The Buzz, November 2008


Photo by Drew Graham

The Bellingham Business Journal was pleasantly surprised by the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 28. According to the chamber: “With more than 750 members, choosing a business that exemplifies the meaning of community, plays an active role in the chamber and continues to provide a service for their customers is no easy task. Those are the qualifications used when selecting the Chamber Member of the Week. The Bellingham Business Journal plays a key role in keeping Chamber members informed of the local business landscape and helps maintain the flow of information to the community. We recognize the efforts of the entire staff and wish them continued success.” Thanks for the honor and the kind words, y’all!


Pictured, from left to right, are Troy Wills (Peoples Bank), Sean Echelbarger, Jim Carney (Gateway Centre), Vanessa Blackburn, Lance Henderson, Sarah Drues, Bill Thibodeau (The Computer Gecko), Liz Davis, Randi Axelsson (Silver Reef Hotel Casino & Spa) and Isaac Bonnell.


Kleps Law Office opens in Crown Plaza

Kleps Law Office opened in late October in a 139-square-foot office at 114 W. Magnolia St. Suite 444, inside the Crown Plaza Executive Office Suites.

Michael Kleps said he graduated from law school in May 2004 but took some time off to sail across the Indian Ocean and hike the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails.

Kleps said he moved to Bellingham in the fall of 2005 and immediately liked the people and proximity to mountains and the San Juan Islands. Since then, he worked for five months in the Whatcom County Public Defender’s office.

With his first private practice in his professional career, Kleps said he plans to start out as general practice but hopes to move toward elder law and estate planning eventually.

“I will talk with the client and discuss what is right for them based on their needs,” Kleps said.

For more information, call 650-1766 or visit


Furniture Now! closing its doors

Furniture Now!, located at 1021 N. State St., will be closing its doors soon.

Owner David Egli said he attributes the store’s closure to the slowing economy, but added that the location has been difficult since he opened the business in August 2007.

“Things were going really well up to June, then it dropped off from there,” Egli said.

Egli said he is unsure when the store’s final day will be, but he anticipates being open into November. Everything in the store is 40 percent to 80 percent off.

For more information, call 527-2347 or visit


Port to dedicate funds toward job creation

The Port of Bellingham has dedicated $100,000 of its proposed 2009 economic development budget for what it is calling a “jobs initiative” to assist and enhance marine trades, adventure tourism businesses, agri-industry, and manufacturing.

Jim Darling, the Port of Bellingham’s executive director, said one of the port’s major initiatives in the next year is job creation.

“We have set aside some funds in our economic development budget to go work with those sectors and see what we can do to create jobs,” Darling said.

Dodd Snodgrass, the port’s economic development specialist, said the move doesn’t add any new money to the budget but dedicates a portion toward focused job creation.

“We plan to focus on core industries in key areas where we do well,” Snodgrass said.

Snodgrass added that the measure is still subject to the port commissioners’ approval of the budget.

“I think there is strong support for it though,” Snodgrass said.


Chamber moves to new office

The Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry moved into its new offices at 119 N. Commercial Street Suite 110 last month.

The new offices are located on the ground floor of the Bellingham Towers, at the corner of Commercial and Flora Streets. The Chamber’s contact information remained the same.

Ken Oplinger, President/CEO of the Bellingham Chamber stated: “This move will provide the Chamber with a more visible and professional location in which to carry out its mission of creating a strong local economy.”


No Gravity Board Skins opens

No Gravity Board Skins, a company specializing in custom and stock designs for snowboarders, skiers, skateboarders and wakeboarders, opened for business on Oct. 21.

No Gravity Board Skins is owned by Dave, Alan and Tim Donnelly. Its retail location is within Special-T Signs & Graphics at 2206 Pacific St.

“The skins are an inexpensive way of personalizing boards or skis and making them look new again,” said Dave Weldon, a snowboarder and also the graphic designer for No Gravity Board Skins.

Customers may select from a variety of designs at the company’s Web site,, or submit their own photos, graphics and design ideas.

The designs are printed on the same digital graphic film as used on NASCAR race cars, Weldon said. The opaque film is then covered by another film layer, which provides moisture, ultraviolet and physical protection. Since the skins have a pressure-activated adhesive, users can place the skins on their boards without special tools. The skins also can be removed if the board is sold or the owner wants a different design.

In addition to the storefront and Web site, selected ski and board shops will offer designs from No Gravity Board Skins.

For more information, call 734-7617.


Family Care Network opens new center

Family Care Network opened a new After Hours Urgent Care Center Oct. 21 at 2075 Barkley Blvd. Suite 105.

The center is intended for patients and families who see a Family Care Network doctor and have a need for unanticipated care after hours. Hours of operation will be 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Family Care Network is an independent family practice and the largest provider of primary care medical services in Whatcom County. Family Care Network was founded in 1999 by local family physicians and currently has 270 employees, 51 family doctors and 12 mid-level practitioners in 12 family offices located throughout the county.

For more information, call 318-8065 or visit


Telenet to move into retired firehouse

Telenet Technologies, a local computer networking and telecommunications company, is moving from its 1,000-square-foot location at 1216 Bay St. into a 2,000-square-foot retired firehouse it recently purchased at 1295 E. Bakerview Road.

Greg Iwasaki, Telenet’s general manager, said the new space is bigger, has better parking, and provides better access to its customers.

“The best part is that it’s ours,” Iwasaki said.

Iwasaki said the firehouse has really nice wood beams and roofing plus an old tower where fire hoses used to hang, which Telenet will convert for its own purposes.

“We’ll probably add our servers in there and store some of our equipment,” Iwasaki said.

With the increased space, Telenet has already hired a new customer service representative and is in the market for a new receptionist.

Currently, the company is working on the floors and painting walls with plans to move in Dec. 1.

For more information, call 671-7127 or visit


Piper Pediatric Dentistry opens

Piper Pediatric Dentistry, a new children’s dentist located at 3800 Byron Ave. Suite 100, is open for business.

Office manager Leah Bunger said Dr. Chris Piper graduated from the University of Washington School of Dentistry and then worked in general dentistry in Yakima. Now he has returned to Bellingham, his hometown, to work exclusively with children.

“He decided he loved children and went back to school,” Bunger said.

The new 2,400-square-foot dental office just opened on Oct. 6 and is working through the last bit of construction to complete the office. Bunger said the office has five chairs, a reception area and a “kids arcade,” which has a Nintendo Wii and an Xbox.

The office offers X-rays, routine cleanings and procedures as well as emergency procedures using sedation and general anesthetic. The office is also accepting most types of insurance, WIC and medical coupons, which Bunger said, most offices are not accepting.

“We think there is a real need in the community for that,” Bunger said.

For more information, call 671-0062 or visit


Bargainica closes N. State Street store

On Oct. 31, Terra Organica closed its North State Street location after five years of operation.

The store, operating under the name “Bargainica,” specialized in discount organic and natural foods. The main location in the Bellingham Public Market on Cornwall Avenue will remain open.

The State Street location employed seven full time employees, some of whom moved to the Cornwall Avenue store, said owner Stephen Trinkaus in a press release. Trinkaus said that the closure resulted in the loss of four jobs.

Trinkaus gave several reasons for the closure, including increasing competition, rising food prices, and the economic downturn.

“The store was particularly vulnerable because of its small size and the fact that it was not a destination location,” he said.

Trinkaus indicated that closing the State Street location will give him more time to focus on the much larger Public Market location.

“The Public Market itself, and our store in particular, are thriving,” he said. “Since most of the products offered at our State Street location are also available at our main location, we anticipate that many of our customers will continue to support us by coming down to the Public Market.”

For more information, call 715-8020


Gathering Glass Designs moving

Gathering Glass Designs, a glass jewelry and pipe store, will be moving to a new location by mid-November.

Owner Matt Vergein said he is moving the business from 929 N. State St., where it opened in August 2007, to the former Zephyr store, located at 114 E. Magnolia St.

“It’s a better location,” Vergein said. “It’s smaller, but it’s a way busier spot.”

At the new location, Vergein said he plans to offer a wider selection of glass art, from wine stoppers to vases.

For more information, call 201-5143.

or visit


Icicle Seafoods buys new boat

Icicle Seafoods, a seafood harvesting and processing company with facilities in Bellingham, purchased the 315-foot processing vessel M/V Stellar Sea last month.

“We are very excited to announce the addition of the M/V Stellar Sea to Icicle,” said Don Giles, Icicle’s Chief executive officer, in a press release. “The Stellar Sea is a great asset for us that will provide greater flexibility and increased opportunity for expansion in our Western Alaska operations. The acquisition is consistent with our goal to grow our presence in Alaskan fisheries and expand our access to supply to better serve our customers.”

Icicle is owned by investment funds managed by Paine & Partners, LLC, the San Francisco, Chicago and New York based private equity fund.

For more information, call 206-282-0988.


New Edge Design plans for new showroom

New Edge Design, an interior decorative-concrete designer and division of Moncrieff Construction, is planning to open a 2,000-square-foot showroom at 4131 Hannegan Road Suite 104.

General manager Tara Moncrieff said the business has been running out of a 12-foot-by-12-foot space at Moncrieff Construction at 8510 Guide Meridian in Lynden.

“So we are expanding quite a bit,” Moncrieff said. “The new location will give us more exposure and the ability to express what we can do with concrete.”

New Edge Design specializes in concrete countertops, tubs, showers, flooring and even fireplaces and barbecues.

The business hopes to have a grand opening in January 2009.

For more information, call 318-8005 or visit


Econo Lodge undertakes remodel

Econo Lodge Inn & Suites, located at 3750 Meridian St., is in the process of remodeling the 126-room hotel formerly known as the Travel House Inn.

Econo Lodge took over the motel in August and has applied for a permit to triple the size of the lobby and breakfast area, said general manager Kit Koch. The company is currently repainting the rooms, replacing mattresses and adding furniture and appliances.

“We’re planning on having an open house when all this is done, probably after Christmas,” Koch said.

Econo Lodge Inn & Suites is the third-largest hotel in Bellingham. For more information, call 671-4600 or visit


New auto repair shop opens on Pasco Street

Sterling Automotive, a new Bellingham auto repair shop, had its grand opening in October at 1025 Pasco St. The new shop has two hydraulic lifts, can hold up to seven cars in its garage, and has a 500-square-foot office/reception area.

Sterling Fisher, the shop’s owner, said he has 33 years of automotive repair experience and was ready to start his own business.

“I’ve worked in quite a few repair shops and I didn’t really like the work ethic at some of the places,” Fisher said. “But it’s not my place to tell them how to run their business—so I started my own.”

Fisher said the new shop employs two certified mechanics that will strive to give customers quality service and attention.

“We’re about more than money—we’re about people,” Fisher said.

For more information, call 933-4503 or visit


New sushi shop to open on Bellwether

Kurukuru, a new Japanese restaurant located at 11 Bellwether Way Suite 101, is set to open in January 2009.

Owner Sam Min said the restaurant will be the first one in Whatcom County to feature a conveyor belt around the sushi bar. In Japanese, “kurukuru” means “going around.”

“The idea is similar to dim sum. You sit at the bar and pick whatever you like,” Min said.

The 2,000-square-foot restaurant will have seating for about 30 people around the bar. Prices will range from $1.50 to $3.50 per plate, depending on the type of sushi, Min said.

For more information, e-mail


Blu Sky Creative moves to larger space

Blu Sky Creative Services, a local Web site and print designer, has moved into a larger office and is adding three new graphic designers and programmers to handle its increased demand.

On Oct. 1, Blu Sky’s owner, Rick O’Connor, officially moved his company within Fairhaven’s Sycamore Square at 1200 Harris Ave. from Suite 206 to Suite 104, which doubles its former size.

“We’re finding that businesses want to improve their Web sites and branding so they’ll not only survive but thrive in today’s economy,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor said the increased space will allow the business to take on more projects and do the work faster.

“We just outgrew our space and needed more,” O’Connor said.

Founded by O’Connor in 1999, Blu Sky Creative Services’ specialties also include branding, e-commerce systems integration and search engine optimization.

For more information, call 527-9111 or visit


Superfeet buys land, holds off on expansion

Superfeet Worldwide, which is headquartered at 1419 Whitehorn St. in Ferndale, recently purchased 5.92 acres of commercial land and has plans to eventually expand and relocate to the site.

Superfeet purchased the land along Scout Place in Ferndale for $1,031,500. Though the company has outgrown its current facilities and is in need of more space, the timeline for expansion is up in the air, said spokeswoman Amanda Norenberg.

“We’re going to watch where the market is going,” she said. “If the economy allows us to go ahead as planned, it will be a large site.”

Superfeet Worldwide manufactures athletic shoe insoles and has 78 employees, 55 of whom work at the Ferndale facility. The company has been there since 1993.

For more information, call 384-1820 or visit


Possible new residential building for the Guide

Haven Design, a Fairhaven architectural firm, has applied on behalf of property owner Sergey Savchuk to construct a four-story, 16-unit multi-family building at 4100 Deemer Road in the Guide Meridian neighborhood.

Sean Hegstad, Haven’s principal, said the building would have four units per level with a mix of two- and three-bedroom units, which are all approximately 1,315 square feet.

“It’s a very symmetrical design,” Hegstad said.

Overall, Hegstad said, the proposed building would have an aesthetically appealing Northwest design with stone accents and durable siding plus each unit would have its own deck. Hegstad said the proposed building would also have an outbuilding for tenant and maintenance storage.

The proposed building’s parking lot would be constructed with pervious asphalt, which, Hegstad said, allows water to pass through to be filtered and cleaned by several layers of gravel and sand before it enters the stormwater system.

“In parking lots, [pervious asphalt] is really a big help because you have oils and gases present,” Hegstad said.

City planner Brian Smart said all the project’s preliminary permits were approved on Sept. 24 and now the project’s developers need only apply for a building permit. Hegstad said construction will hopefully begin before the end of the year.

For more information, call Bellingham city planner Brian Smart at 778-8355.


Covet to sell ‘functional art’

A new retailer opened in the Young Building in October.

Covet offers functional art, meaning anything from hand-painted lamps to jewelry and pottery, said Sally Poorman, who owns the business with her husband, Ray. The 1,500-square-foot space is located at 1311 11th St. next to Aisling Eyewear.

Due to the unique nature of the products, Poorman said she does not anticipate selling items through her Web site,

“I think people need to come in and look at things and see if they like it first,” she said.

Poorman said she is excited to be entering the world of retail after being self-employed doing tech support work from her house for so long.

“After working from home for 12 years, I really want to be around people again,” she said.

For more information, call 734-1382.


Walker’s Healthy Pet plans expansion

Walker’s Healthy Pet, located at 3110 Woburn St. in Barkley Village, is planning to expand into a neighboring space.

The 800-square-foot expansion will make the Bellingham store the largest —totaling 2,200 square feet — of the company’s five stores, which span as far south as Lynnwood, said CEO Scott Price. The business has been in its current space for two years and is in need of more room.

“Barkley Village has been a very good location and we want to invest in our location there,” Price said.

The neighboring space is currently occupied by the Muljat Group Barkley office, which will be moving into the Laurel Building at 3101 Newmarket St. Suite 105, said agent Doug Foster. Though a timeline for Walker’s expansion has yet to be set, Price said he hopes to be done by the holidays.

For more information, call Walker’s Healthy Pet at 734-6700 or Muljat Group Barkley at 647-8400.


Dept. of Revenue offers free workshop

The Bellingham office of the Washington State Department of Revenue is hosting a free workshop for new and small-business owners from 1 to 4 p.m. on Nov. 4 at the Labor and Industries/DSHS Building, located at 1720 Ellis St.

Participants will learn about Washington excise taxes, reporting classifications, deductions, tax incentives, sales tax collection, and record-keeping requirements. All attendants will receive a workbook and a helpful reference guide to Department of Revenue rules and regulations.

Space is limited. To register, visit the Department of Revenue Web site at or call 676-2114.


Moving & Storage Solutions moves to Stonegate

Moving & Storage Solutions, Inc. has moved to their new 20,000-square-foot warehouse in Stonegate Park, a new light industrial park developed by Faber Construction.

The new facility has more room for storage to meet the growing demand from customers and the U.S. Military and U.S. Government.

The company, which was started by David and Kim Powell in 1995, will have a grand opening celebration on Nov. 8.

For more information, call 676-5267.


Law change affects corporate officers and unemployment

Should corporate officers be exempted from unemployment insurance? That’s going to be a common question for Washington corporations in the next few months in preparing for a new state law that takes effect in January.

Under the old law, corporate officers are exempt from unemployment insurance unless their employer elects to cover them and pays unemployment taxes for those individuals. Beginning Jan. 1, 2009, corporate officers who provide services in Washington will be covered for unemployment insurance unless their employer specifically exempts them.

Officers whose employers previously exempted them from coverage must be re-exempted under the new law.

Corporations that want their officers to be covered by unemployment insurance do not need to file for coverage, but must include the officers and their Washington wages in the unemployment insurance quarterly reports beginning in 2009. State unemployment taxes on corporate officers must be paid each quarter, and they may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they lose their jobs.

A 2006 study by the Employment Security Department found at least $5 million a year in uncollectable taxes that were directly due to corporate officers being paid benefits when appropriate taxes were not paid.

“The new law will help ensure that those who qualify for unemployment receive their benefits, and those who try to abuse the system are stopped,” said Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee in a press release.

For more information, go to


Western’s MBA program to host open house

The WWU Master of Business Administration Program is holding an open house for prospective MBA applicants at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19 in Parks Hall 441.

Professionals who want to know about the competitive advantage of an MBA degree will have the opportunity to learn about Western’s program — which was recently ranked in the Top 100 worldwide by the Aspen Institute — from current students, alumni, and professors.

Discussions will focus on the three unique MBA programs offered by Western — Traditional, Accelerated and Evening. While the Traditional and Evening tracks may be available at other institutions, Western is believed to be the only university in the region to offer a one-year accelerated MBA program.

Anyone interested in learning about the MBA degree is welcome to visit the on-campus session. No reservations are needed to participate, and refreshments will be served.

To learn more about the MBA program at Western Washington University, please contact Tim Dunphy or Dan Purdy by e-mail at or call 650-3898.

Information, maps and directions for the open house can be found at the Western MBA program Web site,


Picture Perfect opens in Bellis Fair Mall

Picture Perfect, located in Suite 704 next to the children’s play area in the Bellis Fair Mall, opened in October.

Owners Ruby and Nav Deol decided to open the photography studio after operating a private studio out of their home for the past six years. They focus on children’s photography and they provide costumes and dresses for children up to 10 years old.

The couple also specializes in adding “photomation” backgrounds, which is similar to using a green screen.

“It takes us a long time to do the backgrounds, but it looks so cool at the end of it,” Ruby said.

For more information, call 778-3656 or visit


WWU professor to give presentation on alternative fuels

Western Washington University Associate Professor Eric Leonhardt will present “Beyond Petroleum: Local Transportation Solutions for a Global Problem” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, at the Bellingham City Council chambers, second floor, Bellingham City Hall, 210 Lottie St.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is offered as the first event of the annual Science and the UniverCity community science lecture series.

Leonhardt, the director of WWU’s Vehicle Research Institute and an associate professor of engineering technology, said the transportation sector in the United States is 97 percent dependent upon fossil fuels; and that growing global demand, limited production capacity, emissions, global warming and oil supply chain security are a few of the continuing challenges facing the global use of oil for transportation.

At the lecture, he will discuss three of the VRI’s projects focused on alternative fuels and increased fuel efficiency: Viking 45, a prototype vehicle for the Progressive Automotive X Prize; Viking 32, which turns cow poo into horsepower; and the Kitsap Transit Access Bus, a low-floor, composite hybrid 14-passenger bus.

Leonhardt has bachelor’s degrees from Whitman College and WWU, and a master’s degree from the University of Michigan. He has taught at WWU since 2002.

“We are pleased again this year to have the support of the city in our efforts to bring programs on important topics in science and technology to the Bellingham community.  Furthermore, to have endorsement of our efforts, in the form of support for this series by the BP Corp., is especially gratifying,” said Arlan Norman, dean of the College of Sciences and Technology.  “This is a program for the community, a program that we hope really contributes to the general understanding of many important and exciting topics in today’s complex world of scientific and technological advances.”

Leonhardt’s presentation will be taped and rebroadcast on Bellingham BTV 10. For more information on the lecture, contact Leonhardt at 650-7266, or e-mail


Bellingham/Whatcom Tourism to host noted travel expert

Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism will host award-winning sustainable travel expert Andy DuMaine from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 12 at the Best Western Lakeway Inn located at 714 Lakeway Drive. DuMaine’s presentation will explore ways to maximize the economic, social, and environmental benefits of tourism.

DuMaine’s career began in advertising, and he has used his marketing expertise for the benefit of such organizations as The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights, The Earth Conservation Corps, The White House Commission on Volunteerism, and several others.

“We’re quite pleased to host Andy Dumaine,” said Loni Rahm, President & CEO of Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism. “Geotourism is one of the fastest growing markets in the travel industry, and as a key geotourist destination, I feel that Whatcom County businesses have a stake in what he has to say.”

Seating is limited. Bureau members may purchase advance tickets for $5 or $10 at door; non-member admission $15 advance or $25 at door. Continental breakfast provided. Registration and check-in begins at 8 a.m. For additional information, contact Gabrielle Brockett at

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