Canadian retailer: Birch Bay location makes more sense to capture Canadian shoppers


RetailTipSheet Betty

Betty Be Good owner Suzanne Smith in her new clothing store in Birch Bay Square, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. The store, next to the Van Heusen store, is open daily.


A Canadian entrepreneur has discovered that opening a store in Whatcom County makes good financial sense, even when it comes to attracting Canadian shoppers.

Last week Suzanne Smith opened Betty Be Good, an 1,100-square-foot women's clothing store at Birch Bay Square. While this is her first brick-and-mortar store, Smith has experience in retail, operating Betty Be Good as an online business for more than a year and having parents who operate a chain of Subway stores in Whatcom County.

She said establishing her first store was a big step, and when she started crunching the numbers, opening in Whatcom County rather than in British Columbia made better sense financially. She recently told a columnist at the Vancouver Sun that she found rent in Whatcom County for commercial space to be around $15 to $20 per square foot, while in Vancouver the same type of space was going for $40 to $50 per square foot. She also buys her products in the U.S., so having a store in Canada would mean she'd have to deal with import regulations.

After looking at all the business expenses, she determined that a clothing item she could sell for around $50 in Whatcom County would have to sell for around $75 in Vancouver.

"When I look at all the numbers, I decided I specifically wanted to do business in Whatcom County," she said.

Smith wants to attract both Canadian and Whatcom County customers, so she has a variety of hand-picked styles ranging from Canadian urban to a suburban look. Prices on clothes range from around $15 to $70, with a few items at the $100 level.

"I'm trying to appeal to every budget," she said.

Smith is familiar with Whatcom County and chose the Birch Bay retail center to attract both the Canadian and Whatcom County shopper. It's also a place she believes is a great fit for her business.

"I love what they've done to Birch Bay Square. It just needs to reach full maturity," Smith said.

Betty Be Good is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. More information about the store can be found on its Facebook page or its website,


Thai House Express is now open in the Sehome neighborhood in the retail center on 32nd Street, near Mi Casa Mexican Food.

It's operated by Nimnual and Dale Boe, who also operate Thai House on 187 Telegraph Road, near Meridian Street. Thai House Express will have a smaller menu than the original restaurant and focus more on take-out, said Dale Boe, adding that they do have 30 seats inside the restaurant.

All of the spices are authentic, selected by the Boes in Thailand and brought to Bellingham. They've owned the Telegraph Road Thai House for 20 years.

For take-out orders or for more information on Thai House Express, call 360-756-3511 or visit


Renate's German Restaurant and Deli in Lynden closed on Sunday, Oct. 13. According to its Facebook page, the restaurant at 312 Front St. closed because of circumstances beyond the owners' control.

The Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa has expanded its Steak House restaurant to include more seating. Called the Wine Room, the new area will offer more customers an elegant dining experience, according to a news release from Silver Reef.

The Alaska USA Federal Credit Union has expanded into Bellingham in the Haggen store at Sehome Village. This credit union is open to anyone who lives in Washington state and has 67 branches in Alaska, Washington and California.

• Bellingham-based TD Curran is expanding, with plans to open a store in Kirkland on Saturday, Oct. 26. The new store is in Slater 116, a new development in the Totem Lake neighborhood.

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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