed lights and music where customers can experience what it would feel like to be in a backyard spa at night, Andrew said. The business opened its new store and celebrated their grand opening in April. For more information, call 743-1467 or visit


Intertwined Designs moves downtown

An experienced hemp clothier recently started work out of a studio in downtown Bellingham.

Intertwined Designs is operating in a communal art studio at 1109 N. State St. The business makes hemp clothes for men and women as well as hemp accessories and custom hemp quilts.

Owner Betsy Cassell said she moved her work into downtown from her home in Deming because it gave her more space to work and was more accessible for potential customers.

She said the business has been online and at the Bellingham Farmers Market for nearly eight years, but she started making clothes when she was 16.

“I started getting requests from friends to make them some pants or a shirt,” Cassell said. “Now I am a clothing designer.”

Cassell said most of her business is online but she spends a great deal of time at the Farmers Market and vending at Western Washington festivals such as Bumbershoot and the Fremont Fair.

For more information, call 319-0342 or visit


Icicle Seafoods to acquire Blaine facility

Icicle Seafoods, a seafood harvesting and processing company based in Seattle, has announced a plan to buy Smoki Seafoods, which owns Cypress Island Seafoods in Blaine.

“We’re hoping to add to and grow that company,” said Don Giles, president and CEO of Icicle Seafoods. For the moment, though, nothing will change in the operation of the Blaine facility.

A year ago, Cypress Island Seafoods moved into the former site of the K-C Fish Company, which had operated in Blaine harbor since 1962.

Icicle Seafoods is one of the largest and most diversified seafood companies to operate in Alaska. It’s core business is the processing of salmon, pollack, crab, halibut, cod, sablefish and herring. Other operations include the production of surimi-based seafood products here in Bellingham. For more information, call (206) 282-0988 or visit


Valu-Inn Motel to become Guesthouse
International franchise

A Bellingham motel will soon become a franchise for an international hotel chain.

The Valu-Inn Motel at 805 Lakeway Drive has joined up with Guesthouse International’s more than 60 locations across the United States and China.

Dena Eastman, the motel’s general manager, said the business’ owner Greg Hemstreet began the process of becoming a Guesthouse about a year and a half ago but it was put on hold as other issues took priority.

“Then it was all kind of sprung on us,” Eastman said. “We thought the deal was dead.”

Now, Eastman said, the motel has ordered its new signs, which should arrive in about four weeks, and has already changed its Web presence to become a Guesthouse hotel.

“We’re about half and half right now,” Eastman said.

The changeover will not affect the motel’s operations or staff levels, Eastman said.

For more information, call 671-9600 or visit

Related Stories