From the outside of the shop on the corner of 11th and McKenzie, you might miss the gem that is Saigon Sally’s. Formerly known as Jimmy’s Vietnamese Sandwich Shop, the restaurant, off the beaten path as it is, doesn’t necessarily beg for attention. It’s only once you step inside that you start to see its appeal. The menus are long, bright pink affairs that are printed out and stacked up along the counter.
Aside from drinks, there are only eight items on the menu.
“There were more when I bought the place,” Brian McDonald, the new owner, said from across the counter. He has since pared it down to the more popular items.
Taking a seat, you’ll start to see even more of Sally’s colorful affair. The walls might be grey, but the ceiling is awash in color. Butterflies, colored and patterned in every imaginable way, hang from the ceiling, broken up only by delicate looking glass chandeliers.
While you get distracted by the scenery, McDonald may just flit back and forth between your table and the food being prepared. He’s diligent when it comes to his duties, bringing sauces, water (flavored with lemon), utensils, even a bowl of candy.
While the service is the most commendable part of Saigon Sally’s, that doesn’t mean the food is lacking in any way. The meat in the pho was well seasoned, and the broth had the perfect level spice: just enough to feel it. The Vietnamese sandwich, on the other hand, was the perfect marriage between sweet and spicy. The sweetness of the carrots mixed well with the spice of the jalapeños, and made it impossible to resist going in for another bite.
As the menu will point out, all dishes are served spicy. Be forewarned if that doesn’t agree with your palate.
All in all, the experience of dining at Saigon Sally’s was a memorable one. While the initial bleakness of the shop may be off-putting, don’t let it fool you. The restaurant has many surprises up its sleeves, and the food delectable.
1323 11th St., Fairhaven
During Prohibition, Ben Lazowski’s grandfather worked as a bootlegger for infamous gangster Al Capone. Young Ben grew up hearing stories of his grandfather’s adventures (with certainly a few misadventures) and exploring secret passageways in this grandfather’s Chicago home. It’s ironic that years of alcohol prohibition could spark a fascination with the stuff decades later.
Ben teamed up with his wife Stacey to begin distilling as a hobby in 2010. The couple spent two- and-half years developing the product line, paying special attention to quality and details. They use locally sourced ingredients in their small batch operation, making for a full-on Washington product. Ben explained why spirits manufacturing is better in smaller quantities, “Small batch means you can take more care in the quality of a product. You’re not focused on the volume, so you can pay more attention to detail.”
Currently, they make seven varieties of small batch spirits to include Ascension Vodka with its clean, smooth finish, and the popular Benjamin’s Bourbon with hints of vanilla and spice. Try their Red X Gin in a Gibson, or sip a glass of anise-flavored Spider Bite Liqueur. They sell bottles of spirits along with accessories in the Valley Shine Distillery and in select local markets.
The Lazowskis opened Valley Shine Distillery in April 2016, and we’re glad they did. Ben’s background is general contracting, so he took charge of the five-month remodel in the 100-year-old building. Ben and Stacey, a buyer for a large retailer, oversaw all the design components, making the space a reflection of the duo.
Find yourself in the downtown Mount Vernon storefront and take a seat at the bar. On a sunny January afternoon light filters into the large windows showcasing the storefront’s clean lines, unfinished hardwood floors, red-brick wall, industrial accents, and sliding barnyard door. An intoxicating scent of chocolate cake baking mingles with toffee liqueur and hangs in the air, a clear indication that the chef is preparing desserts for the evening. A few uncluttered shelves hold cocktail making supplies, tee shirts, and bottles of Valley Shine spirits, all for sale.
It doesn’t need to be evening to enjoy a cocktail. Choose from an array of unique and traditional cocktails, or a tasting flight to sample all of Valley Shine’s spirits. Recently added to the menu are tapas, small entrees, and desserts to munch on, allowing you to savor cocktail after cocktail without hunger pangs.
Ben and Stacey began distilling as a hobby, but took on a larger mission, to offer residents “a higher-quality spirit at a reasonable price made by someone in the community.” They want to expose local community members to locally made high quality spirits and educate patrons on the distilling process. They hope to grow along Western Washington, setting their sights on Snohomish and King county this year. They are working towards hosting larger events, for example a special four course Valentine’s Day dinner with seating at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Space is limited so call to make a reservation.
Want to know more about what you’re drinking? Ben and Stacey gladly take customers on a quick tour of the on-site distillery and offer tasting samples if you’re curious about a certain spirit. They also host in-depth and group tours with advanced notification. It sounds like a unique outing for a spirit lover’s next birthday.
As for personalized recommendation, Ben likes sipping on an Old Fashioned, and they keep it classic here to let the bourbon shine: bourbon, bitters, and orange zest. We’re sure Al Capone would approve.
320 S. 1st St., Mount Vernon
Like a fine bottle of sparkling wine, Treveri Cellars, located just east of Yakima, has burst onto the Washington wine scene with style, character, and an understated air of elegance that have made it a Champagne-inspired favorite of many area wine enthusiasts who enjoy bubbles in their glass.
Since opening its current, picturesque tasting room facility in 2010, the state’s only true sparkling wine house has rapidly expanded its annual production to an amazing 15,000 cases while consistently earning accolades and recognition nationwide.
Husband-and-wife owners Juergen and Julie Grieb established Treveri Cellars with the primary goal of producing affordable, flavorful sparkling wines for Washington wine drinkers.
Julie, who operates the facility as general manager, notes, “We’ve really become a family operation with (son) Christian (and his wife) Katie both joining us here at the winery.” Christian works alongside his dad as Assistant Winemaker, while Katie joined the business in 2014 as Senior Vice President of Marketing.
But it’s Head Winemaker Juergen who’s truly the cornerstone of Treveri, drawing on a wealth of experience that spans over three decades. “His mother was always a big fan of sparkling wine,” says Christian, “and along with his dad, who was educated as a winemaker and viticulturist in Germany, Juergen ‘caught the bug’ to produce sparkling wine.”
While training as a winemaker in Europe, he also had a chance to work in a sparkling wine house, which solidified his choice as a sparkling winemaker. “It sealed the deal, so to speak,” says Christian.
“One of the things that put us on the map was being super-unique,” Christian recalls. “There were only still-wine producers in Washington…and there was almost a yearning for a sparkling wine producer.”
“Another great thing that happened to let people know we existed was when (Treveri Cellars wines) were served at a U.S. State Department dinner in 2011,” says Christian. The Department’s Head Chef at the Chief of Protocol, Jason Larkin, had paid the winery a visit prior to that time and became fast friends with Juergen, says Christian. Larkin later asked if he could serve three Treveri wines at a dinner under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and has since had the winery return in 2014 and 2015.
“That got us some really great press,” says Christian. “People were also suddenly interested that there was really good sparkling wine produced in Washington (state) that they could try.”
Since its inception, Treveri has developed a reputation of producing delicious, quality wines at highly affordable prices…most of which are priced in the $15 to $20-a-bottle range. So how do they manage to keep prices so reasonable?
“When we started this ‘adventure’ we discussed how we wanted our bubbles to be delivered—not just physically—but how are we going to be perceived?” says Christian. “Juergen was adamant about sharing his craft with a lot of people without sacrificing quality. It’s not easy to do, (but) his 30 years-plus experience and steady hand have been very helpful. But it also takes a lot of patience and it can be very humbling,” he says with a laugh.
Although crafting sparkling wine is akin to making its much more expensive counterpart, Champagne, Christian notes, “Our mission is to give the Washington consumer something to feel good about. That way they can treat themselves daily (to a nice $15 bottle) without breaking the bank.”
Treveri’s Brut Blanc de Blancs, a 100% Chardonnay sparkler is “a real crowd favorite,” according to Christian, “and the amount of pink bubbles we’re now selling has nearly tripled over the last year-and-a-half,” he says, with a nod to the winery’s nicely-priced $18 Sparkling Rosé (a blend of Syrah and Chardonnay). Other current releases include the Pinot Noir-based Blanc de Noirs and stand-alone sparkling versions of the Müller Thurgau, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Syrah grapes.
For those who like more exclusivity, the winery offers a Bubble Club option, which Julie notes, “generally includes wines not available to the public. These are winemaker-choice wines that Juergen and Christian decide. We do three shipments a year in May, September, and December…and this (past) year we’ve had some phenomenal offerings.”
Christian adds that Bubble Club choices are often “members-only selections…usually from 200 cases or less produced.” Even then, costs are extremely reasonable and “shipments average between $50 to $70 depending on the wine.”
Julie says that Treveri plans to pour its Brut Prestige at Wine Yakima Valley’s “Secret Crush,” on February 17. This special event, featuring awardwinning, 90+ rated wines, kicks off the Valley’s annual Red Wine & Chocolate weekend, scheduled for February 18 to 20. (Details are available at wineyakimavalley.org.)
Treveri wines are also currently available in Northwest Washington at Seifert & Jones Wine Merchants and Community Food Co-op locations in Bellingham, and at Compass Wines in Anacortes. Other stores may be added as Treveri continues to expand production.
“Our goal is that our volume will continue to grow as long as we can continue to deliver high quality,” Christian says.
For the growing number of those who enjoy Treveri’s sparkling wines, here’s hoping the sky’s the limit for this gem of a Washington winery.
71 Gangl Road, Wapato
As with many stores in the Bellingham area, Scandi Butik and Gifts offers many products created by independent and small businesses. A warmly lit corner littered with assorted beachthemed gifts eases the bone-deep Bellingham chill outside, while just a few steps away is a shrine dedicated to a host of Bellingham creative types, including writer Stefanie Fields and artist Lori Hill. The island of independent artists is flanked by a shelf of “Root Candles,” ranging from votives to colorful dinner candles, all made in the U.S. Around the corner is another selection of clothing, as well as a children’s section.
As you might expect, Scandi is proudly Scandinavian. While the store carries a great number of other products hailing from or paying homage to other parts of the world, each wall of the store bears some sort of reminder of its Scandinavian heritage. From the patriotic flags of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway to the romantic “Happiness is being married to a Dane” magnet and the fantastical retellings of Scandinavian mythology, Scandi is a little piece of Nordic culture right in Fairhaven.
Terri Eriksson is the queen of Scandi, managing the store mostly by herself. Her husband, a Swede who moved to the U.S. in 2005, handles the maintenance, and a part-time employee keeps an eye on the shop when Eriksson isn’t around. While they don’t have a direct influence on the store, both Didier and Hill maintain a presence in their shop with their artwork on display. Their work can be found interspersed with various other wall-mounted decorations and declarations of Scandinavian pride.
Scandi’s clothing lines are unique. Eriksson hopes to set herself apart from other Fairhaven stores by keeping her items accessible to all wage brackets. While the store does carry some higher-end clothing and designers, the Simply Noelle line won’t break the bank of the average shopper. Eriksson enjoys that particular aspect about her store. Eriksson has also collected a number of fond memories since the opening of the store in June 2016. Getting to know the people and the stories of those who come into the store, whether they’re from Bellingham or another country, is always a major highlight for her.
“Born and raced in Seattle” is the motto prominently announced on a wall in Oiselle’s flagship store in Seattle’s University Village. Founder and CEO Sally Bergesen launched Oiselle (pronounced wa-zell) in 2007. The flagship store opened in July 2015 just two miles away from its headquarters. This is a homegrown, local company fittingly named after the French word for bird. Oiselle wants women to soar. It specializes in athletic wear and strives to help women boost not only their health through athletic activities, but also their confidence. More than a retail store, Oiselle aims to be a hub for the local running community. Store manager Valerie Woods explained that they host Thursday evening “Flight Club,” where runners meet for a run. Everyone is welcome: Oiselle’s special Haute Volée members, new runners, men, strollers, four-legged friends, everyone. Woods said this open arms attitude helps boost “the culture we want to spread of inclusivity: anybody can run, we want you out there doing that, being active.”
Oiselle sponsored two athletes in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, which is incredible considering the company’s size. The beautiful and efficiently designed flagship store can transform to host events, like a viewing party for the Olympic races. Racks in the middle of the floor can be lifted up with a customized pulley system. Drawers on the perimeter can be tucked inside and folded out into seating and tables. The large Smart TV offers a crystal clear picture and high quality sound. When a race isn’t streaming on TV, it displays pictures of Oiselle’s biggest fans, a scrolling collage made possible by interactive hashtags. Take a picture tagged with #FlyStyle and you might end up in the photo show.
It’s easy to see why customers are enthusiastic. Oiselle’s apparel really delivers. Bergesen works with two in-house designers to create clothing designs. The longtime wholesale and online company has rightfully earned a reputation for attention to detail. They focus on a small array of great quality fabrics for each season’s styles. Woods explained the design philosophy: “[We] hone in on running and what our athletes need and want, and make sure it has this design quality that might once in a while crossover into a lifestyle piece.” She then invited me to touch the luxe fabric, which was silky soft and a real treat on the skin. And the fit? Incredible. Take the popular Roga Shorts (running + yoga = roga). They come in three lengths and various colors. The stretchy material lays flat in all directions, including over the hips. These shorts were clearly designed by women who understand the female form and an athlete’s needs.
More great finds include cool Aero tights with a sizable back pocket, eye-catching Spandos perfect for runners who like to stand out from the crowd, breathable Wazzie Wool shirts made from responsibly-sourced New Zealand wool, and the fun Drape tank made popular by runner Lauren Fleshmen. Many of Oiselle’s clothes can work double duty on the trail or at the after party. That’s a testament to the well-thoughtout design and functionality. There are also Runaway Bride running dresses, and Every Mother Counts (EMC) tees and water bottles. EMC is a joint venture with Christy Turlington to help raise money for moms who can’t afford prenatal care or access to birthing care. Forty percent of EMC merchandise profits goes to this great foundation.
Run out and visit Oiselle in person. They’ll even track your purchases in their system so you’ll always know your size and which colors you already own. Whatever your athletic endeavor, Oiselle can prepare you to soar.
2632 NE University Village St., Seattle
Located upstairs from Envy, one of the best hair salons in Mt. Vernon, you know there’s going to be something special in store for you at Pretty Simple. The adorably dressed mannequin greets you at the door and leads you upstairs as you anticipate the treasures to behold. I challenge anyone to leave empty-handed.
My first sensory experience as I walked in the shop was the rich, tantalizing scent of locally made, hand-poured, pure soy Ella B. Candles, custom candles made right here in Mt. Vernon, followed by a warm and friendly welcome, and a thoroughly pleasure-filled browse through the store. It was a self-proclaimed “cozy enthusiast’s” dream—scarves, sweaters, PJ‘s, oh my! Then came a tasting of heaven in the form of smooth creamy Tiger Butter and festive Peppermint Bark from the Gig Harbor Candy Company. It doesn’t get much better than chocolate and shopping.
Pretty Simple delivers all the delicacies of an upscale boutique, without extravagant price tags. Whether it’s a burnt orange C.C. beanie with an oversized pom you just couldn’t pass up (true story), a wine-infused sugar scrub, or a pair of black ankle booties by Ellen DeGeneres you may have to go back for, Pretty Simple offers a unique boutique experience you won’t find elsewhere in Skagit Valley.
Pretty Simple caters mostly to women, with apparel, accessories, gifts and jewelry, but they are currently carrying Jack Black products for men (Beard Lube was my favorite), and hope to carry more products for men in the future. Pretty Simple attends markets in Las Vegas as well as Seattle’s Fashion Market and gift shows, where they find unique, funny, simple, and comfortable products from local vendors and beyond.
Owner Kristine Livingston’s vision for Pretty Simple was to create a comfortable place you could look forward to visiting by yourself or with a friend, knowing you can always find something, whether it be for yourself or someone else… and you leave with something to laugh about! Kristine was given an opportunity by Curt Lindsey, Owner of Envy, who expressed his desire for a boutique shopping experience above his busy salon. Kristine saw a wonderful opportunity to help her daughter, McKenzie, gain hands-on business experience while pursuing her Education degree at Skagit, and Pretty Simple opened its doors in December 2015. Kristine and McKenzie hold down the shop with one other college student, and Kristine’s two sisters come in to help on their days off.
While the inviting atmosphere alone had me sold, what Pretty Simple’s loyal fans keep telling their friends about is their Lysse leggings. Now before you jump to “I’m not the right age or size for leggings…” hear me out. They’re not quite leggings because they have more integrity and structure than leggings. They’re made of denim, but they don’t have all the uncomfortable bells and whistles (and the stiffness) like jeans do. They’re not jeggings, because they’re classier than jeggings. They’re incredibly comfortable, and they come in a variety of colors as well as curvy fit. All of the girls in the salon downstairs LOVE their Lysse leggings.
Pretty Simple is a wonderful place to find gifts for loved ones, or gifts for yourself! You deserve it. You might as well treat yourself at the salon downstairs while you’re at it because Pretty Simple will have you feeling fabulous.
1705 E College Way C, Mount Vernon
As the sun starts to return to our dark Fourth Corner, gardeners get busy planting and readying for their healthy crops. But sometimes those crops pop up a bit healthier than usual, or that plum tree produces kilo after kilo of fresh, amazing, and yet, very ripe plums, or the chard goes a bit wild. This over abundance is where Gleaners Pantry steps in. A membership-based nonprofit out of Ferndale, Gleaners Pantry collects your extra kale, your bosc pears, your baskets, and baskets of figs to distribute among their members.
For those considering membership, the application is simple. For $150 a year, three donated non-perishable items (like trash bags or gloves), and six volunteer hours every two months, members receive fresh local produce. The membership payments can be flexible. The member-volunteers administer and run the nonprofit, glean, sort, and box produce, and other tasks. They also receive recipes and information about dehydrating, canning, and other food preservation methods. There is no income qualification process, so anyone can be a member. Run like a co-op, Gleaners Pantry builds a source of fresh produce for those who may have trouble with access to food, and prevents food waste by getting food to the dinner tables of its members. Member Jennifer Meisner said, “The program serves 90 families.” There is a waiting list, according to Meisner, but “Everyone on the waiting list usually gets in.”
For those who may have concerns about physical labor, the application process takes into account the different strengths of volunteers, from communications and office work to farm work. Meisner said, “We have opportunities for disabled people. The elderly can push shopping carts, pregnant women or people who can’t handle heavy loads can do office work and other low-impact work. There are opportunities for everyone.” There are guidelines about how many members of a household can glean. The organization emphasizes community and mutual respect, and respect for the properties and property-owners from which they glean. Gardeners, shopkeepers, and farms who wish to have their produce gleaned can call the organization and set up a schedule. The organization gleans three times a week, which makes for three pick-up times. The times are staggered so that families who have trouble making a morning or a weekday glean can be there on a weekend or evening.
Everything the organization receives is by donation, and most of their budget comes from memberships. “Our membership year begins in May,” Meisner said. “Even animals benefit. As food rots and becomes inedible, we give it to members for farm animals.” Nothing goes to waste. The program rescues an average of 900 pounds a month from local landfills.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which protects co-ops, food banks, and gleaner programs from liability and encourages food donation by grocery stores, farms, and other sources. Lucky for us, Gleaners Pantry has been around for at least fifteen years. As social services face challenges ahead, Gleaners Pantry will be there now and in the future for families in need.
6729 Enterprise Rd., Ferndale
Katie Johnson did not plan on becoming an artist when she started at Western Washington University. Johnson’s work was featured last year in a show at Aslan Brewing Co., but she’s known mostly for the Brewdeck, a 60-piece set of cards featuring portraits of the luminaries of the Bellingham craft beer scene. The name Brewdeck is a play on the phrase “brew deck,” which is the platforms on which brewers stand to brew. The Brewdeck was distributed by the Bellingham Tap Trail, and the brewers got to choose their card. Mari Kemper of Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen is the Queen of Diamonds, and Aaron Matson of the Copper Hog is the Ace of Spades.
Johnson’s portraits also appear at Copper Hog, Menace, and other brew-centric spots around Bellingham. They are studies of the human face, emphasizing the lines and contours of her subjects. “I came up to Western for college, to study political science,” she said. “I found out really quickly that I wasn’t cut out for it.” She turned to her childhood passion and decided to major in studio art. Growing up as an only child, Johnson said, drawing was her favorite pastime. “I started drawing portraits from Surfer Magazine,” Johnson said. “I liked the art style they were going for. My friends said ‘You’re a really good artist. You should do some art.’” Years after graduating, she decided to do just that.
Although Johnson did a few art shows with friends, she didn’t really push her art seriously. “You know when you love something so much, and you think about it every day,” she said, “but you’re not really applying that aspect?” That changed for Johnson last year. Someone who was a fan of the sitcom Frasier approached her about doing a portrait of its star, Kelsey Grammar. “It sort of spun from that,” she said.
Johnson’s style is described as “one line character drawings.” She uses black lines to make portraits that seem to have an almost surrealist coloring. She cites painters like David Hockney and Alberto Giacometti as influences on her work, especially with their use of color.
Although Johnson has only recently started to get her foot in the art world, she has already had some success. She recently showed a piece in a gallery in Los Angeles, and in addition to the Brewdeck, she has had her art featured in Bellingham’s Art Walks.
Johnson is excited for what’s next. “You know what? I’ve always wanted to draw beer labels,” she said. She is hoping to illustrate the labels for Menace Brewing. She also had her first large commission in September.
“It would be great to be a professional painter,” she said. “It would be nice to not have to work in a brewery.”
Dating—near as I can tell, the after-market experience is punishment before the crime, kind of like law school. Don’t get me wrong. I love men. Well, most men, anyway. At their worst, men make interesting toys and at their best, men make excellent pets even if they haven’t been properly trained. But the depth of the dating pool north of Stanwood is, how shall I say, shallow. Where is the deep end? What if I want to get more than my toes wet? A male praying mantis has better odds!
For the past six months, I tried every dating website on God’s green earth, all without success. Am I missing something? I come with a stable job with benefits, mad Martha Stewart-like skills, an extended bumper-to-bumper factory warranty, and a highly inappropriate sense of humor. Oh, and my future partner will have a lifetime supply of benefits to be negotiated, the non-medical kind. I am not without sympathy, guys. I know—a husband with benefits? Yes, pigs do fly on occasion. Men just need to learn to barter better. The best male barterers start with “please” and end with “please”. Despite the similarities, begging is different. “Bartering” has three vowels, “begging” has only two.
Did I say that out loud? Note to self: I really shouldn’t be writing this humor piece while drinking my second glass of Pinot Gris.
Now granted, I am not a “local.” I transplanted to Lynden from upstate New York about seven years ago, and I am almost 40 with two young kids. But these are assets, not liabilities. To paraphrase the Farmers Insurance commercials, I know a thing or two because I have seen a thing or two. Bottom line—I am not desperate in the least. In fact, I am in the power position and I come with expectations. If you men don’t believe me, you’ll need to buy a vowel. I suggest that you save up—vowels are very expensive, and rare. Unicorn sightings are more frequent.
I must say that the after-market dating experience has been highly entertaining overall. I am chock full of dairy analogies. My personal favorite: “You crank my tractor, girl.” I gave him bonus points for originality. If I hear the “why buy the cow” phrase ever again, however, it will be too soon. I am neither a cow nor a heifer and you are not bulls, guys. In fact, if your ex-partners were worth their salt, you are steers at best. So get over it or I won’t renew my membership with farmersonly.com. I may be listening for the sound of something solid during our first date, but let’s be clear: Studs are in the wall. Check your testosterone at the door.
There, I feel better. See, my therapy sessions are working. Money well spent.
I do have some constructive, tongue-in-cheek advice for dating websites, especially the popular eHarmony and Match. com dating services. Each stops woefully short of providing really, really useful data to women for prospective dates. We need practical, pragmatic information, not “What is your favorite color” or “Are you athletic and toned?” Really? Who trusts those answers? For example, eHarmony’s twenty-nine points of compatibility offer no meaningful clue as to what the guy looks like now or what he will look like at age 60. The fix—require a photo of his parents and his last girlfriend. Simple, huh? Both are a “tell”; both cut through the male machismo. And how do you know he isn’t a couch potato? Again, simple answer—require a photo of his recliner in his man cave. If it has been re-upholstered recently, run. There’s your thousand words.
Of course, Match.com is not much better. It provides no boxes to check for “Do you manscape?” or “Do you take Viagra or Cialis?” “Yes” to the first question is critical. Who wants to dig through the entire box of Cracker Jacks, right? And “yes” to the second question is like the two-state solution in the Middle East. For women under 50, “no” is good, but for women over 50, “yes” means he has potential, too, particularly if his prescription is in your name and you can control the doling out of single packs. Ladies, you can simply gift him a vowel, tax-free, only when you are in the mood.
I told you that I had mad Martha Stewart-like skills. Believe me now? Match.com and eHarmony, I am available to consult.
There’s a certain decor that is typical of coffee shops in the Pacific Northwest. Usually, the lights are dim, the walls are dark, and the floors are creaky or bare, lending the shop a warm but subdued ambiance. Because this is such a common theme for local coffee shops, the recently opened Primer Coffee’s bright atmosphere and pristine white counter tops make it a standout.
One would think that the forward design of Primer would provide some amount of logistical difficulties. Beneath the blazing lights, every imperfection, every splat from an unruly steamer or coffee press, would be laid bare under the unforgiving lights. But that would imply that they even made mistakes. Yet with each espresso made, with each batch of hand-shaken whipped cream, the staff performs with a certain amount of fluidity and grace. Their performance is just as visually stunning as the shop itself.
Primer Coffee shares a building with the well-known Elizabeth Station. Patrons drift to and fro as they see fit, popping heads into beer market while their beverages are prepped and vice-versa. It’s behavior encouraged by those at Primer, pointing out doors to patrons. Most of the people that come in are curious souls, checking out the newest coffee place in town. Others come for the specialty beverages, having heard about them through the grapevine. The Shuksan Arm is one of those, a “bubbly” beverages that starts sweet and gives way to a delicious sort of bitterness. It’s topped with that artfully prepared and hand-shaken Twinbrooks whipped cream, and garnished with orange zest. Other specialty beverages include the sparkling cascara and the blueberry shrub, among many more.
Though recently opened, one of the minds behind the masterpiece, Patrick McEvoy and the rest of his team were already hard at work on the next arm of the Primer project, implementing a food menu. While the menu already includes a yogurt and granola bowl, the team hopes to bring in other foods, like breads and spreads, to the table.
So next time you’re looking for a good cuppa, pull up a minimalist chair at Primer and enjoy the light.
The Bellingham company is run by two women, Kellie Szirom and Katya Slater-Szirom. Now, they have spread their passion to Whole Foods, one of the premiere outlets for organic foods. In addition, the dog food is also carried at Whatcom Farmers Co-ops, the Haggen in Fairhaven, and Hohl Feed and Seed, as well as through their website. “We are dog lovers, and they are considered part of our family. We also want them to live as long as possible,” said Katya Slater-Szirom, the spokesperson for Two Terriers.
“These days, you walk into most stores and have to work to find locally sourced and manufactured pet products,” Slater-Szirom said. “Most of the products you see use multiple unnecessary ingredients, like artificial flavors and coloring.” Slater-Szirom said that the ingredients are all grown in Washington, and the beef used is USDA Black Angus. They also source ingredients from the Bellingham community. “We are committed to not contribute to the carbon footprint made by importing ingredients from all over the world.”
As fifth- and sixth-generation Bellingham residents, both Kellie and Katya value the Bellingham community, especially developing close relationships with their vendors and customers. “We can meet with our customers and their humans to get to know them,” said Slater-Szirom. “[We] would not be able to do this if we were anywhere else.”
“Nothing makes us happier than being able to see our dog pals enjoying their Two Terriers products,” said SlaterSzirom. Their customers are constantly uploading pictures of their dogs on their Etsy store site, she said. “We absolutely encourage our customers to [share] their videos and pictures.”
In addition, they have launched a line of “fur-friendly” shampoo on their website. The shampoo comes in rosemary, lavender, and peppermint varieties. They have also have released a line of peanut-butter flavored dog treats.
When Kat Houseman describes the Allery as off the beaten path, she means it. The art gallery is, as the name suggests, down an alley off of Magnolia, between Cornwall and Commercial. Just past the drive-thru exit of Peoples Bank, you’ll find the ornate sign that marks the entrance to the far-flung facility for fine arts.
The gallery is owned by Houseman and her husband, Corey Urlacher. Both are products of Montana State University’s Bachelor of Fine Arts program, though they have different focuses; where Houseman is a painter, Urlacher is a sculptor.
The two of them add to the eclectic collection that makes up The Allery, ranging from Houseman’s idyllic wildlife pieces to Urlacher’s occult sculptures, with artists from all over the country in between.
But by no means is The Allery a vast and sweeping collection of art, nor is it occupied by famous or out of reach artists. Instead, the intimate, L-shaped gallery is populated with pieces crafted by friends of the Houseman-Urlacher duo. Before the gallery opened in October 2016, the two worked tirelessly to gather pieces that would be displayed. If anyone knows the work half as well as the artists, it’s the pair, who are never far from The Allery.
Houseman hopes to rotate the pieces every two months or so, which will give people plenty of time to view the displayed work. Many of the pieces featured are priced in the thousands, making the deliberation as to whether or not to purchase a difficult process. “We want to give the art a chance to be seen and sell,” Houseman said.
This is just one of the many ways The Allery is structured for the benefit of its artists. Compared to other galleries, Houseman and Urlacher take a smaller commission from each piece sold. The money goes toward bills and keeping The Allery running. Artists also don’t have to worry about non-compete clauses, which means they can continue to display their work in other locations.
The New Year is bringing changes for the gallery. The pair is currently working to plan out features and shows. This month will feature a number of local artists, including large scale oil paintings by Houseman, glass sculptures by Randy Walker, and a collection of fine furniture by Terra Firma Designs.