By Anne Maertens
Yolo Coffee Company & Bistro
Owners: Chad and Gania Gaffaney
Opening date: August 1
Address: 1 Bellis Fair Parkway #704
Phone: (360) 671-9656
Square Footage: 1,631
The Bellis Fair Mall, like most malls, has an assortment of walk-up fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Orange Julius, but Chad and Gania Gaffaney decided to go against the grain and open a small restaurant called Yolo Coffee Company & Bistro.
Yolo is the only sit-down restaurant in the mall to offer wine and beer, as well as Caffe Vita coffee, Panini sandwiches, pasta and other dishes — all of which stemmed from the Gaffaneys’ favorite restaurants.
“Chad and I travel quite a bit,” Genia said. “Everywhere we go we love to see what everyone else is doing, and we’ve taken everything that we’ve loved from restaurants, coffee shops and bars and put it into Yolo.”
Some items that add to the Yolo experience are the board games, big-screen televisions, books and a quiet room available for meetings or for individuals who want a more peaceful experience.
Decorating the deep-colored walls are inspirational messages that tell customers to “dream.” These messages are a part of Yolo, which stands for “you only live once.”
While vacationing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Chad and Genia were on a water-taxi tour, where they spotted a yacht named Yolo. The captain of the water taxi told them the meaning, and it hit home for them, Genia said.
“It just really stuck with me because that’s how Chad and I live our lives,” Genia said. “Do things that make us happy, no regrets, take every opportunity that’s presented to us, and run with it. That’s what we want Yolo to be to our customers, a place where we can pass that onto them.”
In addition to Yolo, they also own Silver Safari, a store that specializes in body piercing and body-piercing jewelry. Silver Safari is located in the Bellis Fair Mall and the Spokane Valley Mall.
In the Spokane mall, Genia said, there are many locally owned stores, which you don’t find at Bellis Fair.
They thought a local store would appeal to the Bellingham community, which Chad said he knows appreciates local goods. Most of the ingredients used at Yolo are purchased fresh daily from local businesses.
Yolo hosts local musicians every weekend in the afternoon. Genia said they hope that it will become a community gathering place.
Chad said they also see it as a refuge for college students who attend WCC and need to study but don’t want to go to the library. It also offers a nice place to sit down for parents, as it is located right next to the children’s play area.
As for opening Yolo in the midst of a recession, Chad said they were not intimidated by the nation’s pessimism.
“We saw it more as an opportunity to create a place where people can be happy and enjoy themselves,” Chad said. “Everyone needs that.”