The Buzz


Jobs offered to former American Home Mortgage employees

National savings and loan giant Indymac Bank has offered employment to a number of former American Home Mortgage branches, including Bellingham’s Barkley District and Iowa Street branches.

Both branches are in negotiations to become Indymac Bank employees, and at press time both branch managers said they expected negotiations to become final soon.

Barkley branch manager Glenn Wielick said all 13 of his office’s former American Home Mortgage employees are set to gain employment with Indymac, and are already identifying the office as an Indymac branch when answering phones. Six out of seven employees at the Iowa Street branch, led by branch manager Christy Austin, are in negotiations to become Indymac employees, Austin said.

On Aug. 3, American Home Mortgage closed its doors nationwide after announcing the company was insolvent and that its major investors would not invest any more money in the company. After the company was unable to sell all or parts of its divisions, it filed for bankruptcy Aug. 6.

Grove Nichols, vice president and director of corporate communication for Indymac, confirmed the Pasadena, Calif.-based savings and loan bank has offered employment to a number of former American Home Mortgage employees, but could not confirm the exact count. He made it clear that Indymac was not acquiring American Home Mortgage branches, but was simply offering employment to former workers.

Indymac is the seventh-largest savings and loan bank in the country, and the second-largest independent mortgage lender in the country, Nichols said.

Austin said as an Indymac office, the branch would not be as affected by “the ever changing Wall Street,” and will be more stable. Working for Indymac will be a positive change that will allow her office to offer builder and custom construction and light commercial loans, in addition to single-family residential loans, Austin said.

“It’s a great company with a great reputation,” she said. “We are very excited about this marriage.”

For more information, call the Iowa Street office at 671-4246 or the Barkley office at 671-0848.


Brown & Cole to take on new investor

Brown & Cole Stores, LLC has submitted its plan for reorganization to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Seattle — a plan that includes an investment firm taking over the company’s majority shareholder status in a $40 million transaction.

Brown & Cole CEO Craig Cole said he could not disclose the name of the investment company at this time, and the exact structure of the deal has not been finalized yet. Craig and Sue Cole are currently the majority shareholders in a company that owns 75 percent of Brown & Cole Stores, LLC’s shares, Cole said.

The plan, filed in July, proposes that the investment company will provide enough capital to help Brown & Cole exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Cole said. It will also provide reinvestment capital to refurbish its stores.

The plan is to continue operating its remaining 20 stores in Washington with no layoffs or personnel restructuring planned as a result of the reorganization, Cole said. The plan will also require curbing employee benefit costs, which will be done by bargaining with the company’s union, he said.

“This plan will provide a good resolution for employees and our customers,” Cole said.

During the time since Brown & Cole filed for Chapter 11 in November 2006, Cole said the company has improved its sales and profitability as a result of the “pause” that bankruptcy allowed, and from debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing, as well as being able to shed some of its leases from stores that had closed.

He said the company worked hard to find new investors, and felt that the investment firm they are partnering with was the best fit, and that the plan is the best outcome he could have hoped for.

“We think it’s a world-class outfit with a lot of integrity,” he said of the investment company. “Some companies can end up in the hands of bottom feeders (after a bankruptcy), so when we came across a firm so genuine, ethical and straightforward, we said this is who we need to be partnering with.”

The bankruptcy process has cost Brown & Cole approximately $500,000 a month for professional fees, and Cole called the experience “distasteful.”

The plan is subject to a hearing with all parties, including creditors and lenders, involved, and Cole thinks it is likely to be approved by the bankruptcy court, especially because the committee of unsecured creditors signed off on it.

Cole said he expects the court’s decision sometime this fall, and hopes the entire plan and transfer of power to the new investment company will be completed by October or November.


Hardware Sales to relocate Internet sales division

Hardware Sales Inc. is building a new 20,000-square-foot warehouse and office in Ferndale for its Internet sales division.

Co-owner Jerry McClellan said the division has grown out of three warehouses since he started doing Internet sales a year and three months ago. The owners scoured Whatcom County for an existing building to relocate to, but nothing quite fit their needs, he said. McClellan said to build the warehouse in Bellingham would be prohibitive because of the city’s permitting process.

“It’s so lengthy and hideous,” he said of the process. “It would take us a year and a half.”

The new warehouse will be located just off Slater Road in a new business park being constructed by Faber Brothers Construction. Hardware Sales purchased the property and Faber Brothers is designing and constructing the building, McClellan said. He said he expects the project to be completed by March 2008.

The company’s Internet sales division is designed for low overhead and a small number of employees, which reduces the price of items sold, including mostly power tools and also miscellaneous hardware items and lawn and garden tools, McClellan said. The company takes orders over the Internet and ships the merchandise on the same day.

The warehouse is currently located on Queen Street in Bellingham in a 7,000-square-foot facility. The venture has grown significantly since it began, and is shipping all over the world, he said.

“It’s just a baby, and to quote my dad, ‘My God I’ve created a monster,’” he joked. “The Internet sales is like a new baby being born, and it’s growing by leaps and bounds.”

Hardware Sales retail location, at 2034 James St., is celebrating its 45th anniversary in September. For more information, visit


Multop hits glitch with plans for new office

Multop Financial has hit a major glitch in its plans to construct a new 20,000-square-foot office complex on Cordata Parkway. The two lots, located south of the Sea Mar medical clinic, are zoned only for medical/institutional uses.

Tyler Ryan, director of business development, said the company was not aware of the undeveloped lots’ zoning when they were purchased from a physician last summer.

“For some reason, somehow through the process, nobody caught it,” he said. “Neither the Realtor or the feasibility.”

Just after the purchase, a building moratorium went into effect while Trillium Corp. and the City of Bellingham worked out a plan to construct roads in the area, but when the moratorium was lifted, the company moved ahead with plans to build a new office on the site.

Plans for the office complex included two LEED-certified buildings totaling 20,000 square feet that would be built in phases, Ryan said. But after designing the building and submitting permit applications for the project, the company was told by city planners the lot’s zoning wouldn’t allow their office.

Multop is now working with the city to try to rezone the property, Ryan said.

“We’re trying to work with officials to find a compromise, because we really feel the type of building and its quality would be a benefit both visually and environmentally to the area,” Ryan said.

The company sold its current Cordata-area location behind Cruisin’ Coffee to Whatcom Community College last year, and is now leasing the space from the college. The lease expires in a few years, and Ryan is hopeful the new property can be rezoned before then. He also said the company might be interested in swapping land with a medical or institutional facility in the area for property zoned for office use.

Multop Financial was founded 30 years ago by Phil Multop and offers accounting and retirement planning services. For more information, call 671-7891.


Northwest Hot Springs to relocate

Northwest Hot Springs Spas Inc. is relocating from Bellingham to Ferndale.

Faber Brothers Construction is designing and building the new 4,000-square-foot commercial condo as part of a business park near Wilson’s Furniture along Pacific Highway, co-owner Dan Hyatt said.

Hyatt said he and the other owners of the spa, sauna and pool dealer — his wife, Corinne Hyatt and sister, Pam Lloyd — wanted to own their own space, and also liked the location’s freeway exposure, he said. While they looked for locations in Bellingham, none offered the freeway frontage, he said.

Northwest Hot Springs has been located at 1511 Iowa Street for the past 15 years. Hyatt said he hopes the new facility will be complete in October or November, and then the owners will make improvements before opening there. Northwest Hot Springs has another Burlington location, which opened 22 years ago.

For more information, call 1-800-143-1467 or visit


Fairhaven Harbor developers agree to environmental review

Developers of the controversial Fairhaven Harbor project on the corner of 8th Street and Harris Avenue in Fairhaven have agreed to perform a comparative environmental analysis of three alternative plans for the site.

Developer Ted Mischaikov said after meeting with the city’s planning director, Tim Stewart, in July, he and partner Rick Westerop have decided to change course and conduct the environmental review required to move forward with their slimmed-down revision to the project’s original plans.


The three alternative plans are:

• The first alternative is the project’s original set of plans, submitted to the city in December 2004, that includes more than 150,000 square feet of construction on an 11,000-square-foot footprint. The building tapers from a 110-foot-fall, 10-story tower down to five stories. Developers received permits for this plan in August 2006.

• The second alternative is a set of plans revising the first ones, submitted to the city in Decemeber 2006, that reduces the building to a 5,000-square-foot footprint and by one-third of the project’s original bulk and mass. This alternative includes a 102-foot-tall tower. In reviewing this set of plans, city planners noticed the original environmental review for the first alternative had been for an 85-foot-tall tower. Because of this, they required the developers to resubmit an environmental review for the slimmed-down plans, although the developers could keep the original permit despite the error.

• The third alternative would include plans for an 85-foot-tall project that would not include a stepped-down design. Mischaikov called this alternative “an exercize in meeting the 85-foot-high criteria.”

The developers hope the review will lead planners to give them permits for their preferred alternative — the second one, which Mischaikov said is a better project in terms of its design, view corridors, economics and community impact.

Originally, the developers were opposed to performing this analysis.

“We looked at what we have, what we didn’t get, and what we think we can get, and we still believe that our revision is a superior project and product for Fairhaven,” he said.

The environmental review will take several weeks and then planners will make a determination based on those comparative analyses, Mischaikov said.


Lettered Streets Coffee House to open

Two Toad Mountain Coffee employees are in the process of reopening the coffee shop at 1001 Dupont St. under a different name and business entity — the Lettered Streets Coffee House.

Anna Dean and Kjirsten Haugland started thinking about opening a coffee shop there as a joke after Toad Mountain closed in April, but then the idea gained traction. Toad Mountain owner Rob Camandona encouraged the idea and will act as an informal mentor to Dean and Haugland, Dean said. They will also purchase Toad Mountain coffee beans to use at the shop, she said.

Dean said the new coffee house will be a community space for artists and performers to host evening shows and will stay open late for students to study and hang out. While parking will continue to be an issue at the space — it only has two parking spots for customers — Dean said they will advertise to customers where to find off-site parking in the area. Dean said the space will focus on being more of a sit-down, hang-out location rather than a drive-by coffee shop.

The shop is currently being renovated with fresh paint and new hardwood floors, and Dean hopes to be open by Aug. 20.

Dean had worked as a manager at the Dupont Street store and currently works as a barista at the Barkley Boulevard Toad Mountain Coffee shop. Haugland had also worked at the Dupont Street store as well as the courthouse location, which closed last October. Neither will continue working for Toad Mountain Coffee when the Lettered Streets Coffee House opens, she said. For more information, e-mail Dean at


Parlez-vous Francais?

The idea for Jeff Down’s new downtown French eatery came about while he studied French at Western Washington University.

“I’ve been studying French for years — I’m kind of a Francophile,” he said.

His new restaurant, Bistro Zazou, will soon open in the former site of Chiribin’s, at 113 E. Magnolia, which closed in July. Down bought the business from Michael D’Anna, who also owns D’Anna’s Café Italiano. The deal closed early this month.

He described Bistro Zazou as an authentic, old-fashioned French bistro that will have a moderate price range with most menu items priced under $20.

Down said he has been working with Sustainable Connections’ Food and Farming Program to connect with local farmers, and the menu will focus on using local, organic ingredients to adapt to a French menu. The bistro’s theme will emphasize the geographic similarities between the Northwest and France, which both lie between the 47th and 49th parallels. The restaurant will also offer a full-service bar.

Down and his business partner, Robert Huston, are currently making small renovations to the space, including painting and cleaning, a new sign and removing Chiribin’s stage. He said the bistro will not continue offering live music, as Chiribin’s did, as part of an arrangement with the city. Eventually, he said he might offer some live jazz depending on the demand. He hopes to open the restaurant on Sept. 10 in conjunction with Sustainable Connections’ Eat Local Week campaign.

Down will work in the back of the house as chef. He has worked in professional restaurant kitchens since he was 15 years old and worked as the senior cook for the United States Antarctic Research Program in the South Pole for three years. Huston will work as the front-of-the-house manager. For more information, call 734-0817 or visit


Washington moves up Forbes list

Forbes Magazine moved Washington from 12th to fifth on its best state for business list. The list took into account a number of indicators in each of the 50 states, including unemployment rates, taxes and economic diversity.

Four household names helped Washington’s ranking — the magazine cited the presence of four prominent national companies in Washington: Boeing,, Microsoft and Starbucks.

Washington was also the only state to finish in the top five in three of the main categories: labor, regulatory environment and growth. Gov. Christine Gregoire pointed out Washington has one of its lowest unemployment rates in 30 years at 4.6 percent.


Some other key findings:

• Washington has one central source to help new businesses attain the necessary permits

• Venture capital spending is $2.6 billion the past three years — the fifth highest in the nation

• Low energy costs — nearly 30 percent below the national average

• The presence of the Seattle-Tacoma port, fourth largest in the United States, allows for robust international trade

Forbes predicted Washington may move up the list even further next year. Virginia, Utah, North Carolina and Texas top off the rankings, all of which were in the top four last year. Washington replaced Colorado at five, which slid to eighth place in the rankings.


Butterfly Life opening in Sunnyland Square

Sunnyland Square’s first tenant to sign on after the shopping center’s remodel began is Butterfly Life, a women’s fitness and nutrition center.

Owners Suzanne Blais and Karla Newson hope to open the gym in late September in the shopping center on the corner of James and Alabama streets, where Trader Joe’s is set to open in the fall as well. Butterfly Life will be located in the space just underneath the clock tower, Blais said.

Blais said she discovered Butterfly Life, a national franchise, after experiencing a long illness. The gym helped her regain her health, she said, and she and her friend, Newson, decided to open a franchise in Bellingham. The gym offers 30-minute circuit training, fitness classes and nutrition counseling. Blais said all of the equipment is designed just for women and the environment is less intimidating to women than traditional gyms.

Blais said she has been in contact with the owners of the recently opened Butterfly Life franchise in Bakerview Square and has appreciated their support. She said the two stores are separated enough that she doesn’t worry about their competing for clients. For more information, call 671-0669.

Other confirmed Sunnyland Square tenants include Merry Maids, Papa Murphy’s and Cruisin’ Coffee, according to John Arrigoni, the owner’s representative for Sunnyland Properties.


Along Comes A Baby to open soon

Along Comes A Baby, a one-stop-shop baby store, is set to open Sept. 1 in Bakerview Square, with a grand opening celebration on Sept. 21 and 22.

Along Comes A Baby will offer merchandise for infants, toddlers and expectant mothers. Owner Laura Lee Bosman, a Whatcom County resident and mother of two small children, said she created the store’s vision while spending countless hours searching for baby products she needed for her family that were not available locally. Along Comes A Baby will be staffed by “baby product experts,” who have many years of baby merchandise experience.

In addition to the 6,000-square-foot showroom at Bakerview Square, Along Comes A Baby will also offer an online store and an online and in-house baby registry. The store will offer products from Britax, Peg Perego, Ergo and Pali, and will range from diaper cream to furniture.

Bosman is hosting a grand opening celebration with specials and giveaways on Sept. 21 and 22. For more information, call 671-5523.


Meridian Plaza to get major facelift

Owners of the Meridian Plaza are planning a major remodel of the 31,997-square-foot shopping center on the southeast corner of Meridian Street and Telegraph Road.

The center, which is home to Denny’s, Burger King, Red Wing Shoes and Thai House restaurant, has more than 10,000 square feet of vacant space and needs a facelift, said Jim Bjerke, broker of Pacific Continental Realty who manages the property.

The owners are currently making final decisions on an architect to design the remodel, he said. He said the existing look of the center is dated, and hasn’t been remodeled for about 15 years.

“The ownership thinks it’s just time,” Bjerke said.

While he did not want to disclose the price of the remodel, he said it would be extensive.


Labels Plus expands store’s offerings

Sage Bishop’s consignment clothing store was doing so well after opening in Bakerview Square in June, she decided to open a store just for plus-sized clothing next door.

Labels opened at 436 W. Bakerview, Suites 112 and 113 on June 1, and Bishop decided soon after to expand into Suite 111 for Labels Plus. She said the new 1,160-square-foot store will offer plus-size consignment clothing and be connected to Labels through an archway, but will have its own dressing rooms and restrooms. Customers will purchase all clothes in the Labels section. She hopes it will be open by mid-October.

With the new store, Bishop said she will also begin advertising in Canada. She has been pleasantly surprised by the number of Canadian customers who have stopped in on their way to Bellis Fair mall, she said. She attributes this to the Canadian dollar doing so well and the fact that Canadians don’t have to pay duties on used clothing.

The success of Bishop’s original Labels store, located at 1512 Ellis Street, which she opened in January 2004, led her to open the second Bakerview location. Bishop follows the “three C’s” tenet regarding used clothing at her stores — she sells items that are “cute, current and clean,” she said. For more information, call the Bakerview store at 676-1210 or the Ellis Street store at 738-0333.


Marine Trade Center to receive federal money

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray has slated $250,000 for Bellingham’s waterfront renovation in the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill.

The money will go toward the construction of the Bellingham Marine Trades Center, designed to support the more than 100 Whatcom County small businesses that are water-dependent, such as fisheries, boat building and boat repair.

Port of Bellingham Commission President Scott Walker said in a press release from Murray’s office that the center will generate 500 new local jobs. Murray said the Marine Trades Center will also provide resources to train marine trade employees.

The bill includes $850,000 for Northwest Washington projects, including the Bellingham Marine Trade Center. The bill passed the THUD appropriation committee, of which Murray is chairman, and moved onto the Senate for consideration.


Baker Business Center breaks ground

A group of local investors broke ground in July on a new 65,000-square-foot commercial center in Irongate that will offer commercial condos for office and light-industrial uses.

Called the Baker Business Center, the project will be located at 4135 Strider Loop, within the Strider Industrial Park.

The units will have commercial storefronts backed by light-industrial space with easy access for trucks and deliveries, said real estate agent Richard Eggemeyer. The spaces are ideal for small businesses that support Irongate-area industrial companies, such as accountants, bankers, engineers, contract-service providers, light manufacturers, shipping and Internet sales companies, he said. All of the condos feature 25 percent office and 75 percent warehouse use.

The project should be completed by the end of the year and the units are currently for sale. Phase one of the project features nine units at 2,330 square feet each.

For more information, call Eggemeyer at 733-3539.


State Attorney General to address ID theft

Attorney General Rob McKenna will be in Bellingham Aug. 15 as part of a statewide tour on identity theft this summer and fall to educate business owners and consumers on how to keep their personal data safe. 

Guard it! Washington is a partnership of the Attorney General’s Office, Federal Trade Commission and AARP.

“More than 5,000 Washington residents become victims of identity theft each year, according to reports from the Federal Trade Commission,” McKenna said in a press release. “Thieves are capitalizing on the latest technologies to commit these crimes.”

McKenna has made prevention and protection against identity theft a top priority for his administration. He convened an identity theft task force in fall 2005 to identify areas where progress could be made. The task force’s Law Enforcement Group Against Identity Theft (LEGIT) held a statewide shred-a-thon in April 2007 and the Attorney General’s Office drafted and supported passage of credit freeze legislation during the 2007 session.

“Consumer education is finally paying off,” McKenna said. “Washington has dropped to No, 9 in the nation for identify thefts per capita. However, there is still much work to be done.”

Identity theft costs consumers approximately $50 billion a year. Identity theft continues to be the most frequently requested topic for consumer protection outreach.

McKenna will speak on Aug. 15 at Bellingham Technical College, G Building, rooms A and B, at 3028 Lindbergh Ave.


Boo’s Parlour barks up a new tree

After eight years in Fairhaven, Michelle and Jon Grover have moved their pet grooming and boutique business downtown.

Boo’s Parlour and Boutique moved into its new digs at 952 N. State St., in the former Yellow Cab building, at the end of June. They decided to move from their old space in the railroad cars at 1207 Harris Ave. after experiencing conflict with their landlord and finding the new, nicer space, Michelle said.

The new location’s building is square, as opposed to the long, rectangular dimensions of the Fairhaven space, and the boutique and parlor area are now combined, whereas they were separate before. Michelle also mentioned Fairhaven’s increasing traffic problem as a reason to move. The new building has ample parking.

The business offers full-service grooming for all breeds of dogs and cats, and sells pet accessories and accoutrements, such as leashes, collars, toys, treats, beds, jewelry and custom identification tags. For more information, call 650-1664.


Juice Bar opens second downtown location

Local juice gurus Leslie and Corey Shek have opened a second beverage shrine downtown.

The new Juice It bar opened inside the Bellingham Athletic Club at 1616 Cornwall Ave. on June 15 selling smoothies, espresso and wheat grass, and will eventually offer sandwiches and salads, Leslie said. Protein smoothies, especially, have proven to be a big hit with post-workout customers.

Leslie had been a member at the gym for many years and eventually approached the owners about opening a second Juice It there. “They were happy to have us come in,” she said.

Juice It’s original store opened six years ago just off the corner of Cornwall Avenue and Holly Street, and moved into the Bellingham Public Market in August 2005.

“We’re just working our way down Cornwall,” Leslie chuckled.

For more information, call 671-1634.


Sculptural Glass opens new doors

 A line of art glass doors is now being offered direct from the manufacturer by Sculptural Glass Doors Inc.  

Bill McColl designed a collection of 15 different doors to showcase his patented decorative safety glass product called ClearCast Glass.

“For the debut collection, I tried to cover a lot of bases with a range of designs that could work as entry doors, patio doors, French doors, and in commercial interiors,” McColl said in a press release.

While McColl runs the glass production part of the business, NorthStar WoodWorks in Ferndale — owned by Frank Chambers — sets the tempered glass insulating units into finely crafted wood stile and rail doors. Each door is made to order and can be customized by the client on the website.


City receives historic preservation grant

The city of Bellingham recently received a Preserve America grant, a highly-competitive federal grant promoting community efforts to preserve and enjoy cultural and natural heritage.

First lady Laura Bush designated Bellingham as a Preserve America community and awarded a $150,000 Preserve America grant to the city on July 12 in a ceremony on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.

The grant will be used to help preserve historic character and promote heritage tourism in Bellingham by funding a survey of the historic homes in the Lettered Streets, York and South Hill neighborhoods. Funding will be used to hire a professional preservation consultant to conduct the survey, help train and coordinate student and neighborhood volunteers to take photographs, describe architectural elements, and complete historical research.

Information and photos from the survey will be entered into the state’s historic property database, the city’s geographic information system, and the Whatcom Museum/ Bellingham Public Library online database of historic images.

“To qualify for the grant we had to demonstrate the city’s dedication to its historic resources, and show that we understand preservation’s role in economic development and community revitalization,” said Katie Franks, development specialist for the Planning and Community Development Department, in a press release.

Related Stories