The Buzz


Larsen endorses Bellingham for NOAA relocation

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen announced on Nov. 28 that he endorses Bellingham to become the next home of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Marine Operations Center-Pacific.

“In my mind, there is really only one answer for NOAA, and that is Bellingham,” he said at a public gathering at the Port of Bellingham’s deepwater shipping facility.

The port has been wooing NOAA to relocate its Seattle-based operations to the Waterfront District for the last several years, and recently stepped up its effort recently with a “Get NOAA to Bellingham” letter-writing campaign geared toward state legislators.

Larsen said he chose to support Bellingham instead of Everett, the other city in his district that has shown interest in NOAA, because of several factors. Bellingham’s waterfront has deepwater access, room for onsite offices, a connection with Western Washington University’s Huxley College and potential for expansion, he said.

NOAA has hired a consultant to conduct a site selection study and is expected to have a list of possibilities by January. By May, it will narrow those possibilities down to a short list and will likely make a final decision by late summer or early fall, port executive director Jim Darling said.

Even though Larsen has the ability to introduce legislation to circumvent the site selection process and place NOAA in Bellingham, he said he would not do that.

“I want to ensure that NOAA has the ability to make a decision based on the merits [of the site],” he said.

Larsen said about half of the nation’s NOAA fleet has been placed by legislation, but that he didn’t think that was a healthy process.

NOAA’s presence would include six ships, 18 small boats, 78 landside employees and 178 researchers and on-board crewmembers. It is expected to generate $19 million a year locally.

The agency criteria for a site includes 18,000 square feet of office space, 25,000 square feet of shop/craft room and 2,000 linear square feet for berths.


City updates B&O tax code

On Dec. 3, the Bellingham City Council approved a state-mandated update to the way the city assesses their Business & Operation tax.

The new tax code states that Bellingham, the only city in Whatcom County that has a B&O tax, cannot collect the tax on sales that city businesses make outside of city limits. Early estimates show that the city could face a $890,000 loss in revenue under the updated code.

For local businesses, this means paying less tax in 2008. However, the new code requires that businesses keep track of which receipts are exempt from tax, which may prove to be cumbersome and time consuming for some businesses, said Finance Director Therese Holm.

“We will do the best we can to help our taxpayers understand it,” Holm said.

The B&O tax update is part of state legislation passed in 2004 requiring a standard tax code among the 37 cities in Washington that charge B&O. It also required that cities enact the new code by Jan. 1, 2008.

For more information, call 676-6900 or visit


KeyBank revises downtown branch plans

KeyBank has decided to scrap its approved designs for its new drive-through building on the corner of Holly and N. State streets and is in the process of creating a new set of plans.

Anne Foster, Northwest regional public affairs director for KeyCorp., said the company is reworking plans for the new downtown bank, but could not offer further details until the design work is complete.

The decision to create new plans was made after the bank decided to house 20 people at that location, which required more space than originally planned, Foster said.

“KeyBank has decided to invest in its future in northern Washington at its N. State St. and Holly location,” said KeyBank retail leader John Roehm in a statement. “It’s there that we plan to establish a headquarters building second only in size to the Seattle-Cascades district headquarters in Bellevue.”

The Bellevue headquarters occupies 100,000 square feet, Foster said.

The full-service branch and drive-through will also house regional operations, credit officers and teams dedicated to wealth management and business banking.

“The characteristics of the downtown site and our decision to locate 20-plus employees there have led us to decide on a two-story headquarters building,” Roehm said in the press release.

Site-work design by RMC Architects and design work by Vocon, KeyBank’s corporate architect in Cleveland, is underway, to be followed by permit applications, according to the statement. Workers have already begun preliminary site work at the location.

When the city approved the building’s original plans for a two-story, 4,980-square-foot building in December 2006, they were criticized by some local developers for being too small in height and bulk for that corner.


Brenthaven begins packing its bags

Local luggage manufacturing company Brenthaven is moving its retail store from 200 W. Holly St. to its Fairhaven factory.

Owner and CEO Scott Armstrong said the decision to relocate was mainly driven by the need to reduce costs while still continuing to operate a retail facility in Bellingham.

The move to the factory at 300 Harris Ave., across from the ferry terminal, will occur in January, Armstrong said. The retail portion will be located at the front of the building.

Brent Harris founded Brenthaven in Bellingham in 1980, and the retail store has been located at its Holly Street space since 1999. Armstrong purchased the company outright in June from a group of partners.

The company has two major markets for its luggage, bags and backpacks — corporations that buy merchandise for employees and retail customers who buy special cases and bags for Apple products, Armstrong said.

Much of the company’s merchandise is now produced offshore, but Armstrong, who works from the company’s Seattle marketing and sales office, wanted to maintain a presence in Bellingham.

“This decision was driven by a desire to continue to provide made-in-Bellingham products to Bellingham customers,” he said. For more information, e-mail


PartEZon to open at Bakerview Square

PartEZon, a one-stop event-planning store, recently signed a lease for Suite 106 in Bakerview Square.

Owners Todd Toner and Ernest Schimpeler will offer services such as balloon delivery, tables and chair rentals, catering, floral designing, and even blow-up bouncy houses.

Toner said he expects the business to open Jan. 2, 2008, after improvements to the 2,100-square-foot space are completed. It’s an ideal location for one-stop shopping, Toner said.

Before relocating to Bellingham, Toner managed a plant nursery in California and Schimpeler owned a chiropractic clinic.


EDC moves to new downtown location

The Bellingham Whatcom Economic Development Council (BWEDC) is moving to 115 Unity Street, Suite 101, the former Griggs Office Supply space.

The organization will relocate from the KeyBank building on the corner of Holly Street and Cornwall Avenue, where it has been located for about 10 years, said executive director Nancy Jordan.

BWEDC staff will continue to deliver business retention and expansion services, provide information and/or referral support for companies relocating to or within the region, and link partners with resources.

The Unity Street space has been renovated into a new office space with the original 12-foot ceilings and exposed timber beams, as well as high-speed fiber-optic Internet access.

“We have been working to gather a community of creative companies and individuals within this fantastic historic building,” said building owner Bill McGown in a press release. “The addition of the BWEDC is a natural extension of this and we are excited to have them here.”

The BWEDC is a nonprofit association of public and private entities organized to create collaborative opportunities for businesses dedicated to the long-term health and stability of Whatcom County’s economy. For more information, call 676-4255.


Whatcom Waterfront expands to San Juans

A local waterfront construction company recently launched a new boat, the Peacemaker, and is now offering freight delivery service to the greater Puget Sound area.

This is the first boat that Whatcom Waterfront Construction, located along the shores of Lake Whatcom at 3138 Northshore Rd., has launched for full service in Puget Sound waterways. The low-draft landing craft specializes in accessing places that are hard to get to or not serviced by local ferries, said owner Tracy Diller.

“If you needed a tractor on Waldron Island, we’ll load it up and drop it off on the beach for you,” Diller said.

Similar freight services are offered out of Anacortes, where Diller has done business before, but he said that there is not a small-sized landing craft service available in Whatcom County. Peacemaker is a mere 27 feet long.

“We chose a smaller boat so that we can work with smaller clients and smaller freight,” Diller said.

Whatcom Waterfront Construction specializes in building docks and piers and reclaiming sunken vessels from the depths of local bodies of water. For more information, call 927-5070.


New restaurant to open on Bakerview

Soy House, a traditional Vietnamese restaurant, is currently under construction at 414 W. Bakerview Rd., Suite 112.

Owner Tony Nguyen said the construction is underway on the 1,500-square-foot space and he plans to have the restaurant open by February. The menu will include organic ingredients and several traditional Vietnamese items, such as a noodle and meat soup called pho.

Previously, Nguyen was the general manager for Sbarro in the Bellis Fair mall. He recently completed his bachelor’s degree in finance. For more information, call 224-0281.


Bodymind Center pinpoints new location

Bodymind Center, a local acupuncture clinic, will be relocating at the end of January to 1303 Astor St., Suite 101 from its current location in Fairhaven, said owner Scott Paglia.

Paglia recently hired acupuncturist Marie Tsiang to help him keep up with expanding demand, but they found that they were still limited by their space.

“Currently we have two rooms and we’re booked out,” Paglia said, adding that the new 1,300-square-foot space in Old Town will allow for seven treatment rooms.

Paglia said he plans to open the new Bodymind Center the first Monday in February. For more information, call 715-1824.


House of Orient under new ownership

The House of Orient, a Thai restaurant located downtown at 115 E. Holly St., has a new owner.

Danh Huynh purchased the business from previous owner Jimmy Nguyen on Nov. 15. Huynh works for Marlin Engineering and said he bought the business because four of his family members already worked there and he wanted to try his hand at running a restaurant.

“It’s really a family business,” he said.

Huynh said Nguyen wanted to pursue other ventures, but that he is still helping Huynh with aspects of the business and training.

Huynh said that other than starting a new Web site for the restaurant, he will not make any changes to the menu or staff. For more information, call 738-4009.


Sonic Index closed shop in November

After five years of selling music in Bellingham, Sonic Index closed its shop at 1220 N. State St. at the end of November.

Owner David Richards said the store just wasn’t making enough money for the amount of time and effort put into it. For years, Richards has split his time between running the store and working for Clickpop, a local record label that has produced bands such as Black Eyes & Neckties and Jenni Pots. Richards said he plans to spend more time focusing on building the record label.

Though the shop will no longer be open, the company isn’t going out of business: “We’re still going to rent gear and do sound for folks. We’re just done selling records for awhile,” he said. For more information, call 527-1150.


Shredding business comes to your door

A-1 Shredding, a new company that helps businesses, government offices and residences get rid of sensitive documents, opened for business in early November.

Owners Cindy and George Myiow provide clients with locked bins to dispose of unwanted paper documents, and then use a large truck equipped with an internal shredder to retrieve clients’ paper documents on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly schedule. Clients are able to watch their documents being shredded by an internal camera, and receive a certificate of destruction when completed.

Cindy got the idea for the business after working for Bellingham Chrysler for 26 years. When the dealership was recently sold and needed to dispose of documents, she noticed there was a lack of competition for shredding services in the area and decided to start her own. For more information, visit or call 676-5594.


Esteem finds a new place to pose

Esteem, a local Pilates studio, is moving into a larger space in the Bay Street Village building at 301 W. Holly St.

The studio will host a grand opening ceremony on Jan. 14 at 4 p.m., during which the new studio will be open to view and all Esteem packages will be discounted 20 percent.

Owner Erika Olson said in a press release that the new location will allow Esteem to offer more services to clients, including one-on-one instruction and post-rehab training. For more information, call 738-2288 or visit


Pediatrics office offers unique billing arrangement

Kowals Pediatrics, offering same-day appointments for children through a unique service model, opened downtown on Nov. 12 at 412 Girard St.

Kowals Pediatrics is being launched by Dr. Daniel Kowals and office administrator Lisa Teal.

Kowals specializes in preventive care for children from infancy through college, such as comprehensive physicals. He also provides same-day appointments for illnesses and injuries, enabling families to avoid trips to hospital emergency rooms for suturing lacerations, casting routine fractures and treating asthma attacks.

Kowals, who is a board-certified pediatrician and speaks English and Spanish, has practiced medicine for four years. He said he is able to spend more time with patients and keep rates low by accepting payment only at the time of service and by not billing third parties.

“In order to keep costs down for the uninsured and the increasing number of people with high insurance deductibles, we’ve chosen not to assume the massive overhead associated with billing third parties,” Kowals said in a press release. “Since we don’t have all the paperwork and don’t have to wait for partial reimbursements, we can offer quality, straight-forward medicine with no hidden fees.”

Kowals said this approach is becoming increasingly popular throughout the country, and gives parents the freedom to choose their pediatrician and when they need services for their children. The model is geared toward families who fund a health savings account or medical savings account with pre-tax dollars. For more information, including rates, call 738-7290 or visit


BAC gets in the express game

The owner of the Bellingham Athletic Club (BAC) has purchased Express Fitness and Tan at 305 Telegraph Road, and has renamed it Bellingham Athletic Club Express.

The gym will be the third BAC location in Bellingham.

BAC owner Cathy Buckley said she bought the business at the beginning of November and has been painting and refurbishing the space, as well as adding equipment and staff. The gym will initially market a 30-minute workout to women, but will eventually add afternoon programs for children, as well.

Buckley said she is also working on adding personal training and a variety of group class offerings.

“We are excited to enter into this market,” she said. “It’s a way to get at people who may be intimidated to come into a full-fledged club.”

The original BAC opened at 4191 Meridian St. in 1975 and the second location, at 1616 Cornwall Ave., opened in 1994. For more information call 676-1800.


Daisy Café blossoms downtown

The Daisy Café opened for breakfast and lunch on Oct. 31 in the former Cafe Toulouse space at 114 W. Magnolia St.

Owners Cameron and Kim VanEpps used to own the Bob’s Burgers & Brew in Sudden Valley.

“It’s nice not to have a deep fat fryer anymore,” said Kim, referring to the new café’s kitchen.

The VanEpps have kept many items that were popular at Cafe Toulouse on their menu, but have also added new dishes such as Kim’s favorite — the smoked salmon omelet.

The Daisy Cafe is open seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 733-8996.


Local boat brokerages join forces

Bellhaven Yacht Sales and Charter, a Bellingham-based brokerage, charter and sailing school company, has joined forces with Bellharbor Yacht Sales, the largest powerboat broker in Whatcom County.

Together, Bellhaven, which has been in business almost 20 years, and Bellharbor will offer a wider range of brokerage services as well as increased support coverage to the marine industry.

“We are very excited about the merging of Bellhaven and Bellharbor into one powerhouse team,” said Bellhaven owner Bryan Archer in a press release.

“It’s a proverbial win-win for both companies,” added Bellharbor owner Curt Bagley in the press release.

Over the next few months, the two companies will integrate operations and staff to ensure a smooth and seamless transition for customers and partners. The merged organization will launch a unified company under the Bellhaven name as of Jan. 1, 2008.

The companies will combine their allocated Seattle Boat Show space on Jan. 25, making it the largest brokerage and charter display in the exhibition center. The company will employ 10 workers, and management of the combined company will include members from both organizations.

As part of the merger, Bellharbor will vacate its current space at 2620 N. Harbor Loop Drive and will move into Bellhaven’s space at 714 Coho Way. For more information, call 647-0903.


El Cápitan’s anchors downtown

One of Western’s everyday vendors, El Cápitan’s, is now serving up fresh hotdogs downtown on Friday and Saturday nights.

Owner Marc Ravaris said he decided to expand his business to get more off-campus exposure. His friend Aaron Loffler, who owns Festival Espresso, agreed to sublet his space at 1314 Railroad Ave., allowing Ravaris to operate part time. The space has just enough room for the hotdog stand, a space heater and a few chairs.

“I’m kind of priding myself on the concept of not having a building,” Ravaris said. “I’m trying to avoid being open permanently. This way I’m quite mobile.”

This is not the first time Ravaris has ventured from Vender’s Row at the Viking Union, where he has done steady business for four years. El Cápitan’s took to the seas this summer on a hotdog barge located at gate 7 in Squalicum Harbor. For more information, call 206-947-7245.


Pomp and Pamper brings party to you

Pomp and Pamper Mobile Spa Services celebrated its grand opening by throwing a spa party on the waterfront on Sunday, Dec. 2.

Owner Christie Raper has tailored the business, which opened in August, toward bridal showers, birthday parties and other special occasions. She said she got the idea for the business after she successfully hosted a spa party as a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training triathlon.

For more information, call 441-5905 or visit


Sustainable Connections forms partnership

The Cascadia Region Green Building Council (Cascadia) has established a new partnership with Bellingham-based Sustainable Connections.

The organization’s green building program is Cascadia’s newest branch, in addition to eight others currently in existence, including three in Washington state.

Sustainable Connections’ green building program promotes healthy, efficient, and environmentally responsible homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces through education, technical assistance, and advocacy.

Both organizations promote and leverage the value of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), among other tools and programs, to improve the performance of new and existing buildings, neighborhoods, and homes.

“Cascadia brings a depth of technical ability, tools, and contacts that will help Bellingham and Whatcom County continue to be a leader among small cities and rural counties in the adoption of green building technologies and practices,” said Derek M. Long, Program & Development Director of Sustainable Connections in a press release.

The partnership will provide educational opportunities for industry professionals and the greater public in Whatcom County. For more information, visit or


Co-op breaks ground on new Cordata store

The Community Food Co-op has broken ground on its second store on the corner of Cordata Parkway and Westerly Road in north Bellingham.

The community-owned local, natural and organic grocery’s new store will feature expanded state-of-the-art produce, meat, and deli departments, as well as a kitchen classroom and community meeting room.

“Our membership has doubled to nearly 12,000 over the past decade and our Forest Street store is bursting at the seams,” said general manager Jeff Voltz in a press release. “We are taking this opportunity to expand our presence to create greater community access to the wonderful foods and services we provide.”

Architect James Williams has designed the new Co-op building to be the first supermarket in Whatcom County to achieve the silver level for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Pearson Construction Corp. will build the store and primary financing was attained through Whatcom Educational Credit Union. The grand opening is scheduled for summer 2009.


DeWaard & Jones is now The Socrates Group

If you’re looking for DeWaard & Jones Company, a local business information solutions company, they have recently changed their name to The Socrates Group, after the ancient Greek philosopher.

The change reflects both a change of ownership and a complete re-branding of the business after president Bob Jones bought out his business partner Dick DeWaard, who will remain in the company as an independent consultant.

The business has also grown to include five consultants and two full-time employees.


Local painter opens children’s art school

Bellingham School of Visual Art, located at 207 Unity St., began accepting students in October, said owner and painter James Eisenhart.

The school occupies about 1,000 square feet of space above local catering company Ciao Thyme’s new facility on Unity Street.

The school offers art classes for kids of all ages. Currently, he is teaching representational drawing and painting, he said. The school will also show the students’ work during downtown gallery walks.

Eisenhart said he thinks visual art is an important supplement to basic education because it teaches problem solving skills and creative thinking.

Eisenhart graduated from Western Washington University with a fine arts degree, and has volunteered as an art instructor in schools, and also worked as a teacher’s assistant at Western. He has been painting for 20 years. For more information, call 672-0883.


The Homax Group acquires Black Flag Brands

On Nov. 5, The Homax Group announced that it acquired Black Flag Brands, a Chicago-based company that manufactures and markets more than 30 different insect control products.

“Black Flag adds a powerful brand to our portfolio,” said Ross Clawson, president of Homax Group, in a press release.

The Homax Group is a local supplier of do-it-yourself and contractor products such as Goo Gone, Jasco, Tile Guard and Stone Care International. For more information, call 733-9029.


CH2M Hill wins first Distinguished Project Award

CH2M Hill (formerly VECO U.S.A.), British Petroleum and Matrix Constructors were awarded with a Distinguished Project Award from the Northwest Construction Consumer Council for their work on separator lids at the BP Cherry Point oil refinery.

The project replaced large aluminum covers with permanent, cast-in-place concrete lids that eliminate leaks of volatile organic compounds. It was finished ahead of schedule, 28 percent under budget and completed with a perfect safety record, according to a press release.

The Distinguished Project Awards honor projects that demonstrate outstanding performance in safety, project planning and execution, and attainment of project goals. This new award recognizes excellence in construction for the project that best demonstrates mitigation of environmental impact.


Latte Books to close in February

After five-and-a-half years of selling used books in Bellingham, Latte Books owner Barb Kotsogean has decided to close shop.

Everything in the store (an estimated 35,000 books) at 112 Grand Ave. will be 25 percent to 50 percent off from now until closing.

Latte Books will be open through February, when its lease ends, Kotsogean said. After that, she said, she plans to travel the U.S. and then possibly Europe. For more information, call 647-3733.


Former INS officer launches immigration help Web site

Whatcom County resident and former Immigration & Naturalization Services officer Jason E. Ankeny recently launched his new Web-based company

The company specializes in employment, investor, and family-based immigration services and provides a full range of paralegal services. The company works closely with Bellingham attorney Dennis Hindman as well as San Diego-based Michael P. O’Conner & Associates.

Ankeny has 10 years of law enforcement experience and graduated from Western Washington University in 2003 with a business degree. For more information, call 715-2105 or visit


KFC to close Dec. 8

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) on Girard Street is closing. Assistant manager Jason Birks confirmed the store’s last day would be Dec. 8, but said he could not comment further.KFC District Manager Jay Andres said he could not comment except to say the store, located at 1711 Girard St., “lost its lease.”


GameConX opens with 48-hour gaming spree

While snow gently blanketed the town on Saturday, Dec. 1, those inside GameConX were just reaching the half-way mark of the new computer gaming facility’s 48-hour grand opening.

The store, located at 1422 Cornwall Ave., opened Friday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. and didn’t close until Sunday night, Dec. 2. Those in attendance played games such as “Team Fortress 2,” “Counter Strike: Source,” and “Unreal Tournament 3.”

GameConX is Bellingham’s only LAN computer gaming facility and offers 25 networked, Internet-enabled computers and two Nintendo Wii consoles. They have a variety of games that customers can play based on hourly or daily rates.

For more information, call 325-7015.


Brett & Coats to move to Fairhaven

Injury law firm Brett & Coats is moving from its downtown office to Fairhaven’s Harris Square Condominiums.

Owner Dean Brett said the firm will be fully relocated from 119 N. Commercial St., in the Bellingham Towers Building, to 1301 10th St. by Feb. 15, 2008.

The new space is located in two condos on the first floor of Harris Square, facing 10th Street.

Brett said Fairhaven is centrally located for the firm’s customers, more than half of whom are located outside Whatcom County. Getting to the Fairhaven office from the freeway will be easier for them than getting to their downtown space, he said.

Bellingham is Brett & Coats’ headquarters, but the firm also has offices in Seattle, Spokane and Vancouver, Wash. The firm specializes in major personal injury and wrongful death claims throughout the state.

Brett started the law firm Brett & Daugert in Bellingham in 1972. In 2006, Brett and partner Bill Coats split from the firm to form Brett & Coats, and the remaining firm became Barron Smith Daugert. For more information, call 671-1000, or visit

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