|A recent trip to Europe got Alan (above) and Gretchen Taylor thinking about the fuel-efficient scooters they saw have remained so popular there — and urbano moto was born.|
On a recent springtime vacation to Spain and France, Alan and Gretchen Taylor were struck by the amount of scooters and small, fuel-efficient cars they saw European residents driving.
“It was an eye-opening experience in that everyone was doing their part to cut down fuel costs there,” Alan said. “We started wondering, ‘Why isn’t everyone doing that here?”
Alan remembered seeing scores of scooters amassed in front of stoplights or parked liked sardines on sidewalks in the cities they visited.
The vacationing couple was so impressed, they were inspired to bring home a souvenir — an idea that would fuel their next business endeavor.
Back home, after 27 years in the car business selling Porsches and Audis, among others, Alan opened urbano moto, which translates to urban motors in both Spanish and Italian, selling Chinese-made Roketa scooters, as well as used and vintage Vespas and a hodgepodge of vintage and fuel-efficient cars.
Warm, but industrial, with about 20 international flags hanging from the ceiling, which act as sound buffers in the high-ceilinged space, its walls are painted in matte olive green and speedway orange. A bright orange Roketa, a vintage Barbie-pink Vespa, and other scooters poke out from sectional walls.
The front façade is printed with the phrase, “Think Green,” in olive-colored font beneath the dealership’s name.
Alan said that he wants to promote a more environmentally friendly and low-cost solution to transportation in Bellingham, and has been lobbying the city to embrace scooter-sympathetic transportation and parking policies.
At the very least, Alan said, he hopes simply that his presence on auto row will get the gas-guzzling types to inch toward even thinking about cutting down on gas consumption.
“One surprising thing so far is seeing these gas-guzzling drivers thinking about scooters and diesels,” he said.
The Roketa scooters range in price from $1,200 to $1,900. Alan said the Chinese have been using scooters in mass quantities for the past 34 years, and have mastered scooter technology.
He considers his dealership the place to veer from the norm when shopping for transportation options in Bellingham. In fact, the model for his showroom is based on European dealerships, which are typically smaller than ones in the United States and only have a few floor models parked inside that customers choose from and then place an order for.
Despite the area’s reputation for rain, which Alan said will potentially dampen some locals’ interest in driving a scooter regularly, he thinks one of the most attractive aspects about scooters is their ability to expose the driver to the world around them, unlike the bubble experience of a car.
Riding a scooter allows the driver to be engaged with the world, to chat with fellow scooter riders while stopped at a light, or to feel the elements around them.
From his vantage point, urbano moto is set to take over “el mundo,” or at least the greater part of Bellingham’s transportation world, very soon.
Owner: Rachel Riggs
Address: 1200 Old Fairhaven Parkway, Suite 101
Phone number: 671-0203
Web address: www.quelfromage.com (coming soon)
Startup date: Dec. 7
Square footage: 460
|Rachel Riggs’ new Fairhaven cheese shop, Quel Fromage, specializes in artisan cheeses from across the globe.|
Anyone perusing Rachel Riggs’ new artisan cheese shop, Quel Fromage, for a minute or two, will wonder how she and her workers manage not to gorge themselves constantly on the more than 75 gourmet artisan cheeses displayed in two large glass cases.
For instance, how can the wedge of borough cheddar — a salty, tart cheese from England — still be intact? And how can they resist nibbling the cocoa Cordana from Carr Valley, Wisc. — a soft white cheese dusted with cocoa powder?
Piquant signs festoon every wedge and slice of cheese, describing its particular origin, phonetic pronunciation, flavor description and suggested wine pairing. Customers can sample anything and everything before they buy, and their purchase comes with a receipt printed with the above information.
The store is an epicurean’s dream come true.
Riggs, a San Diego transplant, is confident in her shop’s concept.
“It’s a sophisticated offering, but in a friendly and accessible way, because we provide lots of information,” she said. “We don’t want to be intimidating.”
Enticing may be the best word to describe her shop’s ambiance. Chic espresso-colored hardwood floors and clean white walls underscore the goods: exotic cheeses with names like Cirrus, Garrotxa, Humbolt Fog and Pont L’Eveque as well as an impressive assortment of chocolates, olives and oils.
A French proverb in black cursive lettering on the wall behind the counter reads, “S’il qui mange du fromage, s’il ne le fait, il enrage,” which translated from French means, “He who does not eat cheese will go mad.”
Riggs and her husband discovered Bellingham while planning a vacation to the San Juan Islands from San Diego. The two were supposed to use Bellingham as their jumping off point to the islands, but after researching the area and then winding through Chuckanut and bursting onto the Fairhaven scene, Riggs was in love.
“We never made it to the islands,” she laughs. “We fell in love with Fairhaven.”
They stayed in Bellingham for two weeks at the beginning of July, solidifying their spontaneous plan to relocate there.
The two moved to Bellingham six weeks later.
Riggs hopes to offer more than 100 types of artisan (handmade) cheeses soon. So far, she’s been impressed with her customers’ desire to try new types.
“People have been saying they are so happy we’re here,” she said. “They aren’t just going for pedestrian choices, they are being more adventurous.”
|Kristine Kager and Lance Bailey’s new Fairhaven eatery, Fools Onion, is located in the former Manninos location on Harris Avenue, and capitalizes on many of the recipes that have made their catering company of the same name a success. In the middle is their daughter, Bailey.|
Peel back a few layers of the Fools Onion story and you will find a married couple that met in the kitchen and have turned restaurants into their recipe for success.
Lance Bailey and Kristine Kager met when Bailey hired Kager as a waitress at the former Calumet restaurant where he worked as a kitchen manager. Their combined resumes list restaurants such as Milanos, Pepper Sisters, Dirty Dan Harris’ Restaurant, The Fairhaven Pub and Martini Bar, Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro, The Skagit Valley Casino and the Harborside Bistro.
They started the Fools Onion Catering Company in 2002 and then opened the Crossroads Grocery in Maple Falls in 2004. Their idea was to open a store stocked with goods they would want to buy — good food, wine and a video-rental selection.
They never had a doubt that the next step would be a restaurant with the same philosophy, but it took awhile for the right space to become available.
“I kept my eyes and ears open for opportunities,” Bailey said. They pursued several leads, but nothing ever panned out, until they heard that the former Manninos space would be opening up.
“We were just in the right place at the right time,” Bailey said. “We heard the space would be available and started pursuing it.”
The couple had six weeks from the time Manninos vacated the restaurant until their planned opening date at the beginning of December, a window of time that became splattered with rain, wind and snow from November’s many storms.
There were days during that month when the couple spent five or six hours commuting from Maple Falls to Bellingham because of either snow or downed trees and contractors had a hard time making it in at all.
But for all of their headaches, Bailey and Kager’s finished product radiates casual elegance. A ceiling fan and mustard-colored walls, chocolate-brown moldings and contemporary wall art have replaced Manninos’ chandelier and sponge-painted red walls.
“We wanted it to be earthy, organic and comfortable,” Bailey said of the décor.
Many of the dishes on the menu, like the beef short ribs and butternut squash lasagna, are crossovers from the catering company, which Bailey and Kager now operate out of the restaurant’s kitchen. But the restaurant features new offerings as well, such as Moroccan chicken, duck and wild mushroom ravioli and salmon en croute, as well as a late night menu. Bailey said they hope to be open until 12 a.m. or 1 a.m. on the weekends.
One of the biggest challenges for the couple so far has been balancing work life with spending time with their two-year-old daughter. They’ve worked out a system where Kager spends most of the days with her, and Bailey gets most evenings.
With their new eatery, the two want to focus on supporting local food producers and businesses, and striving to be a community hub — much like their grocery in Maple Falls.
“With the grocery store, we put together a place we would want to have close to us,” Bailey said. “We carried that over to the restaurant.”