At some point in most business peoples’ lives, they come to a realization that they want be their own boss or in a position to make important decisions.
For some, perhaps it was discovering the passion for a product or cause. For others, it may have been the desire to reach the top and lead and help others.
The epiphany can come at any time.
Meet four local people under the age of 40 who made the decision early in their lives to aim to be successful in business.
Job: Owner, Whimsey
College: Western Washington University
Advice to young business people: “Treat people the way you want to be treated, because all the people you make contact with are your references.”
Since opening Whimsey, a jewelry, art and gift shop, in May 2003, Cami Grichel has seen her bright, cheery Fairhaven business grow almost every month in both popularity and sales.
In addition, the business allows Grichel to feel a bit like a little girl every day, having fun helping people pick out jewelry and expressing her artistic visions by creating displays around the shop.
In starting the business, Grichel, who worked briefly at an investment firm after graduating from Western Washington University in 1997, was also saved from a world of cubicles and extensive number crunching.
Coming into work every day is something to be excited about, she said, and she credits all her success to her dog, Maddi, a 5-year-old Wheaton Terrier who hangs out at the shop all day, receiving complement after compliment from customers.
“She is a big, big part of everything here,” said Grichel on a recent afternoon, as a group of customers in her store fawned over Maddi. “Having her is like having a child — I didn’t want to leave her at home all day or drop her off somewhere. I had the idea of opening my own business, with the incentive of not having to leave her home alone.”
Grichel, who originally went to Western to pursue a degree in environmental planning, because she liked to “design things,” said she ultimately decided to work with jewelry because of her extensive background with it.
While in college, Grichel gained experience with fine jewelry, working part time in the jewelry department at the Kirkland Costco for four years. After college, when her husband took a job in Oregon, she learned about dealing with artists, and operating a small business, working for a specialty jewelry store.
In working at two different types of jewelry stores, she said she learned the same lesson: No matter how much money a customer intends to spend, they deserve to be treated equally.
“The whole idea for me was to provide an elegant and fun experience but for it to be comfortable at the same time,” she said. “It’s really important to me that someone who comes in to buy a $5 pair of earrings gets the same experience as someone who buys a $500 bracelet. No sale is more important than another.”
Grichel, who first fell in love with jewelry as a little girl while trying on the various pieces in her grandma’s abundant collection, said she aims to provide a wide range of variety and styles at her store, offering selections from 40 different local, regional and national artists.
The best part about her job, she said, is making people happy.
“Getting to meet so many neat people is a positive experience and it’s so much fun when someone comes in and loves the things I picked out,” she said.
Job: Owner, Mallard Ice Cream
College: The Evergreen State College
Advice to young business people: “If you have a vision, express it.”
When Ben Scholtz, a 1988 Sehome High graduate, returned to Bellingham in 2001, after attending The Evergreen State College and working for some nonprofits and the Seattle Art Museum, he wanted to do something entrepreneurial and creative.
Working as a part-time employee at Mallard Ice Cream, he saw his opportunity.
Mallard’s previous owner, Mike VanderBerg, was struggling after operating the business for several years, and looking to sell or close the shop. So Scholtz, who had learned all the facets of the business, and had always wanted to own an eatery, decided to step up and buy it.
“I felt I knew enough about the business, and I imagined that with a fresh perspective, that I could help it get beyond the barriers that he had run into,” said Scholtz.
After buying Mallard, Scholtz decided to get out of the wholesale business and stopped selling ice cream to the 40 or so regional grocery stores carrying Mallard brands. He also reduced staffing and with a fellow employee, Nathan Dodge, worked relentlessly to improve the ice cream — made from fresh food products as opposed to canned goods — tinkering with existing recipes and trying new ones.
“My feeling was that the retail portion of the business was more likely to be successful,” Scholtz said. “My goal was to make sure the shop was clean and comfortable. In parallel, I wanted to make the best ice cream. I knew the ice cream was already good but I wanted to see how good we could make it.”
Mallard, which already had a small, enthusiastic customer base, soon began to grow its clientele, as customers learned of the positive changes to the ice cream and store. In addition, Mallard was a featured artisan ice cream in a recent edition of the national ice cream guidebook, Scoops.
Because business has tripled, Scholtz said, since he took over, Mallard, which serves around 200,000 scoops of ice cream a year, moved this winter from 207 E. Holly St. to the old Gus & Naps Tavern location at 1323 Railroad Ave. The store’s arrival, say nearby business owners, has helped aid in revitalization efforts on the block.
With 3,400 square feet, the new location is twice the size of its former home and provides more seating for customers and kitchen space for employees, who make ice cream in five-gallon batches.
On most days, said Scholtz, Mallard offers customers 28 different flavors of ice cream at the store. In all, Mallard has 350 different flavor recipes and makes between 10,000 to 15,000 gallons of ice cream a year.
“By taking something that was good already and continuing to refine it, we’ve elevated to the point where we’re probably one of the top ice cream producers on the West Coast,” Scholtz said.
Knowing people enjoy something he’s helped create is moving, said Scholtz.
“My greatest satisfaction,” he said, “is to do something original and have it be appreciated.”
Job: Vice president, Barkley Company
College: Beloit College (Wisconsin), bachelor’s; University of Wisconsin-Madison, law degree
Hometown: Madison, Wisc.
Advice to young business people: “Strive to become involved in something that interests and excites you because that’s where your passion will come from.”
Despite previously living in downtown Chicago, working as an attorney at a prestigious law firm, and serving as in-house counsel for a top advertising company, things haven’t slowed down any for Matt Hammatt since arriving in Bellingham five years ago.
When his wife, Jane — granddaughter of Bellingham Cold Storage founder Archie Talbot — wanted to return to the area, Hammatt was entrusted with a job with her family’s real-estate entity, the Barkley Company, developer of the 200-acre, mixed-use Barkley District in northeast Bellingham.
As a vice president with the company, he serves as an owner rep, handles marketing and advertising duties, oversees the master planning of building projects, and continues to do some legal work. Hammatt said he’s more active in his current position than any other job he’s ever had.
“It’s exciting to be a part of something so big,” he said. “When I was an attorney, the end product was maybe a signed line agreement. But now, creating a community is very exciting to me. Having something you can see and touch at the end of the day, as a result of your work, is very fulfilling.”
While Hammatt’s already helped oversee the construction of the Dahlia Building and Phase II of the Barkley Medical Center, he said he’s now involved with one of the company’s most meaningful projects to date — its first foray into residential development in the district.
This summer, said Hammatt, Barkley will break ground on the Drake Building, a five-story, mixed-use building on Newmarket Street, located between the Arch Talbot Building and Barkley Village. The building will feature retail and office spaces, a parking garage and 36 residential units.
“The company has not done residential buildings to this point,” he said. “We’ve been talking about creating an urban village for years and years, so this is exciting because we’re finally walking the talk.”
The Drake Building, Hammatt said, will be followed by two more new buildings in coming years.
A 100,000-square-foot structure, with 80 to 90 residential units, as well as retail and office space, will go on the northeast corner of Barkley Boulevard and Newmarket Street. On the northwest corner of the intersection, a 16,000-square-foot retail/office building will be constructed.
In addition to helping plan a neighborhood, Hammatt, who’s also busy at home with a one-year-old daughter, said he’s more involved with community and civic organizations here, including The Rotary Club of Bellingham and Western Washington University Foundation, than he could have ever imagined being in Chicago.
“Chicago is such a big city, it’s hard to get involved and make a difference,” he said. “Here, I’m involved in many activities, and meet other people constantly.”
Job: Owner, The Bottle Shoppe
College: University of Texas
Advice to young business people: “Planning is good but, at some point, you just have to jump in and move forward with your ideas. The worst you can do is fail, and you’ll feel even worse if you never try.”
Dave Morales loves beer. And he wants the rest of Bellingham to love it too.
Since opening The Bottle Shoppe in 2004, Morales has brought hundreds of specialty beers to Bellingham and served as a beer steward to thousands of people.
He’s also helped customers learn about hops, barley, yeast, flavors, textures, brewing processes, brews that complement certain meals, and other tidbits of useful information from “the wonderful world of beer.”
“It’s rare you can go to a grocery store and be able to find someone who can help you pick out a beer and tell you specifics about it,” said Morales. “It’s fun talking about beer all day and turning people on to different beers.”
Morales, who’s been a home brewer since the early 1990s, held various positions at Pike Brewing Company, and worked as a professional brewer at Pyramid Breweries and Boundary Bay Brewery, before deciding to open his business because of his knowledge of beer, and because Bellingham didn’t have any similar shops.
Also, since arriving in town in 1998, he’d noticed that a good portion of the population — from college students to retirees — had an affinity for beer.
“Knowing it’s a beer town, and having a world-class brewery located here, I had faith in the people of Bellingham,” Morales said. “People like their beer here and they like to have choices.”
On most days, The Bottle Shoppe, located at 207 1/2 E. Holly St., carries more than 250 different beers, ciders and meads from around the world, ranging from old domestic standbys, like Pabst Blue Ribbon, to $28 Belgian ales, such as Chimay Grand Reserve.
To broaden people’s beer-drinking horizons, Morales also has monthly tastings, where, for $10, customers can sample different styles of beer.
“My favorite thing about beer is the variety. There’s a beer out there for everyone,” said Morales, who’s increased sales every month since he’s opened. “To me, a great day is when someone walks away from my shop with a greater understanding of beer. If I can open up someone’s mind, in getting them to move past the macrobeers, that’s great.”
Morales, who formerly wrote a beer column for the Bellingham Weekly, and who’s been involved in local community theater, said he looks forward to meeting new customers as Bellingham’s downtown continues its revitalization.
“I’m always into spreading the gospel of beer,” he said.