Owner: Carol Beecher
Address: 1200 Old Fairhaven
Phone: 733-9143
Startup date: Nov. 14
Square footage: 1,200
Initial investment: $150,000

Carol Beecher, former general manager of the Hotel Bellwether and Inn at Semiahmoo, has left the hospitality industry to focus on retail at her new high-end boutique, Vie on Old Fairhaven Parkway. Beecher said she saw a niche for upscale clothing sales in Bellingham, and thought Fairhaven would be an ideal place to see that vision realized.

   Since arriving in Bellingham in 1997, one thing Carol Beecher always struggled to find locally was clothing suitable for professional women in their 30s to 50s.
   Last month, in opening Vie, an upscale women’s clothing boutique, the former general manager of the Hotel Bellwether and Semiahmoo Resort finally addressed that problem.
   “Vie came about because I, like many women in Bellingham, would love to keep our money in Bellingham if there are some more clothing options. Many of us go to Seattle or Vancouver, because there aren’t a lot of options here,” she said.
   The new boutique, in Fairhaven’s 12th Street Village, features professional wear, ranging from dresses to jeans, jewelry and accessories. Because of competition, however, she declined to name specific brands.
   “My goal is to have new, fresh clothes and small designers and limit the number of pieces so you don’t see (someone dressed like you) on the street in Bellingham,” Beecher said.
   So far, she said, Vie (which translates to “life” in French) has been successful, as each day has seen a steady flow of customers come through the store.
   While Beecher, 48, a 25-year veteran of the hotel industry, former owner of Agate Bay Gourmet and a member of the Whatcom Hospice Foundation, has plenty of experience in the business world, she was originally nervous about how her store would be received.
   “It’s been scary and exciting, but it was really time to do something new,” she said. “Everyday, people are telling me, ‘(The store has) a nice feel to it,’ and ‘It feels like the city.’ It’s nice to hear the customers needed this.”
   Beecher is also pleased to be at the fore of a new wave of businesses that have opened — or will soon open — in Fairhaven.
   Along with Vie, other businesses opening in 12th Street Village include All American Deli & Ice Cream & Espresso, Spoiled Rotten, Windermere and Kitchen Design Studio.
   While the six-person boutique isn’t in the heart of Fairhaven, she said her business has an advantage many others in the area don’t — parking. 12th Street Village has spaces for about 80 vehicles.
   “It’s a little off the beaten path, but Fairhaven is growing and it’s coming right to my front door,” she said.
   Beecher believes her upper-end fashions will be what many newcomers to town prefer.
   “There are a lot of quiet changes going on right now,” she said. “If you start looking around, there’s a lot of people with money coming into this town and we have to give them what they want so they’ll stay (to shop). We need to look at who’s coming in. If they’re going to shop in Bellingham, we need to give them nice restaurants and shops, or else they’re going to go to White Rock or Vancouver or Seattle.”

— J.J. Jensen

Sisters Kathy Hillard and Susie O’Connor have opened Carol’s Girls Cafe on the Mount Baker Highway at the site of their parents’ well-known eatery, Carol’s Coffee Cup, simply known to regulars as “The Cup.”

Carol’s Girls Café
Owners: Kathy Hillard and Susie O’Connor
Address: 5415 Mount Baker Highway, Deming
Phone: 592-5255
Startup date: Dec.1
Square footage: 1,200
Initial investment: $30,000

   Since closing Carol’s Coffee Cup in early 2001, said co-owner Kathy Hillard, hardly a day passed without someone stopping by the location and inquiring about the eatery’s fabled homemade cinnamon rolls and pies.
   At long last, they’re baaack.
   After a nearly five-year hiatus, in which Hillard, 57, and younger sister Susie O’Connor,49, closed the restaurant and operated Carol’s Girls Catering, the sisters on Dec. 1 re-opened their family’s diner on the Mount Baker Highway.
   “Almost everybody who comes in here has a story about Carol’s and that’s really a compliment to us,” said Hillard.
   Indeed, the restaurant, since it was opened in 1974 by Kathy and Susie’s parents, Bill and Carol Vander Yacht, has gained quite a following.
   Known for its homemade burgers, soups and baked goods, the eatery — referred to by regulars as “The Cup” — has long been a popular destination with area residents, skiers, hikers and the U-cut Christmas tree crowd, among others.
   Customers will notice some differences at the down-home diner, though.
   First, the sisters have decided to call it Carol’s Girls Café.
   Also, business hours have been scaled back. Formerly open seven days a week, the girls will now operate the eatery from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, and serve only breakfast and lunch.
   Long hours, they said, were one reason they decided to end their catering business.
   The business, which serves all homemade food — except for hamburger buns — has added some modern-day amenities, too, such as wireless Internet access and a covered, drive-up area for espressos.
   Some things, however, haven’t changed at the restaurant — chief among them the cinnamon rolls and pies.
   Also, Carol herself will continue to be a presence at the establishment, Hillard said, serving occasionally as a prep worker and the “social director.”
   Hillard and O’Connor, both Mount Baker High School graduates who still live near the eatery, said they’re especially glad to be re-opening a community gathering spot.
   “It’s still a friendly place for people to go,” Hillard said.

— J.J. Jensen

Left Coast
Owners: Lisa Ferry and Tom Esia
Address: 1322 Cornwall Ave.
Phone: 733-7900
Startup date: Late December or early January
Square footage: 2,500
Initial investment: $40,000

Tom Esia and Lisa Ferry’s new furniture store, Left Coast Furnishings, is scheduled to open on Cornwall Avenue in late December.

  Bellingham’s been a dream come true so far for Lisa Ferry, 33, and husband Tom Esia, 36.
   When the couple moved here from Salt Lake City this summer, they achieved one of their shared goals — living in a close-knit community that’s near the water and mountains and abounds with outdoor activities.
   And when their Left Coast Furnishings opens in the next few weeks, they’ll have achieved another goal — operating their own business.
   “This has been perfect. It’s absolutely amazing here,” said Ferry. “We even like the rain.”
   The couple, who have a two-year-old son, Zeke, and just bought a home in the Sunnyland neighborhood, said they decided to open a furniture store because of their history in retail.
   Combined, the two have 23 years of experience working at Home Depot, and, most recently, Ferry served as the manager of a contemporary furniture store in Utah.
   “We just love interacting with people,” Ferry said.
   The new store will be a showroom for custom-made contemporary and modern furniture, including sofas, dining tables, beds and office furniture, and will also carry local art. Major brands at the store will include Palliser, Lite Source, Cameleon, Kalora Grander Images, Otis, Lumi Source and Pinestone. Selections will range in cost from a few hundred dollars to more than $3,000.
   The business will be different from many other furniture stores, Ferry said, because customers will be able to see different representations of furniture and then be able to pick the types of fabrics and styles they want.
   Being able to customize furniture can be a fun and creative experience for customers, she said.
   “You can organize it however you want,” she said. “You can funk it up or be mellow.”
   Because Left Coast’s furniture and selection process may be new to some people, Ferry encourages customers to just come in and take a look.
   “We want people to come in and have fun,” she said. “We don’t want people to feel like they can’t come in and browse and hang out.”
   Ferry is also in the process of building a Web site so customers can customize and buy furniture online.
   While Ferry and Esia will be the sole employees initially, the couple plans on hiring additional staff in the future, possible recent local college graduates with design experience.
   The couple also wants feedback from customers on other services and selections that may be useful.
   “Bellingham will decide where this is going to go,” Ferry said.

— J.J. Jensen


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