With no street visibility and a sales cycle that depends on sunny weather in notoriously gloomy Bellingham, dollars do not come easy for The Wailing Goat Espresso.
But Suzanne Lundberg, who first opened Wailing Goat in Sudden Valley in 2011 and moved it to Bellingham’s central commerce district last year, said the coffee stand is fitting in well among an eclectic group of small businesses near the downtown terminus of the city’s South Bay Trail.
“When I set it up here, I kind of came into this glorious community that had this plan to develop this space all ready before I got here,” Lundberg said.
Wailing Goat is among the newer additions to what’s now being called the “Alley District,” a consortium of 16 businesses located along a stretch of the South Bay Trail that snakes behind North State Street. The group grew out of an informal support network that has for years shared similar interests, including support of local art, sustainability and community, Lundberg said.
Inside a small, remodeled trailer, Lundberg sells espresso along with baked goods such as cookies and scones.
Aside from coffee, Wailing Goat exists to support local artists, Lundberg said. The stand sells a variety of art pieces, including handmade baskets, jewelry, pottery and soap. Lundberg offers free espresso to customers who buy artwork.
Jason Byal, owner of Positive-Negative, a photo studio and darkroom located just down the trail from Wailing Goat, said Lundberg has been a welcome addition to the group of business owners nearby.
“She’s bringing in a whole new energy,” Byal said.
Aaron Loveitt of Altility Art Studio, also nearby, agreed.
“Coffee shops are innately social places,” Loveitt said. “It fits really well in here because it’s really diverse and unique.”
Wailing Goat caters to a range of customers who walk, run and bike on the South Bay Trail. Lundberg markets her business as Bellingham’s one and only “bike-thru” coffee stand.
A lot of the artwork and garden plants that surround the stand are collected through trade and barter, which is a key theme of the business, she said.
“We try to modify and enhance things by trade and barter,” Lundberg said.
The peak of business for Wailing Goat generally hits mid-summer, she said. Saturday afternoons are particularly busy, especially when the weather is agreeable and the weekly Bellingham Farmers Market brings heavy foot traffic downtown.
Nice weather is important, since Lundberg generally doesn’t open the stand on rainy or particularly cold days. There’s just not enough customers, she said.
Difficulty attracting business in poor weather is also a major reason she’s made the stand a seasonal business, she said.
Aside from the natural elements, Lundberg said one of her biggest challenges is a lack of visibility. Since the stand isn’t located on a main city street, the Wailing Goat’s marketing efforts rely heavily on word of mouth and casual partnerships with surrounding business owners.
Yet this strategy has worked well, so far, she said, particularly with support from her neighbors.
“Everybody is kind of on the same page as far as going green, promoting each other and working together,” she said.
The Wailing Goat’s name comes from an Ethiopian legend that describes the origin of the world’s first cup of coffee, Lundberg said. As a play on its name, the stand features a special goat-milk latte on its menu.
The name has sparked unique interest from some local goat owners, she said. But while Lindberg hosts the occasional goat petting zoo for fun, she doesn’t keep goats herself.
“Everyone always asks me if I have goats,” Lundberg said.
And are they disappointed when they find out she doesn’t?
“I think so,” she said, laughing.
Evan Marczynski, staff reporter for The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or firstname.lastname@example.org.