Best of Bellingham 2017
Best Auto Repair:
A few years ago, I took a rock to the radiator of my aging-but-still-ticking Nissan Maxima. I polled my Facebook friends to see who to entrust my beloved Maxxie to, and when tallied, the winner of that vote was the same as this one: Bellingham Automotive. Sure enough, the customer service was great and very professional and the repair work was done right—and righteously fast. They even hauled me to and from their Hannegan Road shop via their tricked-out courtesy car. Getting back on the road again has never been so simple.
Where: 4116 Hannegan Road
Best Music Store:
Even though the whole world seems to be in a torrid love affair with streaming services, Bellingham remains a place where people still purchase their music—or at least enough of it to keep a couple of music stores in business. As they always do, Everyday Music and Avalon Records slugged it out in this category, but this year Everyday emerged the victor. Convenient hours (they’re open from 10am-10pm, seven days a week) and a wide-ranging selection make for a perfect place to peruse and purchase your latest earworm.
Where: 115 E. Magnolia St.
Info: (360) 676-1404
Best Gear Store:
The mountain is cold this morning. An early mist lifts from the river, above its rush is a promise of blue. I shiver a bit from a light sweat from the bike ride down here, and zip up my fleece. From here it is an hour’s climb to the meadow, wildflowers gone but not yet touched by frost. Off-season is the best season. Get out there.
Where: 400 36th St.
Best Pot Grower:
Trail Blazin’ Productions
When it comes to the Cannabis Alliance, a “bud oath” is more important than a “blood oath.” As founding members of the nonprofit advocating for a sustainable and ethical cannabis industry, Juddy and Danielle Rosellison of Bellingham’s Trail Blazin’ Productions take their commitment to pesticide-free, sustainably-grown, hand-trimmed cannabis seriously. From their Division Street nursery, they send their potent products throughout the state, sharing their marijuana mission with the masses. In Bellingham proper, find their superior strains at Trove (218 N. Samish Way), Herbal Legends (2118 James St.) and all three 2020 Solutions locales.
A Cascadia Weekly editor lives in a spot with a view of Bellingham’s most popular park, and witnessing the many ways in which people from all walks of life utilize the public space is her favorite binge-watch. Because of Boulevard’s example we understand how important access to our waterfront is, and we now know that when we are given that access, we use it to its fullest capacity, seven days a week, 365 days a year. City planners, take heed.
Where: 470 Bayview Dr.
Best Place to Dance:
It’s 10pm, and it is like magic—suddenly a line down the block of people waiting to get in and groove on a crowded floor to vinyl expertly spun. The bewitching hour arrives, drinks stylishly and expertly served. Boy spots boy; girl nods knowingly to girl. It is tribal. It is gris-gris. It is fun.
Where: 1119 Railroad Ave.
Walking through the doors of Honey Salon, you feel like you’ve traveled outside our little corner of the PNW and into a swanky salon in New York City; warm, exposed brick walls, wood floors, beautiful lighting, comfy window seats—you feel stylish upon entering. But the design aesthetic is nothing compared to the beauty within the hands of the people that make up Honey. The artists behind the shears are committed to giving you their best, while making you look yours. Traditional services apply (cuts, color), but Honey also offers sugaring, makeup, straight shaves and more. Turns out the sweetest Honey is found in our own backyard.
Where: 310 W. Holly Street
Best Place to Get a Massage:
Still Life Massage and Float
“Massage saves lives.” OK, so maybe this is my own belief, and it’s not nearly often enough that I get the chance to indulge, but I’ve gone from incredible pain to relief in just a few sessions. The licensed, knowledgeable staff of professionals at Still Life Massage and Float offer a wide array of expertly executed massage styles, from classic to medical, pregnancy to cupping, and much more. They also offer Float Therapy. I’ve heard now from two friends that say it’s an absolute must-try. If today is the first day to begin your wellness journey, might as well start it with Still Life Massage.
Where: 19 Bellwether Way #101
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that possibly no local institution is as beloved as Village Books. Like every one of you, I have whiled away countless hours at the expansive and community-minded Fairhaven bookseller, perusing its three floors of tomes, picking up items on my reading list, and stopping to sip coffee at the Book Fare Cafe before buying a piece of fudge from Paper Dreams. And seriously, if there is any local delight sweeter than earning a free book through their Reader Rewards program, I have yet to discover it. Never change, Village Books.
Where: 1200 11th St.
Whatcom Family YMCA
I admit, sometimes on a chilly morning I go just for a stretch and then the steam or sauna—just to sit in the company of people I know and have come to know. Locker room talk? Oh, yeah. Usually about the Seahawks. Heck, who am I kidding? Honestly? Always about the Seahawks. But also lots of tales of gardening and weekend-warrioring. The weights await. But let them wait a bit longer. Friends are here, and they’re talking.
Where: 1256 N State St.
Best Place to Do Yoga:
For some, yoga is a way of life and a means to achieving inner peace. For others, it’s an efficient way to strengthen their bodies and stretch away assorted aches and pains. At Yoga Northwest—our winner in this category for as long as we can remember—it doesn’t matter if you’re a yogi or a newbie, as long as you commit to the curriculum. With classes for everyone from adults to kids to teens and mothers-to-be, there’s something for everyone—and every body.
Where: 1440 10th St.
Garden Spot Nursery
Since 2014, our readers have bestowed Alabama Street’s Garden Spot Nursery with this award, and with good reason. In addition to providing green thumbs and novice gardeners alike with a plethora of perennials, annuals and everything needed to beautify both outdoor and indoor living spaces, the longtime nursery helmed by founder Marcy Plattner and her crew of Master Gardeners is also known for reaching out to the public via advice, workshops and community events. In fact, on Sat., Oct. 21, they’ll be hosting a Sunnyland Scarecrow Stuffing soiree throughout the day. You provide your scarecrow’s costume, and they’ll provide the straw and stakes.
Where: 900 Alabama St.
Best Thrift Store:
Whenever I’m stricken by the need for a little quality retail therapy, Value Village is my first stop. Last week I fished an almost-new Black Diamond collapsible avalanche shovel out of the bins for a screaming deal ($5!). And the week before that I scored a mint-condition 1964 Smith-Corona Corsair Deluxe manual typewriter for $27. Three weeks ago, I gifted myself a pinstripe suit for $30 and had just enough funds left over to raid the book section. For less than a 10-spot I added a quality paperback edition of Life with Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse and a 1983 Buyer’s Club edition of Stephen King’s Christine to my shelves. My girlfriend thinks I’m an addict. She’s probably right. But at least I own the first pinstripe blazer in my life to show for it.
Where: 150 E. Bellis Fair Pkwy.
Best Theater Company:
iDiOM Theater at the Sylvia Center
“The love and support of our patrons has seen us through 16 years of independent theater, through good times and bad, and through our transformation from a little production company to our ambitious new Sylvia Center project,” Artistic Director Glenn Hergenhahn-Zhao says to those who cast their votes, once again, for iDiOM Theater. “Our team, our crew, and our audiences are about to all grow in leaps and bounds. Thank you for letting us do what we love and dreaming big with us. We are excited about the year ahead, and the years to come.”
Best Grocery Store:
Community Food Co-op
As a longtime member of the Community Food Co-op, my typical visits are pretty predictable—wine, cheese, produce, quick lunches, and my favorite hot sauce when we run out (which is often). However, one of my favorite things about the Community Food Co-op is the amount of community outreach and events they offer on a regular basis. Don’t know how to cook? They’ve got a class for that. Starting a health and wellness journey? You’re covered there, as well. Beer and wine pairings? Bingo. Their commitment to community is nothing less than superb, from farmer to consumer. It’s an easy win all around.
Where: 1220 N. Forest St., 315 Westerly Rd.
Best Place to See Live Music:
This is far from the Wild Buffalo’s first win in this category, and if the margin of votes by which they won this year is any indication, the longstanding staple of the music scene is more beloved than ever. Owner Craig Jewell just celebrated his 10th anniversary with the venue, and he and business partners Joey Crahan and Lee Huffman commemorated the event by building a bigger, better stage to improve our live music experience. You don’t have to keep wooing us, Wild Buffalo (but please keep wooing us), we already love you.
Where: 208 W. Holly St.
Best Place to Get a Tattoo:
Old Gold Tattoo Parlor
There’s no shortage of tattoo shops in Bellingham, as well as incredible artists employed within those venues. But within a couple of narrow walls on State Street—nestled appropriately next to a pinball and rock and roll bar—lives this year’s winner, Old Gold Tattoo. As someone who bears a piece of art from the fine folks at Old Gold, it’s fair to say I’m a forever fan. The spotless shop boasts bright and colorful artwork lining every inch of the walls, a safe and sterile environment, and artists who are incredibly knowledgeable and pretty darn friendly. Regardless of the kind of permanent ink you are looking for, Old Gold has an artist for you, seven days a week.
Where: 1222 N. State Street
Best Toy Store:
Fairhaven Toy Garden
Toy Garden isn’t really a kid’s store. Not completely. It’s actually a wishing well for grownups, tickling how they remember they grew up, filled with the kinds of colorful and well crafted treasures they recall from childhood, and the kind they’ve always dreamed they’d provide to their own children. And now parents can—toys that make you think, toys that make you play, toys for joy. As the owners say, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
Where: 909 Harris Ave.
Best Pot Store/Head Shop/Place to Meet Men and Women:
When 2020 Solutions opened its first cannabis-related business at 4:20pm on July 10, 2014, it became Bellingham’s second retail pot store—and one of the first in the state to offer recreational marijuana to the masses. In the years since, high demand for the product has resulted in a proliferation of neighborhood joints offering everything from buds to concentrates, edibles and accessories (pipes, papers, grinders, vaporizers, etc.). Keeping up with the competition, 2020 Solutions has added two venues to their original Iron Street locale, made their mantra “responsible, knowledgeable, discreet” a reality, built warm and welcoming spaces that resemble high-end bars—perfect for locking eyes with the cutie checking out the Blackberry Kush—and made one-stop-pot-shopping a cinch.
Where: 2018 Iron St., 5655 Guide Meridian, 4770 Pacific Hwy.
Best Women’s Clothing Store:
I’ve lived in Bellingham for 10 years. I’ve been frequenting Labels for approximately nine years, nine months, and a few days, give or take. Sage Bishop and her savvy staff have clearly been doing something very right, as they’ve won this award for the last several years—and 2017 is no exception. From new to lightly used shoes, purses, dresses, jewelry, clothing, home goods and more, Labels has everything in style needed for your wardrobe and home. I, for one, can’t wait for the next 10 years of being a loyal Labels lover.
Where: 2332 James Street, 3927 Northwest Ave.
It’s because of the zoning, I tell people as they roll their eyes and return to their burgers and brews. Sunnyland’s special zoning allows commerce to snuggle up near residences, and for businesses to operate inside—and out of—homes. That means artists can run their studios out of their shops, tinkerers can run their shops out of their studios. It means stores and restaurants are within easy walking distance of neighborhoods, and the whole has a vibrant feel.
On a broader scale, it is this connectedness that makes Bellingham work. But Sunnyland is a nucleus for this year’s best places, best nooks and hidey-holes, and best experiences as chosen by our readers.
This week we focus on the places and businesses that keep Bellingham vibrant. Next Wednesday, tune in for the best in food and drink, and the people who make living here worthwhile.
Compiled by Tim Johnson, Amy Kepferle, Carey Ross, Stephanie Young, and Trail Rat
Photos by Jessamyn Tuttle
Best Bike Shop:
Anyone who’s ever thrilled at the way it feels to ride a bicycle down a steep hill can likely also attest to the not-so-great feeling that occurs when you discover the brakes on your two-wheeled conveyance need some assistance. That’s where Eric and Kae Moe of Kulshan Cycles come in. When the duo took over the bike business from previous owner Jack Kimmes in 2005, Eric had already put in a decade at the Chestnut Street locale, making him an ideal successor to the now-35-year-old shop—which is known not only for its enviable selection of bike-related products, but also for the crew’s ability to fix pesky brakes (and so much more), host clinics and weekly bike rides, and sharing their love of riding with the public. (Honorable mention: Earl’s Bike Shop.)
Where: 100 E. Chestnut St.
Dakota Art Gallery
According to Dakota Art Gallery Director Hannah Cwiek, big changes are in the works for the two-year-old creative space abutting Cornwall Avenue’s Dakota Art Supplies. Although the focus for the award-winning venue will still be on contemporary art and curated exhibits, Cwiek is hoping to make the space a nonprofit—meaning it’ll be easier to host Draw-A-Thon’s and other fundraisers for organizations like Northwest Youth Services, Earthjustice, Community to Community Development, and more. In November, the public can get directly involved with the gallery by coming into the store and picking up a small canvas (for free), painting on it, then turning it back in for an upcoming exhibit.
Where: 1324 Cornwall Ave.
Best Stop on the Mt. Baker Highway:
North Fork Brewery
Oh, the places you’ll go! Nooksack Falls. Twin Lakes. Hannegan Pass. Yellow Aster Butte. Everybody’s Store. Wake and Bakery. Graham’s. Oh, and Mt. Baker! But one place tops the list, whether going or coming—the beer shrine and their tasty pizzas. It’s a rite of passage for me. Church Mountain is my church. And the North Fork’s Son of Frog is my baptismal.
Where: 6186 Mt. Baker Hwy.
Whether we’re grinding up the dog hair switchbacks from Chuckanut Drive or sauntering through the fern glades on the Samish Bay Connector, the prospect of enjoying the view afforded by this rocky seaside brow never fails to beckon us deeper into the raw, rugged heart of Blanchard Mountain. It’s our go-to promontory for scenic stimulation that never fails to keep us striving ever upward through the clouds.
Where: Pacific NW Trail, Bow
Best Movie Theater:
The Pickford Film Center
The Pickford Film Center’s motto is “More than movies” and it’s a promise they make good on, offering such events as the Rooftop Cinema, annual Oscar party, Children’s and Human Rights film festivals and so much more. Currently, the not-so-tiny-but-certainly-mighty independent movie theater is in the middle of Doctober, its annual, month-plus celebration of nonfiction filmmaking, which has become the largest documentary film festival on the west coast and helps anchor the PFC’s Doc-Ed and Media Literacy programs. Of course, they still show plenty of those art-house movies you love, which is how they win this category—and your hearts—year after year. That, and the real butter they put on their popcorn.
Where: 1318 Bay Street, 1416 Cornwall Ave.
Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa
Lummi are a wise and resourceful people, and they plan for generations to come. Some years back tribal leaders understood demographics were changing and casino crowds were seeking a new experience. They expanded their casino operations to include a top-flight destination resort and convention center, and a community center for their nation. If you haven’t toured their casino recently, you’re missing a spectacular treat.
Where: 14876 Haxton Way, Ferndale
Best Shoe Store:
In 1924, J. Edgar Hoover was appointed the head of the Bureau of Investigation, Johnny Weissmuller won three gold medals at the Paris Summer Olympics, and black leather shoes were reaching peak popularity. That last fact was pertinent to the opening of Hilton’s Shoes, which was opened by Joseph Hilton that same year in downtown Bellingham and has now been providing a wide range of shoes to the public for more than 90 years. “ Hilton’s has been passed down through the generations and remains in the family,” the current owners say. “Downtown has undergone some serious changes, but our philosophy has never changed: Honesty and integrity in everything we do.”
Where: 113 W. Magnolia St.
Best Music Festival:
After years spent retooling and reconfiguring their setup to accommodate ever-growing crowds, this year Downtown Sounds took over two blocks of Bay and Prospect streets, effectively doubling their footprint—and it was an unqualified success, judging by both the hordes of people who showed up for the five Wednesday-evening concerts of the wildly popular summer series, and their win in this category. You keep building it, Downtown Sounds, and we will keep coming.
Where: Bay and Prospect streets
An inspiring interplay between wind, water and forest give this extra-sandy, driftwood-entangled oasis on Bellingham Bay the capacity to generate a righteous overabundance of rest and relaxation opportunities that require repeated visits. Kiteboarding, skim-boarding and generalized paddle sports are highly recommended depending on current conditions. But even if all you aspire to do is kick off your shoes and feel the tidal action surging around your bare toes, you’ll still get peppered with a plentitude of serendipitous shoreline spectacles.
Where: 3161 Locust Ave.