BELLINGHAM - A festive atmosphere kicked off the arrival of a new beverage retailer on Friday, April 12, offering a large selection of beer, wine and spirits to local residents.
About 200 people were in line for the 9 a.m. opening of BevMo at 114 W. Stuart Road, near United Furniture and the Meridian Street intersection. Along with goodie bags, customers were treated to cheers and a song from employees, as well as a variety of alcohol and non-alcohol samples.
On the previous day, the company hosted a mixology competition for local bartenders, with Joey Crahan of Glow Nightclub winning the overall prize. Dennis Schafer of Oyster Bar at Bayou on Bay won the Party Pleaser award.
The 10,000-square-foot store is the first national chain of its type in Bellingham, less than a year after the new state liquor privatization rules went into effect. The company has more than 130 stores in the western U.S., mostly in California.
"We're excited to be open; we've had so many people knocking on the door (prior to the opening)," said Jackie Trapani, a regional vice president for the company who was on hand to watch the opening. "We want to be Bellingham's neighborhood beverage store."
Along with alcohol, the store offers a variety of party-related products, including cheese and meats, electric refrigerators and a wide selection of drink mixers.
Trapani said selection is one of the things that BevMo is known for, and that seemed to be showcased at the Bellingham store. It has rows and rows of beer, wine and spirits, including large spaces dedicated to Pacific Northwest products. The store also has a growler section, with 10 beers on tap.
Changes to craft distillery rules in Washington have led to a big jump in spirit and beer products the past year, said Trevor Lancaster, a BevMo employee who works at the Silverdale store and helped with the Bellingham opening.
"Up here, it's important to have local products, especially when it comes to beer," he said.
The store also has a tasting area, which will host a variety of events through this weekend.
Generally, the store will have beer tastings 4 to 7 p.m. Fridays and wine tastings noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
"There is a bit of a social draw to the tasting area, but it's also educational," said Rachelle Foronda, who works at the BevMo store in Long Beach, Calif. She added that they try to mix it up with new and popular products at tastings.
Trapani said they expect BevMo to be a draw for Canadian shoppers, particularly on the weekends, but wasn't sure how much. For now, they are concerned with serving the local market with selection and customer service, noting that employees received more than 24 hours of training to learn the products.
Judging by the vehicle license plates in the parking lots, mostly local residents attended the opening.
"I think this store will be a good addition to Bellingham," Trapani said.