Since moving back to Bellingham from San Francisco, I’ve noticed that over the past 12 months a number of new businesses have opened around town which have dedicated attention to creating spaces with compelling interior design. By most accounts, interior design in Bellingham might be characterized as eclectic or funky, but with this new crop of spaces there is a departure from the thrifty, hippie, and folksy standard found at local venues. I don’t mean to criticize those older spaces, since they represent a resourcefulness on the part of community business owners that is appreciated. And, many of these spaces are and will continue to be well loved because patrons can find relatively affordable goods and services there. But, for Bellinghamsters like me, who have spent time away and are now returning, these new endeavors create a new chapter in the city’s food and beverage story that I find exciting.
One of the first of these businesses is Primer Coffee located in the Columbia neighborhood. According to the Bellingham Herald, Primer Coffee “is a specialty coffee bar that offers farm-direct beans, creating a variety of drinks not typically seen in cafes” and the beans it serves “come from specific farms from around the world based on the season.” Not only is the quality of the coffee high, its sourcing is ethically and sustainably minded, all incredibly important and valuable. Adding another intriguing layer to the café is its crisp and yet welcoming vibe, made possible by the inspired work of local designer, WWU alum, and Localgroup Studio Fellow Jon Falcon at Falconworks Design. When entering this café I felt like I had stepped into alternate Bellingham, possibly a future version. A white box paneled in warm wood and punctuated by plants, the space is a minimalist’s haven that creates a museum/temple of coffee that could have been transported from one of Bellingham’s West Coast sister cities (i.e., Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco).
Iron Rooster Bakery
Also designed by Jon Falcon is the new Iron Rooster Bakery in Fairhaven. Opened in June 2017, the Iron Rooster is a charming brick and tiled space that feels like a cross between cafés I’ve visited in Paris, New York, San Francisco, and Dublin. While there are no seats inside, it's easy enough to buy a yummy pastry, take it outside, and eat it in the Fairhaven Village Green just a few steps away. Besides serving delicious baked treats, the Iron Rooster also serves Camber Coffee, a refined micro-roaster that launched in Bellingham only two years ago.
Speaking of Camber Coffee, its new flagship café and eatery downtown is consistently drawing a steady crowd and with good reason. Featuring what I might call a new take on classic Northwest design, it has very compelling details, such as a welcoming patterned tile entrance, hanging globe lights, gorgeous coffee machines, and an overall feeling of spaciousness and comfort. Its design was realized by Michelle Banks of Spiral Studios, Localgroup Design Fellow and Principal at Bundle Design, Dan Welch, and Chuckanut Builders, all of Bellingham, signaling the rise of a new generation of local talent.
Finally, our friends and neighbors at Café Velo in Bellingham’s Arts District have consistently brought a unique business vision, great coffee, sunny summer patio, and fun atmosphere to their space on Flora Street, which offers food, coffee, and bike repair all in one place.
Have we missed a space that should be added to this list? Let us know in the comments!