Bellingham's Zen Sushi planning to open June 19


Zen Sushi Bellingham

Owner Ken Tipasathien sits in a booth in the new Zen Sushi & Bar next door to the Regal Barkley Village Stadium 16 on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 in Bellingham. "I love sushi," says Tipasthien.


How do you get a 600-pound Buddha statue from Thailand to a Bellingham restaurant?

That was one of the many challenges Ken Tipasathien faced while preparing to open Zen Sushi & Bar on Wednesday, June 19, next to the Regal Cinema Stadium 16 movie theater in the Barkley district.

Why a 600-pound Buddha?

It's an eye-catching feature that will be the first thing most customers notice. But it might not be the most intriguing feature: A 180-foot sushi conveyor belt wraps around most of the restaurant. It can carry about 400 plates of food by each table to entice customers.

Zen Sushi is Tipasathien's fourth Bellingham restaurant. He also operates the three On Rice restaurants in town. He decided to go with a sushi format at the movie theater because he believes many customers will be looking for something fast and fresh before and after a movie. He also wanted to create a place where customers who have more time can sit and relax. That included adding a bar; later this summer he plans on installing an outdoor fire pit and outdoor seating.

Along with sushi, the restaurant will have a variety of items, including dishes commonly seen at On Rice. Prices of the plates on the conveyor belt will range from $1.75 to $5. The goal, he said, is to have an affordable family-style restaurant where people can eat healthy food.

As he did before opening his On Rice restaurants, Tipasathien took a trip to Thailand in search of interesting items to decorate Zen Sushi. The statue was a challenge; working with his mother, who lives in Thailand, he was able to track down a statue that would work in the new space. He then got it to Bellingham, where he had it delivered by Ram Construction. He said there were plenty of double-takes from drivers on the freeway as the statue was transported by truck before arriving at the restaurant.

"You can't imagine how many people helped me get that through the door," he said. "But it looks great."

It's been 10 years since Tipasathien opened his first On Rice restaurant, and he appears to thrive on staying busy.

"It's in my blood," Tipasathien said. "The more you enjoy something, the more energy you have."

The new restaurant will have around 21 employees. Once open, hours will be 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday. For details, call the restaurant at 360-734-7888.


Whatcom County is about to hit the sweet spot of the strawberry harvest season.

Randy Kraght of Barbie's Berries said the early varieties are harvested and now the main varieties such as Hood should be ready this week, with the Shuksan berries ready next week. U-pick at Barbie's (7655 Melody Lane near Ferndale) is scheduled to begin on Monday, June 17.

The Hood and Shuksan varieties tend to be a darker red and sweeter than the early varieties. So far the harvest has gone well, but Kraght is a bit concerned about rain in the forecast in coming days. Even if significant rain arrives this week, he's expecting this year's harvest to be better than last year, when a cold spring meant smaller berries.

Kraght expects this year's harvest to last until around the first week of July, with raspberries and blueberries arriving soon after. Updates on Barbie's Berries can be found online at or by calling 360-384-1260.


• There is a new grocery delivery service in Whatcom County called Sound Harvest Delivery. The company, started by Chuck Block and his son, David, focuses on delivering local products. Examples include Edaleen Dairy, Twin Brook Creamery, Grace Harbor Farms and Moka Joe Coffee. They use a variety of cooler/refrigerator systems to keep products fresh. Details can be found at

Hallmark opened its new Bellis Fair store last week.

• A permit application was filed to put in a new medical equipment supply retailer at 101 E. Stuart Road (in the former state liquor store space in the retail center near Walmart). The new business is called Norco Medical Supplies.

Blair's Repair has closed its James Street location. According to its Facebook page, the company decided to keep everything in its current spot on 840 N. State St. because it is a better fit for the employees and has better parking for customers.

• A state liquor license application was filed by Brandon Bates for a business called Open Kitchen at 1330 N. State St., at the East Magnolia Street intersection near Copper Hog.

• A liquor license application was filed for 7-Eleven to go in at 141 S. Samish Way, in the former Blockbuster space.

WinCo received approval for its liquor license application at 300 E. Bellis Fair Parkway. That store is expected to open in August.

Retail Tip Sheet runs each Sunday.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or Read his Business blog at or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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