the paperdoll

Owner: Shultzie Fay
Address: 1200 Harris Ave., Ste. 305, in the Sycamore Square Building
Phone: 738-3655
Web site:
Startup date: May 4
Square Footage: 350

Schultzie Fay, who has lived all over the country and worked primarily in children’s broadcasting, has returned to her hometown of Bellingham and opened a new Fairhaven gift store called the paperdoll.

    The paperdoll is a kaleidoscope of pastel colors and eclectic gifts that are at once nostalgic and modern. Mint and lime greens, gumball blues and rosy-pinks shade the walls, reminiscent of a pack of Necco Wafers.
   The gift store on the third floor of Fairhaven’s Sycamore Square Building is packed with items such as pulp fiction-style journals, jewelry shaped like seahorses or dangled with guitar picks, giraffe-printed pillows, shiny silk ties and printed yoga mats.
   Shultzie Fay, the store’s 24-year-old owner, is just as energetic as her wares.
   “This community is so open wide to the spirit of young business owners and small businesses,” she said. “Being young and opening a store is not impossible, but we’re conditioned to think we have to work for other people.”
   Fay grew up in Bellingham but spent her college and post-college years in Ohio, New York, San Francisco and Seattle — studying and working for children’s broadcasting companies. But she soon found herself working too much for too little.
   “I kept asking myself, what’s not working here, what’s not making me happy?” she said. The result of her soul searching was a decision to move back to her hometown and open the type of shop she loves.
   “When I was in high school here, there were three places I liked to shop,” she said. “But other than that, if I wanted anything awesome I had to go to Seattle or Vancouver. I wanted to put all the things I loved in one spot.”
   Fay had an idea of the type of store she wanted to open, but got some help from Think Mill, a marketing firm also located in Sycamore Square; from her dad, who did much of the carpentry for the space; and from her mom, who is helping out with the accounting. Even her dog, Soupy Sails — named after the mid-century comedian Soupy Sales — helps greet customers at the door.
   Independent designers and artists make all of the items in her store, many from New York, Boston, Toronto, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as three from Bellingham.
   As for the store’s location, Fay said she’d like to see the Sycamore Square Building become more of an interior marketplace, rather than office space, and thinks it’s the perfect fit for her business.
   “The building complements this business to a T,” she said. “It’s old and there is so much rich history here. The products I have are like that — old but new. Retrofitted.”

Backcountry Essentials
Owners: Erica and Chris Gerston
Address: 214 W. Holly St.
Phone: 543-5678
Web site:
Startup date: May 31
Square Footage: 1,800

Chris and Erica Gerston, and their 12-week-old daughter, Avery, are the proud parents of a new outdoor gear store, Backcountry Essentials.

    Erica and Chris Gerston’s 12-week-old daughter, Avery, gurgles and coos in her father’s arms as a worker affixes racks to the walls of their new store, Backcountry Essentials.
   The couple wanted to work together and have a flexible schedule to spend time with Avery, and also saw an opening in the Bellingham market they said had been left by Base Camp’s exit from the outdoor-gear scene. A friend of theirs works at Second Ascent, a similar business in Ballard, and Erica and Chris took notice.
   “We saw an opening niche for a similar model in Bellingham,” Erica said.
   The store, located at 214 W. Holly St. in the former Blue Moon Vintage Clothing store space, will sell new and used backcountry gear, including climbing, skiing, backpacking, camping and kayaking items, as well as offer rentals.
   After Base Camp and Re Sport Consignments closed, Bellingham was left without an outdoors center that sold used gear, Chris said.
   Chris, who Erica calls the “gearhead” of the family, said he wanted to provide an outlet for more technical aspects of backcountry recreation.
   “Where we’re going to fit in is being the place where people can get more technical stuff,” he said. “We’d like to hit part of the population that’s like, ‘yeah, I want crampons that fit on tele-boots and still give in your front points.'”
   That’s “gearhead” speak for a special shoe accoutrement for cross-country skiers.
   And while Chris and his three employees — each with their own gear specialty — will provide the technical know-how for the store’s products, Erica is in charge of the bookkeeping, which will allow her more flexibility in her most important role as a new mom.
   Although Erica owned a small floral business in Walla Walla, where she grew up, the couple researched the market and met with Western’s Small Business Development Center during the planning process.
   “They’ve been so helpful,” Erica said of the center.
   Chris, who used to work as a mental-health counselor for teenagers, said he wants to eventually work out arrangements with youth organizations to rent gear for a discount.
   He additionally wants the store to become not just a retail outlet, but also a backcountry resource center as well.
   The couple began renovating the space in April and said their main challenge has been time management.
   “Everything takes more time than you think it will,” Chris said. “You think it’s going to take an hour — it takes a day. You think it’s going to take a day — it takes a week. You always have to bump it up to the next time unit.”
   Both Erica and Chris are excited the time unit has finally bumped up to opening day.

Owners: Rian Greer and Becki Lawson
Address: 1309 Cornwall Ave.
Phone: 733-2610
Web site:
Startup date: May 1
Square Footage: 3,200
Initial Investment: $13,000

Rian Greer, the former beverage manager at the Silver Reef Casino, has opened Re-Threads, a second-hand men’s clothing store.

    For a 25-year-old, Rian Greer has a quite a collection of degrees and jobs to put on his resume.
   At Western Washington University, he double-majored in political science and sociology and double-minored in psychology and history.
   His job experience, however, is in the food-and-beverage industry, with numerous serving stints at local restaurants as well as a two-year run as the beverage manager for the Silver Reef Casino.
   After a while, however, dreams of owning his own business took shape.
   “I decided corporate work wasn’t for me,” he said. “Being a middle manager is not fun — you get it from both sides.”
   That’s when he left to work as a server at Du Jour Bistro and The Vines Wine Shop on Cornwall Avenue and met Becki Lawson, the bistro/wine shop’s co-owner, who came up with the idea of a men’s consignment store.
   Greer wanted to be his own boss, and the two developed a plan for Re-Threads, which is now the only men’s consignment clothing store between Seattle and Vancouver, Greer said.
   “I’m a bit of a clothes horse myself, and I don’t like going to the mall,” he said. “If I can get the same stuff at a quarter of the price, why not?”
   All of the clothes — from shoes and pants to shirts, ties and jackets — are name brand and sell on consignment for 20 to 40 percent of the original price.
   The idea seemed perfect for Greer, who said he’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
   “I started selling soda pop on the corner when I was six,” he said of his first business in Portland, where he grew up.
   Some of the money for the store’s initial investment came from a $22,000 jackpot Greer won playing slots at the Silver Reef Casino. But because it’s a consignment store, he doesn’t have to carry an inventory, so the initial strain on his pocketbook wasn’t much of a concern.
   Greer also said having a business partner with so much experience has been helpful as well.
   “It’s a great way to start a business,” he said. “Having a partner with experience is such a resource, and it balances out the risk.”
   Greer will do most of the day-to-day managerial operation of the store while Lawson will do most of the bookkeeping.
   The space, formerly the Authentic Rug Gallery, has 20-foot-high ceilings and is painted a rich yellow with black and red trim. A section in the back has two sofas and a coffee table near the dressing rooms.
   The challenge as a new business owner, Greer said, is getting enough sleep.
   “Be prepared to sleep little and work a lot,” he said as advice to other new entrepreneurs. “I keep a pad of paper near my bed to write ideas down, and I turn the light on and off, on and off for about an hour before I can fall asleep.



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