Wags & Rags

Owner: Eleanor Harbord
Address: 907 Harris Ave.
Phone number: 756-8887
Web: www.wagsrags.com
Startup date: May 12, 2007
Square footage: 1,500

Eleanor Harbord, here with her two Yorkshire Terriers, Smudge and Lucy, opened Wags & Rags in Fairhaven to give dogs and their people a place to shop for the latest in puppy fashions.

    Every good dog deserves “haute canine” treats.
   At least, that’s what Eleanor Harbord thought when deciding to open Wags & Rags, a boutique for pet lovers, in Fairhaven. In addition to the Haute Canine-brand dog treats, Harbord’s shop sells dog-sized cowboy hats, travel packs and pink, bone-shaped place mats — just a few items among many upscale puppy trappings, cat accoutrements and pet paraphernalia for people.
   Harbord ran the business in La Conner for eight years, originally called Dog Outfitters and later Wags & Rags, and then moved it to Cannon Beach, Ore., where she ran the store for another three years.
   Eventually, however, Harbord began to miss her family, most of whom lived in her native Victoria, B.C. So she decided to relocate the store to Bellingham in order to be closer to them.
   At first she didn’t even consider locating her business in Fairhaven, but then realized how bustling the district has become.
   “I think Fairhaven is ready for Wags & Rags,” she said. “A few years ago it wouldn’t have been. A few years ago it was still crunchy granola, but now all the baby boomers are here.”
   Harbord leased the space, next to Academic Outfitters, in March and opened in May.
   She has always worked with animals, beginning with horse training in her college years and early twenties. From those experiences, she became a dog lover, as well.
   “Horse people are also dog people,” she explained.
   Horse training began to take a physical toll on her body, however, and when she moved to La Conner, she saw a niche opening for a pet boutique.
   “Back in those days, nobody had heard of a pet boutique,” she said. Since then, the industry has boomed, she said.
   In her Fairhaven store, her two Yorkshire Terriers, Smudge and Lucy, trot around yipping and yapping between displays. Lucy has been with Harbord since her first store opened.
   “She was a good part of the inspiration,” Harbord said.
   Lucky for Smudge and Lucy, life isn’t too ruff in their new digs.

True Blue Boutique
Owner: Marci Witt
Address: 1306 Cornwall Ave.
Phone number: 542-4084
E-mail: marci@trueblueboutique.com
Web: www.trueblueboutique.com
Startup date: May 14, 2007
Square footage: 1,200

Marci Witt of True Blue Boutique brings big-city jeans to Cornwall Avenue.

    When Marci Witt moved to Mount Vernon from Los Angeles to marry her sweetie, she couldn’t find a place to buy a cute pair of designer jeans.
   So she decided to open her own clothing store.
   After working as a registered nurse for eight years, as well as a music scout and a bartender, Witt was ready to be her own boss, but the L.A. scene was too competitive and expensive for her dream. Bellingham, on the other hand, seemed ripe for what she calls “hip and sexy clothing for girls and guys.”
   True Blue, located in the former Juice It space on Cornwall Avenue, stocks designer jeans, graphic T-shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, sweatshirts, jewelry and accessories inside its blue-shaded walls. Black and white beach and ocean photos line the walls and purses perch on an old ‘70s jukebox and a weathered armoire. A funky yellow surfboard dangles leather belts.
   Witt said that so far, her most stressful experience opening the store was shopping for its wares in Las Vegas.
   “Everyone is dressed to the nines, and the fashion industry doesn’t give a hoot about you,” she said of the experience. “But I pretty much just faked it, and now I have great relationships with them.”
   Witt is excited about working for herself, despite the risk of owning a small business. She said she can’t wait for the day when she can work from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., hand the store over to an employee, and spend the rest of her day with her 11-year-old and 21-year-old sons.
   The store itself was an amalgamation of talent from her friends and family. Her friends helped clean and paint while her husband, Morgan, installed the floor. She also credits local clothing and shoe-store owners with helping her locate the boutique.
   For Witt, the support of True Blue has been a true blessing.

Whatcom Winemakers
Owners: Ted Sellers and Scott Crippen
Address: 130 E. Champion St.
Phone number: 527-1600
Web: www.whatcomwinemakers.com
Startup date: May 12, 2007
Square footage: 1,850

Ted Sellers and Scott Crippen help amateur winemakers make their own wine, choosing from 40 varietals from all over the world.

    Ted Sellers and Scott Crippen have uncorked a new trend in the world of vintners: do-it-yourself winemaking.
   The Memphis-born cousins got the idea from a similar store in Lacey, Classic Winemakers, where Sellers worked while attending The Evergreen State College. The owners of that store consulted with Sellers and Crippen on opening Whatcom Winemakers in downtown Bellingham on Champion Street, next door to Café Adagio.
   Whatcom Winemakers’ customers choose from 40 varietals from all over the word, including gewürztraminer, pinot grigio, Chenin Blanc, pinot noir and Riesling. The grapes come in concentrated grape-juice form from a Canadian company called Selections.
   Customers mix blends of their chosen grape or grapes with the help of Sellers and Crippen and then wait five or six weeks for their wine to ferment in large, plastic jugs. When the wine is ready, customers return to the store to create their own labels and bottle the wine, and then take home their concoction to age for a range of time, depending on the varietal. Prices range from $179 to $269 for a 30-bottle case.
   The space is crisp and clean; light filters in from a line of skylights and the walls are painted chardonnay-yellow and merlot.
   Sellers said the DIY-winemaking industry has been thriving in Canada for years, but that it is just now starting to take hold in the United States, with about 100 similar stores nationwide. Bellingham seemed to be an untapped market, he said.
   The DIY-alcohol mixing trend began in Canada with home beer making, Crippen said.
   “It started out as brewing beer, with men, and then women started the winemaking trend,” he said.
   So far, Sellers’ favorite aspect of the business is socializing with people about wine and helping them access the winemaking experience, minus the mess and stress.
   “The fun thing we’re trying to do is make people feel this is their winery, without the stress,” he said. “People can be involved in the process as much or as little as they want.



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