After the Fire
Remembering Hohl Feed and Seed
What: Small Animal Saturday
When: 2 pm Sat., Mar. 2
Where: Whatcom Humane Society, 2172 Division St.
Visit WHS and meet small animals available for adoption, including many from the Hohl Feed and Seed fire. Animals will include rabbits, domestic rats, hamsters, gerbils, mice and more. Applications are required.
Cost: Name your own adoption fee!
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Approximately three years ago, my fellow urban farmer left for Hohl Feed and Seed to pick up rabbit food and returned home 30 minutes later with a trio of three-week-old chicks to add to our backyard flock.
“They were the last ones left, and were only a few bucks each,” he said with a sorry-not-sorry shrug as I sighed, rolled my eyes and helped set up a temporary indoor shelter for the pullets—Rhode Island Reds who grew up to be known simply as the “three amigas” since they were pretty much indistinguishable from one another.
When I let the remaining amiga and her two younger feathered friends out of the coop last Monday morning, it was with the knowledge that Hohl’s had been gutted by a fire in the night, and that the place my co-farming fella and I have spent more than a decade frequenting for everything from cat, chicken and rabbit food to vegetable seeds and starts, flea medicine, oyster shells, tulip bulbs, soil amendments, gardening gloves and far beyond could be gone forever.
Early television coverage from Seattle noted the fire happened on a “strip mall” in downtown Bellingham, but that description couldn’t be further from the truth. Under a red-and-white awning, Hohl Feed and Seed has been serving Whatcom County for more than 100 years, and is an iconic landmark on a block rich with history.
To me—and to the many loyal customers who have been reaching out to the family-run company to show their support and share their memories in the days since the fire—Hohl’s has always been much more than a convenient place to pick up the necessities that have kept our urban farm keep ticking.
It has also been a hub for community interaction—whether that meant asking one of the knowledgable employees advice about what to feed a molting chicken (and how long it will be before they start providing us with delicious eggs again), watching grinning kids petting hamsters and rabbits (and then begging to take the critters home), or conversing with other customers whose eyes light up when they see that spring chicks have arrived and are doing “chicken math” in their heads to see if they can justify bringing home a few more.
Luckily, many of those chicks and most of the rest of the animals that were being housed on the bottom floor of Hohl’s were saved thanks to quick action by the Bellingham Fire Department.
“It is an absolute blessing that the majority of them are alive thanks to their rescue efforts,” Hohl’s wrote on their Facebook page on the day of the fire—which has since been deemed “suspicious” and may be the work of an arsonist.
“Please be gracious with us as we figure out how to handle the next steps,” they added. “The fire is still under investigation, so we do not have many answers at this time.”
Although the red-and-white awning remains intact, for now the only animals at Hohl Feed and Seed are the colorfully creative birds painted by street artist Shawn Cass on the back of the building. They’re a painful reminder of what our city has lost, but are also a balm to those of us holding on to our memories of a place we always assumed would be there for us—just like it has been for more than a century.
For updates about Hohl Feed and Seed, including any fundraising efforts, go to http://www.facebook.com/hohlfeed
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