It’s been a slow start when it comes to Whatcom County openings and closings, and maybe that has something to do with where we are in the economic cycle.
As we approach the end of the first quarter, I’ve counted 12 retail businesses that have closed or have started closing business sales. Examples of closures or announced closures so far include Teavana, Copper Hog and the Bellingham/Lynden Family Christian stores. That number is down from last year’s first-quarter total of 18 closures and significantly lower than in recent years.
As for new retail store openings, I’ve only counted four so far this year. That’s down from recent years, when about 20 businesses would open in the first quarter. Cafe Velo, a combination cafe and bicycle repair shop in downtown Bellingham, is an example of a retailer opening in the first quarter.
The slow start in business activity indicates that perhaps Whatcom County has reached a stable period in the economic cycle. During the first few years following the 2008 global financial meltdown, we had a lot of business activity, whether it was businesses that could not survive the downturn or the flurry of openings as people who had lost jobs decided to change careers and become small-business owners.
While talking about Whatcom’s job growth potentially slowing down in 2017, regional labor economist Anneliese Vance-Sherman said last week it may be a result of a maturing recovery. Perhaps the same trend also applies to business activity. As the local economy gets farther from the volatile recession, Whatcom County hasn’t had much change in consumer demand. We’ve had more people moving to the area in recent years, but the number of Canadians shopping here has dropped because of the weak Canadian dollar.
Another observation: Businesses seem to be adjusting to the state’s recent minimum wage hike. Some worried that bumping the minimum wage to $11 an hour might lead to retail closures, particularly in the restaurant industry. From what I continue to hear, businesses are adjusting to the increase by decreasing worker hours and raising prices. Decreasing hours is common in the first part of the year because of the winter weather and a slowdown in sales, so it will be interesting to see if those worker hours increase again as customer activity picks up this spring.
LYNDEN FARM TO OFFER NON-GMO DAIRY PRODUCT
MyShan Dairy of Lynden recently received non-GMO certification for its Guernsey whole milk, making the dairy one of the few in Washington to achieve this certification.
Owners Mylon and Shannon Smith said they went through the process because more consumers want to avoid genetically modified ingredients in their food. The Smiths decided not to pursue organic certification because that wouldn’t allow them to treat ailing cows with antibiotics, according to a news release.
“This is another choice for health-conscious consumers, offering a price that fits between conventional milk and organic milk,” Mylon Smith said in the news release.
The dairy sells more than 25,000 gallons of milk a year at a variety of local stores, including The Green Barn, Dodson’s IGA, Haggen, Terra, and the Community Food Co-op.
Last week Sound Women’s Health & Aesthetics moved, but not very far. The practice moved down one floor in 11 Bellwether Way to suite 107. This will allow Sound to add employees and treatment rooms. The practice also offers a variety of skincare products. For details, visit soundwomenshealth.com. ... A Bellingham building permit application was submitted for a new eyeglasses store at 1633 Birchwood Ave. ... Jalapenos is hosting an anniversary party at its three Bellingham restaurants on April 2. The event will have live music and prize giveaways. The restaurant has also recently acquired a food trailer, which it will be using for catering and community events.