Rumor Has It

The longest night

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

“Now Clark’s is on fire.”

That’s the text I received at 7:30pm on Wed., July 17. Since I was nearby, I went to the block of Railroad Avenue that was home to Clark Feed and Seed to see what was going on. I knew as I followed a fire engine with lights and sirens on from Marietta—well outside its normal service area—that I’d find some kind of fire when I arrived. What I didn’t know was how bad it would be.

When I left four hours later, I had my answer: It was very bad indeed.

During those hours, I watched as firefighters tried to save the beloved pet store that has been in that location for more than four decades. At one point, they seemed to gain the upper hand, the smoke cleared slightly and some of the fire companies rolled up their hoses and departed the scene.

While heavily damaged, it appeared as if Clark’s might’ve survived its second brush with fire, less than six months after flames destroyed Hohl’s Feed and Seed next door.

But that relief was short-lived as the fire flared back up in dramatic fashion, flames leaping from the roof as firefighters poured an increasing volume of water on it from a pair of ladder trucks.

I don’t know what time it was when it became clear that Clark’s would be lost. Nor did I check the clock when the fire crawled to the roof of Avalon Records and began wreaking its destructive havoc on the record store that’s been there since Jim Nickol bought it from Budget Tapes and Records in 1987 and renamed it Avalon. I’ve forgotten the exact point at which the ceiling of Avalon collapsed into the store—although the image of it is imprinted on my memory likely forever. As is the sight of untold gallons of water pouring out of the store as firefighters doused it from above, dumping a volume of water so great I was unable to comprehend how anything could still be burning despite the fact that I could see the flames right in front of me.

What the fire didn’t damage, the water ruined. It was an elemental showdown the likes of which I hope to never witness again.

At some point during that dark night of the soul, I stood next to the owners of both businesses—Larry Oltmann of Clark Feed and Seed and Chris Lamb of Avalon—as they watched their livelihoods burn. I don’t really know how to reckon with the loss of nearly an entire block in the heart of downtown Bellingham to two fires in five months. I earn my living figuring out how to describe things. But, sometimes, there simply are no words.

Past Columns
Comings and goings:

October 16, 2019

Sing Loud:

October 9, 2019

Road to somewhere:

October 2, 2019

Sound of Soundings:

September 25, 2019

News of brews

September 18, 2019

Sex In The City:

September 11, 2019

While I was sleeping:

September 4, 2019

Little in the middle

August 28, 2019

Into the woods

August 21, 2019

Bands at Barkley

August 14, 2019

Ready, Fight!

August 7, 2019

Rock and Vote

July 31, 2019

Remembering Peter Gunn

July 17, 2019

From the Rooftop

July 10, 2019

Breaking News

June 19, 2019

Remembering Lucas Hicks

October 11, 2017

Fall Lynden Craft and Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

My Fair Lady

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre


7:30pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center


7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Whatcomics Call for Art

10:00am|Whatcom County

Wishes and Dreams Call for Art

10:00am|Gallery Syre

Gore and Lore Tours

6:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Anacortes Vintage Market's Evergreens and Icicles

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center

Scream Fair's Camp Fear

7:00pm|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Matilda the Musical

7:30pm| Lincoln Theatre


7:30pm|Upfront Theatre


8:00pm|Old Main Theater

Community Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Blaine Senior Center

Ferndale Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Orca Recovery Day Work Party

9:00am|Nooksack River

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Yoga and Detox

9:00am|Community Food Co-op

Blanchard Beast Trail Race

9:00am|Blanchard Forest Lower Trailhead

Twin Sisters Farmers Markets

9:00am|North Fork Library

98221 Studio Tour

10:00am|Fidalgo Island

Bellingham Comicon

10:00am|Ferndale Event Center

Steam Expo

10:00am|Lynden Middle School

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Your Life is a Story Writer's Group

10:30am|South Whatcom Library

Correspondence Club

10:30am|Mindport Exhibits

Fall Festival

11:00am|Camp Korey

Kraut-chi Ferment Class

11:00am|Chuckanut Center

Winter Warmth Drive and Pickup

11:00am|Assumption Church Gym

Art Therapy Workshop

1:30pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Telling Tough Stories

2:00pm|South Whatcom Library

Fables and Tales Upcycle Runway Challenge

6:00pm|Settlemeyer Hall

Concrete Ghost Walk

6:00pm|Concrete Theatre

Brew on the Slough

6:00pm|Maple Hall

Bellingham Hoptoberfest

6:00pm|Civic Way Sportsplex

How I Learned I'm Old

7:00pm|Village Books

Take Me to the River Live

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Skagit Symphony presents Highland Heritage

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

My Fair Lady

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre


7:30pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Whatcomics Call for Art

10:00am|Whatcom County

Wishes and Dreams Call for Art

10:00am|Gallery Syre

Matilda the Musical

7:30pm| Lincoln Theatre

98221 Studio Tour

10:00am|Fidalgo Island

Sedro-Woolley Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Trails to Taps Relay

9:00am|Depot Market Square

Birchwood Farmers Market

10:00am|Park Manor Shopping Center

Bellingham Handmade Market

11:00am|Goods Nursery and Produce

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Wild Mushroom Show

12:00pm|Bloedel Donovan Community Building

Harvest Festival

1:00pm|Centennial Riverwalk

Skagit Topic

2:00pm|Skagit County Historical Museum

What If We All Bloomed?

4:00pm|Village Books

Murder Mystery Dessert Theater

6:00pm|Christ Fellowship Church

Wishes and Dreams Call for Art

10:00am|Gallery Syre

Whatcomics Call for Art

10:00am|Whatcom County

Whatcom Housing Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Northwest Paella

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op


7:00pm|Alternative Library


9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »