The Buzz


BBJ sold to Sound Publishing on Aug. 10

The Bellingham Business Journal was sold to Poulsbo-based Sound Publishing on Aug. 10.

The paper was one of five newspapers owned by Sun News Inc. to be purchased by the company. The Marysville Globe, the Arlington Times, the regional Express Shopper and the Wenatchee Business Journal were also included in the sale.

Sound Publishing, the largest publisher of community newspapers and shoppers in the Pacific Northwest, owns 32 weekly, bi-weekly and daily newspapers, 18 classified shoppers in the Nickel Publications group, and also has 19 network partner newspapers in Northwestern Washington and Oregon. The company has a total weekly circulation of more than 850,000.

Sound president Manfred Tempelmayr said the new acquisitions strengthen the company’s position in the Western Washington region.

“We are committed to the readers and advertisers in the Pacific Northwest and are excited to add these well-respected and established products,” he said. “The former owners built a strong community connection with excellent newspapers and we intend to build on that strength.”

Sun News, Inc., owned by Bob and Debra Marshall and Kris and Catherine Passey, acquired the Globe and Times in 1997 and purchased the business monthlies in 2001.

For more information on the sale, see BBJ Publisher and Editor Vanessa Blackburn’s column. click here


G-P to close tissue mill, lay off more than 200 workers

Georgia-Pacific LLC announced this month it will permanently shut down its tissue papermaking and converting operations at its Bellingham mill in December 2007.

The tissue mill represents the last active Georgia-Pacific operation on the waterfront, said Kelly Ferguson, senior manager of business communications for the company.

Mill manager Roger (Chip) Hilarides cited the rising costs of energy, fiber and freight as having a significant impact on the mill’s competitiveness.

The tissue mill’s closure will affect more than 200 employees, most of whom will be laid off, Ferguson said.

During the remaining months of 2007, the mill will continue to operate as normal, and Georgia-Pacific will transition production to other mills. Once the operations are shut down in December, Georgia-Pacific will lead an orderly, safe and environmentally responsible closure and dismantling of the manufacturing assets, according to the company’s press release.

A small team of probably about four or five employees will continue operating the mill’s wastewater treatment system through June 2008 to meet contract obligations with the nearby cogeneration plant, Ferguson said.


Pawnshop owner appeals city’s decision to limit firearms sales

The city of Bellingham’s planning department has approved a planned development contract for a new pawnshop near Shuksan Middle School on Northwest Avenue, but the permit prohibits the purchase, sale, transport or storage of any firearms at the location.

The applicant, Tim Adams, has appealed the decision.

Adams wants to relocate his Checkmate Pawn shop from 3016 Northwest Ave. to the new site, located at 3325 Northwest Ave., just north of the Building Industry Association. After submitting his building permit application, the Bellingham Police Department’s crime prevention officer raised concerns about the shop’s ability to store and sell firearms within such close proximity to Shuksan Middle School, located on the corner of Alderwood and Northwest avenues.

In a July 2007 story in The Bellingham Business Journal, Adams, who also owns The Trading Post pawnshop on the Guide Meridian, said that if the city restricts his ability to sell firearms at the site, it would harm his business. Interest on loans associated with firearms at his shop make up more than 20 percent of his sales, he said at the time. Adams also mentioned that the city allowed St. Paul’s Episcopal School to be located near his current shop on Northwest Avenue, and that no firearms incidents have occurred there.

He pointed out that he can still sell firearms from his current location, if he decided to keep the shop there.

“It’s not restricted now, so if I stayed I could sell, but if I moved I can’t,” he said.

In a lengthy legal description attached to the issued contract, the city restricts firearms from the site because of its proximity to Shuksan Middle School. In a letter to the planning director, Bellingham Police Chief Randall Carroll objected to any firearm activity at the site, which could create situations where area residents and workers call 911 concerned with sightings of gun-carrying individuals near the middle school, a scenario that would create major disturbances to the school and the police department.

“My position is to adamantly object to locating this type of business at 3325 Northwest Ave.,” Carroll wrote in the letter. He also mentioned having support from Bellingham School Superintendent Dr. Ken Vedra.

But Adams said the city has not cited a single incidence of this scenario occurring due to a firearm-selling shop’s proximity to a school.

As of press time, no date had been set for the hearing of the appeal.


ACB gets government dollars for watercraft

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Aug. 4 that included $1.5 million for the Whatcom County-based Aluminum Chambered Boats.

ACB would use the appropriation, which still has to pass through the U.S. Senate and be signed by the president, to construct a multi-mission watercraft that combines advanced electronics for communication with effective, lightweight armor.

“We think we have something totally new that’s going to change the ballistics world,” said ACB CEO Larry Wieber. “It’s a big opportunity for Bellingham and our company.”

Wieber said Rep. Rick Larse has worked tirelessly for nearly a year on the project. Sen. Patty Murray has also been instrumental, he said.

The concept used for the new watercraft is based on composite panel technology ACB President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Metz designed years ago. Metz said preliminary testing on the composite panel technology defeats armor piercing rounds, allowing for the armor in military boats to be incorporated into the design of the craft rather than bolted on afterwards. The technology will allow the watercraft to remain lightweight, maintain its performance level and maneuverability.

ACB plans to take the technology to other sectors than military.

“It’s the start of many innovations that we’re going to do in how you build watercraft,” Metz said.

Commercial and recreational boats could also benefit from the new construction design, he said. Within the next 12 months, Metz said ACB will be rolling out designs incorporating the technology and will work to make it available to other boat makers.

Both Metz and Wieber said this part of ACB could grow to be as large as its boat-building division.

“We’re excited,” Wieber said. “This is a huge step forward.”


ETC opens for business

A new Bellingham company with the acronym ETC is looking to change the way things have been done in consulting, employee training and seminars for the Pacific Northwest.

“It’s an entirely new concept altogether for training and development,” said Henry Beeland, founder and CEO of Evergreen Team Concepts, LLC.

One aspect of the company involves professional training seminars at Evergreen’s 3600 Meridian St. Suite 100 location.

Evergreen Team Concepts also allows for small businesses to get the kind of training and attend seminars typically available only to large corporations.

Part of Evergreen Team Concepts is the Team Development Group, designed to address the basic needs of consulting, training and team growth services for businesses. The web-based platform allows clients to ask unlimited questions on various consulting topics, ranging from safety, OSHA/WISHA, Lean 5S, Six Sigma, leadership, team building, human resources, project management and more.

For more information about Evergreen Team Concepts, visit or call 866-559-9222.


“Kung Fu Joe” is looking for distribution

A group of local filmmakers has recently wrapped filming on a new feature film shot in Bellingham.

Producer and filmmaker Glen Berry, who also owns Northwest Film School, said “Kung Fu Joe” will now go into post production and a public relations campaign, and be ready for screening by the end of the year. At that time, the filmmakers will begin searching for a distributor.

“Kung Fu Joe” was shot with a cast and crew of about 70 locals, plus a few others from out-of-town, and is part of Berry’s vision of creating a small film industry in Bellingham.

Berry described the film as a comedy about a kung fu hero who teams up with his ex-nemesis, a police detective, to solve a case.

“It’s a classic ’70s-type kung fu film,” Berry said.

Scenes for the film were shot at Bellingham locations such as The Newstand, Nelson’s Market, Total Confidence Kung Fu, Rocket Donuts and downtown streets, as well as Mt. Baker.

The film’s producers include Berry; Michael Kutcher, a former Northwest Film School student; Wilson Large, a local filmmaker and owner of Camcord@Large; and Glenn Biernacki, also a former Northwest Film School student and a local web consultant.

Berry’s Northwest Film School, a private film school that started in 2004, is getting ready to contract with Western Washington University to offer a video production certificate program through Western’s Extended Education program. The program will offer a fiction track and nonfiction track, and classes will begin the first week of October.

Western is marketing the nonfiction track to businesses and organizations interested in creating promotional videos.

For more information about “Kung Fu Joe,” visit For more information about the video production program, visit


Bellingham Food Bank to build a new home

With the help of local businesses and architects, the Bellingham Food Bank is in the process of getting new home.

The organization’s new one-story, 10,000-square-foot facility will be located on its current property at 1824 Ellis St., on the corner of Ellis and Ohio streets, after its current facility is demolished sometime in November, said executive director Mike Cohen. Permitting for the project will begin soon, he said.

The project will cost about $2 million altogether, for the new facility and for temporary relocation, Cohen said.

During construction, the food bank will relocate temporarily to a new location, and Cohen said he is in negotiations with the Bellingham Whatcom County Housing Authorities to operate out of the Walton Beverage site on State Street during that time.

Initial funding and organizing for the new facility was spearheaded by three local Rotary clubs — Bellingham Rotary, Bellingham Bay Rotary and Bellingham Sunrise Rotary.

The three clubs have so far pledged $225,000 toward the project, and have raised $1.6 million in cash and in-kind donations with a steering committee.

Three local architects from the clubs — Tom Grinstad, David King and Mike Smith — designed the new facility. Smith said the architects designed a facility with the organization’s process and flow in mind, and made sure to design it to withstand growth for at least the next 10 to 15 years. The new facility will offer a larger exterior covered area and an outdoor alcove for clients to take shelter under during inclement weather, Smith said. It is also designed to receive LEED silver certification.

Cohen said he hopes the project will be completed by June 2008.

So far, the organization has received donations from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the city of Bellingham, Washington state’s department of Community Trade and Economic Development (CTED), and Pearson Construction, which is the project’s general contractor. But Cohen said the food bank still needs to raise about $500,000 to complete the project, and is beginning to campaign for local funding and donations.

For more information, call Cohen at 676-0392.


A garden of Eden for coffee lovers opens near Bellwether

A local couple has recently opened Eden’s Coffee Garden across from the Hotel Bellwether.

Located at 11 Bellwether Way, Suite 101, formerly home to the Elbow Room, the shop serves coffee and espresso as well as soups, sandwiches and pastries, said co-owner Monique Stacy.

She and her husband, Brian, also own AJ Kids Store, located across the way in the Paulsen Building. Brian also runs a custom brokerage and a warehouse in Blaine, and Monique owns a wholesale shea butter soap business. The busy couple also operates a nonprofit program called TITHE, which helps adolescents with drug and alcohol problems get into treatment.

Of their current venture, Monique said the coffee shop is a fun place to hang out and play board games. Since it opened two weeks ago, business has been good, she said.

“Business has gone so well our heads are spinning,” she said. For more information, call 738-7789.


Hall buys downtown Bellingham building 

Local developer Robert Hall has purchased a downtown Bellingham building that is home to three arts organizations.

 Rather than buying the building at 1418 Cornwall Ave. for commercial purposes, Hall acquired it so Allied Arts of Whatcom County, iDioM Theater and The Pickford Cinema (operated by the Whatcom Film Association) could stay there, according to a press release.


Festival Espresso opens on Railroad Ave.

A new coffee cart, located at 1314 Railroad Ave. inside the K & M Farm stand, will celebrate its grand opening during Buy Local Week — Sept. 10 through 14 — by splitting all profits for the week between RE Store/RE Sources, Sustainable Connections and the Downtown Renaissance Network.

The stand will emphasize fair trade espresso from local roaster Moka Joe and will host regular performers and entertainers. The stand will also offer limited seating.

Owner Aaron Loffler co-owned Western Washington University’s only locally owned espresso stand, The Coffee Lady, which used Moka Joe coffee beans. After a year and a half, Aaron and his partner sold The Coffee Lady. He has operated the Moka Joe coffee stand at the Bellingham Farmers Market for the past two years while creating Festival Espresso. For more information, visit


Clearstory Investments opens in Bellingham

David Johnston, who has worked with Bellingham developer Bob Hall on several properties, has launched his own consulting firm, Clearstory Investments. The firm will provide consulting services for real estate transactions, financing and business management.

Johnston, through Clearstory, will continue to manage The Leopold Retirement Residence in downtown Bellingham, which he began managing in 2006.

Clearstory will also oversee management of the Peyton Building in downtown Spokane.

Johnston said he will continue to work closely with Hall and his company, Daylight Properties Management. Johnston and Hall are partners in many properties.

Johnston has 10 years of real estate experience and is a commercial real estate agent with Pacific Continental Realty of Bellingham. For more information about Clearstory Investments, call Johnston at 647-5714.


Yoga studio stretches to new downtown spot

Beyond Limits Yoga recently moved into new digs on Prospect Street.

Formerly located at 1317 Commercial St., owner Karen Piccone moved the yoga studio to 209 Prospect St., two doors down from the Whatcom Children’s Museum. Classes started at the new location last week.

The new 1,695-square-foot space is larger and has showers and dressing rooms for clients, Piccone said. It also has easier access and better parking than the old location.

Piccone founded Beyond Limits Yoga just over a year ago. The studio offers power Vinyasa yoga, which Piccone described as “very fluid and graceful, and really athletic.” It also offers hot yoga, in which the studio is heated to between 85 and 90 degrees, which Piccone said helps dilate capillaries around muscles, and helps oxygenated blood get to those muscles, and prevents injuries. For more information call 676-9642, or e-mail Piccone at


New owners have future plans for State Street building

Westcom Properties owner Brian Finnegan and a California investor recently bought a 14,000-square-foot building on N. State Street that they are planning to redevelop in the future.

The one-story building, located at 1701 N. State St., is home to several businesses, including Bellingham Lock & Safe, Health Care Supply and Hot Shotz Martini Bar & Restaurant. Finnegan and his partner bought the building at the beginning of August for $1.67 million. Finnegan is the managing member of Shamrock Properties, which owns 25 percent of the building.

Finnegan said he has hired an architect, Marcus Johnson — who designed Sunnyland Square — to develop plans for a major future remodel.

He said the renovation could begin in about a year, after going over design ideas and construction costs. He said the building’s size and use would not change.


Rental car company has a new destination

Enterprise Rent-a-Car is scooting over to a new location.

The rental car business will move its main Bellingham office from 1407 Iowa St. to the 1800 block of N. State Street, next door to Fourth Corner Quilts, said branch manager Andy Leoanatti.

The newly built facility is in a better location and is significantly larger than the Iowa Street building, he said. The business had outgrown that spot, and will possibly add a few more employees with the move, Leoanatti said.

Enterprise had been operating out of the Iowa Street location for about eight years, he said. The corporately owned business has two other locations in Bellingham — one at the Bellingham International Airport and one inside Diehl Ford.

Leoanatti said he expects to move sometime in September. For more information, call 733-4363.


Construction firm looks for common ground

Scott and Cheryl Perry had wanted to have their own design and construction business, and in the last year, all the pieces fell into place for that to happen. The birth of their daughter, changes in their previous workplace and the completion of their home led to the beginning of Common Ground Construction, LLC.

What the Perrys are trying to create is literally a common ground by making sustainable design and construction cost effective and attractive to people who may not value as much environmental-friendly practices.

“It’s not important to everybody,” Cheryl said. “But we’re trying to move people in that direction, trying to bring it to a wider audience.”

Common Ground specializes in pole building, derived from traditional farm building. Instead of a building’s walls being load-bearing, a series of poles bears all the roof’s weight, allowing for more flexibility in what the walls are made of.

“It’s a cost-effective way to have a really nice looking building,” Cheryl said.

The Perry’s new home is a pole building, which they finished just before they launched Common Ground.

The Perrys both have years of experience in the construction business, and are already busy despite just getting their business off the ground. They had assistance from Jessica Renner of Studiohatch and Judith Sult of Here’s How Marketing & Research to brand and market the business.

To contact Common Ground, call 647-9869.


New Passion Fly owner

Colleen Milton recently purchased Passion Fly Clothing on James Street from Kristi Swanson.

Milton had worked at Passion Fly, a used women’s clothing store, since October as a salesperson, and after graduating from Western Washington University with a degree in English, decided she wanted to remain in Bellingham.

“I just loved working here and this is such a great community,” she said. “I love that this puts me in an economic position to influence the community in a positive way.”

Passion Fly clothing opened four years ago and sells used clothing.

Mercedes parts’ company zooms to new location

Kaia Bergsma and her father, Kent Bergsma, recently moved their Mercedes parts and manuals Internet sales facility from an old county dairy barn to a 1,900-square-foot office/warehouse building in Irongate.

They started the company, Mercedessource, in 2002 after operating a Mercedes repair and restoration shop for seven years out of the barn. After accumulating so much knowledge on Mercedes repair, Kent began writing do-it-yourself repair manuals, which they sell along with parts and conversion systems online.

They have since stopped the repair and restoration aspect of their business and now just focus on Internet sales and shipping all over the world. The idea of the business is to enable the average Mercedes owner to fix their own vehicles, Kaia said. Mercedessource’s website also has an active forum for customers to discuss Mercedes repair, she said.

Kaia said one of the most exciting things about the business has been Kent’s development of a vegetable-oil conversion system, which they sell online.

Kaia and Kent moved to the new Irongate facility from their old location near Lynden on Aug. 1. For more information, call 1-800-513-5797, or visit


Toolhouse one of Inc.’s fastest-growing U.S. companies

Inc. magazine included Toolhouse on its first-ever Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the country. The Inc. 5000, an extension of the magazine’s annual Inc. 500 list, catches many businesses that are too big to grow at the pace required to make the Inc. 500, as well as a host of smaller firms.

Toolhouse is an interactive marketing agency that designs and develops interactive experiences and enabling technologies that help build customer relationships, and increase the performance of online channels, according to a press release.

The 2007 Inc. 5000 list measures revenue growth from 2003 through 2006. To qualify, companies had to be U.S.-based and privately held, independent — not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies — as of December 31, 2006, and have had at least $200,000 in revenue in 2003, and $2 million in 2006. For more information, visit

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