It's different from your typical microbrewery, but it's one that might fit in well in Bellingham.
In December, Chris McCoy opened Kombucha Town on the sixth floor of The Herald Building in downtown Bellingham. Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from tea that has about 1.5 percent alcohol by volume, equal to about half a light beer, he said.
Along with a manufacturing facility, Kombucha Town has a tasting room where customers can learn about the process, try the product and buy it. McCoy describes it as a tea-based beer that has some health benefits and some naturally occurring caffeine. It has a taste similar to sour cider.
"I first learned about it in 2007, when a friend brewed it," McCoy said. "When I tried it my reaction was, 'Whoa, this is interesting.' What's great about it for me is the way I feel when I drink it, and the health properties it offers."
It doesn't appear there are medical studies that back up some of the health benefits talked about by users, but it is growing in popularity. McCoy said the fermenting process creates a probiotic bacteria, which some studies suggest help the digestive and immune systems. He also believes kombucha helps detoxify the body.
The drink is creating a strong following across the U.S. According to SPINS, a market research and consulting firm, kombucha has posted double-digit growth in recent years. Sales in the U.S. have grown to around $370 million a year.
Although it's only been open a few months, Kombucha Town is already gaining a local following. The product is available at the downtown Community Food Co-op, The Market on Lakeway and in several restaurants. Last week, Haggen started selling it at its Barkley store and is scheduled to be in all of the Whatcom County Haggen stores later this year.
One of the challenges to getting Kombucha Town going is explaining kombucha in order for it to fit into regulations. Getting a liquor license, for example, required a discussion about what it was before classifying the business as a microbrewery. Finding a place within retails stores also was a debate: Should it be in the beer section or the juice section?
"We talk about its health benefits, but it is being sold as an alcoholic beverage," McCoy said.
McCoy, who grew up in Bellingham and graduated from Western Washington University in 2010, said a factor in starting the business in Bellingham is because a product that promotes a healthy lifestyle fits in well with the community.
In marketing the product, the company wanted to focus on its home-town roots. The label on the bottle has a drawing of The Herald Building, along with an explanation about kombucha.
"A lot of marketing tends to portray kombucha as New-Agey, but we wanted to show that it's a good local product," said Kyle Willett, who is helping McCoy with sales and project management. "We don't want people to write it off as expensive hippie stuff."
Also helping is Sheridan Stuntz, the head brewer, and Chris' mother, Sharon McCoy, who made the original investment in the company.
"She didn't like it at first, but now she loves it," Chris McCoy said.
The product is expected to sell in stores for around $3 for a 16-ounce bottle and $5 for a 32-ounce bottle, along with a bottle deposit. Currently, the company is producing about 75 gallons a month, and has the capacity for much more, McCoy said.
They plan to sell the product just in this region, but if all goes well, McCoy might open other facilities in other communities.
The tasting room is open 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays. The best way to get updates and learn more about the business is to find it on Facebook.
HIGH-TECH LAUNDRY COMING TO SUNNYLAND
An eco-friendly, high-tech laundry business will open this summer in the Sunnyland Square retail center, near Trader Joe's.
Colleen Unema is bringing Q-Laundry to the north end of the retail center, in the former Bank of America space. In a press release, Unema said she plans to have a variety of things not usually seen in a traditional laundry business, including security locks on the machines, free Wi-Fi, and machines able to send text messages when cycles are complete.
It also will have highly efficient machines, as well as a custom drying booth to air-dry large items.
"Convenience and comfort are going to be a high priority for our customers who are dropping laundry off for wash/dry/fold services or those staying onsite for (do-it-yourself) washing and drying," Unema said in the release, noting that some of the machines will be able to wash and dry full loads in less than an hour.
On Sunday, Feb. 17, The Crossing: At Ferndale opened at 1863 Main St., near Sonic. According to its Facebook page, The Crossing is a beer-and-bottle shop with 10 craft beers on tap and a selection of bottled beer and wine. It's open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
... Fred Meyer has filed for building permits to remodel both of its Bellingham grocery stores. The Lakeway remodel is estimated at $4 million; the Bakerview remodel is estimated at $3.5 million.
... Boundary Bay Brewery has filed for permits to install new brewing tanks at its Railroad Avenue brewery.
... A spokeswoman for BevMo said they are aiming for a Friday, April 12, opening of its Bellingham store, which is going into the retail center on Meridian Street, next to United Furniture.
... According to its Facebook page, Menchie's is opening a second Bellingham location at the Bakerview Fred Meyer shopping center. It plans to be open in May.
... Tag, a men's consignment store on Front Street in Lynden, closed Feb. 23.
... McDonald's has applied for a permit for $200,000 in upgrades at its Telegraph Road location, near Bellis Fair.
... Laila's Black Pearl Restaurant has applied for a liquor license to open a restaurant at 1317 W. Bakerview Road, No. 102, in the former Thai Garden space. Black Pearl restaurants are currently in downtown Bellingham and in Barkley Village.
... "Coming Soon" signs are up in a space next to the Barkley movie theater for a TCBY yogurt store. Also expected to open near the movie theater is a Subway sandwich shop and Zen Sushi and Bar.
... Mary Deery is bringing the old-fashioned ice cream truck back to Bellingham. Deery has started Ohhh Deerys, which will have an ice cream truck named Vanilla Bean touring Bellingham neighborhoods starting in May. She'll start by taking the truck to events in April. Along with novelty ice cream, the truck will have vintage glass bottled sodas, old-time candy and root beer floats. Deery said her goal is to "make happy memories for the children of Bellingham and remind the elder generation that customer service and friendly care is not lost." Details about the company, including how you can find the truck once it starts rolling, can be found at ohhhdeerys.com.
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at email@example.com or call 715-2269.