WFC keeping busy with remodels, expansion

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 25, 2014 

Retailtipsheet WFC

Employee Natalie Seigman stocks rolls of tape at the new Whatcom Farmers Co-op Fairway True Value store in Lynden, Thursday morning, May 22, 2014. The store was remodeled in April.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

The Whatcom Farmers Co-op recently finished a remodel of its True Value store at the Fairway Center in Lynden and has planned a grand re-opening celebration May 29-31. Free samples, giveaways and refreshments will be part of the celebration at 119 17th St. The company acquired the store in September 2013.

This remodel is one piece of a complete makeover for the Whatcom Farmers Co-op. Earlier this year the cooperative remodeled its Meridian store. It also opened the Fairhaven store in August 2012 and the Blaine Ace Hardware store in July 2012.

In the coming year the cooperative plans to remodel its Ferndale and Nooksack stores as well as its first Lynden store at 415 Depot Road, said Don Eucker, CEO of Whatcom Farmers Co-op. The company is also rebranding itself, changing the store names to simply WFC.

The cooperative has been busy with its True Value partnership to combine its "Country Store" theme with a hardware company. The Ace Hardware store in Blaine was the one exception to the plan, because True Value was already in that community. Combining hardware with its country store theme has worked out well, Eucker said, with the biggest benefit being the addition of new customers. A large percentage of its new customers are homeowners, particularly women, who have a list of items to pick up from pet food to lawn and garden equipment.

WFC also recently instituted its True Value rewards program, which can be used for all its WFC products, including the fueling stations and items in its two convenience stores.

"I think people are getting a little tired of the big-box store (format)," Eucker said. WFC leaders have been working on coming up with their own retail footprint that is convenient for customers but also has the items they want plus enough employees in each store to quickly answer shopper questions.

The first experiment was in Fairhaven after taking over the former grocery store building. With 40,000 square feet of retail space, they were able to get the right mix of products for that neighborhood, Eucker said.

For the long term, the cooperative will continue to look for ways to expand. It now has enough retail stores in Whatcom County, so any expansion of stores probably would need to be outside the county. They also may expand the number of fueling stations in Whatcom County.

Along with retail, WFC also has agronomy (soil management) and energy departments. Details about the company can be found at wfcoop.com.

OTHER TIDBITS

-- The Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa will have a grand opening for The Cigar Lounge on Monday, May 26. The lounge is adjacent to the Portage Bay Bar and is fully enclosed. It will offer leather couches and wingback chairs. The space has a custom humidor with cigar lockers for rent. It will have more than 40 brands of cigars for purchase. The full-service bar has microbrews, spirits and a 700-plus bottle wine list.

-- Umpqua Bank has applied for building permits to put in a retail bank at the new Cornerstone Building at 3102 Newmarket St. in the Barkley Village district.

-- The Waterfront Tavern has submitted building permit applications to do some repair work and put in new beams at 521 W. Holly St.

-- The Shrimp Shack shut down its restaurant at 1200 Cornwall Ave. on Saturday, May 24.

-- Little Tiger Toys at 112 Grand Ave. in Bellingham is scheduled to close at the end of the day on Monday, May 26.

-- A liquor license application was submitted to change the name of Absolute Savings Grocery at 6105 Portal Way to Quick E Mart. The application also has an ownership change, with Singh Amritpal the proposed new owner.

-- Birch Bay Waterslides is now open on weekends and will open full time starting June 21. Check out birchbaywaterslides.net for details.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Business Blog at bellinghamherald.com/business-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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