A consistent trend locally during this economic recovery is the rise of business start-ups; it has continued in the first three months of 2013.
Through the end of March, I've counted 25 retail business openings, with more than a dozen announcing intentions to open later this year. That's about on par with the first quarter of 2012, which was also a strong first quarter for openings compared to the previous three years.
I've also noticed a drop in business closures. For the first quarter of this year, I counted 13 retail closures, down from 17 in 2012.
The first quarter is typically a heavier time for business closures, after the holiday shopping season.
Jennifer Shelton, director of Western Washington University's Small Business Development Center, has noticed a similar trend at her office. She said 27 percent of the client base was actively engaged in starting a business in the first quarter, up from around 20 percent in the previous quarter. The number of businesses in her office because they are struggling has decreased from 42 percent to 31 percent.
In terms of initial inquiries, the most popular topic is about starting a business, Shelton said.
"There is generally steady interest in starting a business but it seems to be higher than usual at this time," she said in an email. "Fundraising success through platforms such as Kickstarter is allowing entrepreneurs access to capital for start-up or new products that may not have previously been accessible."
Last week, the Washington Department of Revenue released a report indicating that Whatcom retailers posted a record fourth quarter in sales. That's something local entrepreneurs and national chains pay attention to when making decisions whether to expand in this market.
With Sports Authority entering the local market later this year and Bellis Fair mall being aggressive about attracting new retailers, it's an indication that the county should expect more retail growth in the longer term, said Ken Oplinger, president of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
BEVMO READIES FOR BELLINGHAM OPENING
BevMo plans to have several kick-off events for customers at its 11,000-square-foot Bellingham store, which opens Friday, April 12, at 114 W. Stuart Road, next to United Furniture.
The doors open at 9 a.m., with the first 500 customers in line receiving a free gift bag. The store also will have free beer, wine and spirit tastings starting Friday and continuing through Sunday, April 14.
Kris Mulkey, a spokeswoman for BevMo, said the store will employ 25 people. She noted that the next closest BevMo store is in the Seattle area, which was a factor in choosing Bellingham.
"We recognized the need for convenience and proximity to our customer, so rather than opting for a location in a large, difficult-to-access shopping center, we selected this smaller, shopper-friendly retail location," Mulkey said in an email.
For details about the company, visit bevmo.com.
At 192 E. Bakerview Road (just east of Meridian Street) a tenant improvement permit was approved for Bellingham Oral Surgery & Dental Implants Clinic.
Fred Meyer was approved to do its $4 million remodel of its Lakeway Drive store.
Boundary Bay Brewery was approved to do its expansion into the former exercise studio next door on Railroad Avenue.
In Bellis Fair mall, Suite 707, a tenant improvement application was submitted to put in a Hallmark store.
At 2227 Midway Lane, a $600,000 tenant improvement application was submitted to remodel the building for Cesco Solutions.
$600,000 At 1301 W. Bakerview Road, Suite 106, a tenant improvement application has been submitted for a second Menchie's store in Bellingham. The second store is going into the Bakerview Fred Meyer shopping center.
$600,000 Whatcom Plaza, a retail center on Cordata Parkway (near the roundabout by Whatcom Community College) recently sold. Washington Federal sold the property, which includes 4252, 4256 and 4260 Cordata Parkway, to Andrew Arrica, Peter Arrica, Sabina Arrica and Baingio Arrica. The sale was completed Monday, April 1, according to the Whatcom County Treasurer's Office. The retail center has about 22,000 square feet of space and has several tenants, including Anytime Fitness. The center was originally developed by Keith Troske and finished in 2009.
$600,000 JJ's In and Out has applied for a beer/wine specialty shop liquor license at 2019 Harris Ave., in Fairhaven, in the same building as Super Teriyaki.
$600,000 According to the state liquor license application, the former Bayside Café at 1801 Roeder Ave. will be called The Loft at Latitude 48.5. Applicants are Jeffrey Holmes and Stefan Kolbeins. The restaurant at Squalicum Harbor is expected to be open before the opening day of boating season in early May.
$600,000 A liquor license application was submitted for a new grocery/convenience store at 102 Jackson St. in Nooksack. The name of the business is Alexa's Market and the applicants are Emilio Colin and Alberta Gonzales.