Owner: Shelly Mears
Address: 2711 Meridian St.
Startup date: Dec. 29
Square footage: 2,700
Initial investment: $60,000
Since her childhood, growing up in white, middle-class America, Shelly Mears has always had a desire to learn about other people and cultures.
In college, at Western Washington University, she majored in anthropology. As a professional photographer, she took pictures of people from myriad backgrounds going about their daily routines. Three years ago, she and her husband went on a humanitarian mission to Indonesia.
In December, she opened Import 12, a business that allows her to import goods from other countries and aid the people who make them.
“I would call myself ‘humanitarian meets businesswoman,’” said Mears, 36.
The humanitarian function of the business, she said, is that all the imported products she sells, such as furniture, jewelry and accessories, come from Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit organization that buys products from craftspeople in Third World Countries at North American prices. In turn, the incomes the artists take in help them pay for food, education, healthcare and housing in their communities.
“You’re buying locally, but you’re thinking globally,” Mears said. “When we make a sale here, it goes toward something good. It’s a ‘mankind purchase’ as opposed to buying something that’s just mass produced.”
Mears, who’s located in the former Sadie’s Tea For All Seasons and Dorf ‘N’ Ferns location, in the Columbia neighborhood, said she chose the spot over other trendier locations, such as Fairhaven or downtown, because she wanted to keep things simple.
“It wouldn’t appear very humanitarian if we were paying $5,000 a month for rent,” she said. “We’re not trying to be a commercial import store. We want to be a mom-and-pop, faith-based, community-oriented establishment.”
The store, which gives off a peaceful vibe, with bamboo throughout the building, warm colors on the walls, and inspirational music playing, also has an espresso bar, featuring fair trade coffee and tea, and a gallery/conference area featuring the work of local artists.
The “12” portion of the business comes from the section of the store dedicated to 12-step and inspirational products, such as books, cards and pins.
“There are a lot of successful people in the community who’ve had a 12-step program turn their lives around,” Mears said.
Mears said helping and learning from others is what she’s always enjoyed doing.
“I feel absolutely blessed and grateful that I’ve been able to do what I love and what I feel is my calling,” she said. “And I’m having fun and making money.”
— J.J. Jensen
Seven Loaves Pizzeria
Owner: Mike Lane
Address: Bellingham Public Market, 1530 Cornwall Ave.
Startup date: Dec. 29
Square footage: 700
Initial investment: $25,000
“It’s fun,” said restaurateur Mike Lane, “to take one small thing in the world and try to make it a little better.”
For Lane, that one thing is pizza.
At Seven Loaves Pizzeria, located in the Bellingham Public Market, Lane said he sets himself apart from competitors by making his pizzas from meats and cheeses produced at local farms, dairies and ranches. In addition, there is no commercial yeast used in his dough.
Lane said he believes there are enough people around who appreciate organic foods to make the eatery successful.
“There’s a growing number of people who value organic food,” he said. “They say, ‘Now I can eat pizza because I know the ingredients are good.’ They can eat pizza and feel good about it.”
Lane, 40, who operated a Seven Loaves location on the Mount Baker Highway a few years ago, said he decided to revive the restaurant in the Public Market because of its central location.
“The old location was kind of difficult to get to and people would always say, ‘If you were in town, we’d come in more.’ I decided to call them on it,” he said.
He also liked the Public Market location because of its reputation for having customers who support local businesses.
“I like the co-op type spirit and the sense that, locally, we take care of each other,” Lane said.
Lane, who used to organize community dinners at the Old Town Café through the Backyard Abundance organization, said his 16-inch pizzas, which include toppings such as buffalo, Sara-Joe’s organic pork, smoked salmon and Pleasant Valley cheeses, typically need to be shared — an action he believes should happen in many aspects of life.
Continuing with the sharing theme, the slogan at the eatery, said Lane, is “Share a Seven Loaves pizza — there’s enough for everyone.”
Also when eating at Seven Loaves, having $21 can come in handy.
According to Lane, one “loaf,” a measure of money, is currently worth about $3. Seven Loaves’ combination pizzas typically cost $21 (seven loaves).
— J.J. Jensen