Business

Struggling Whatcom grocery store trying to get back on track after employee theft

Sparsely stocks shelves are shown at Dodson’s IGA Market on Wednesday, Dec. 7 near Nugents Corner between Everson and Deming.
Sparsely stocks shelves are shown at Dodson’s IGA Market on Wednesday, Dec. 7 near Nugents Corner between Everson and Deming. eabell@bhamherald.com

A longtime grocery store is in a financial crunch, so the community is pitching in to help this holiday season.

The Dodson’s IGA store at 3705 Mount Baker Highway in Nugents Corner has struggled to keep inventory on the shelves. Co-owner Ellen Dodson told the Lynden Tribune last month that two employees were fired earlier this year for internal theft. Dodson, who declined to name the employees, believes the thefts took place over time, but the store’s security cameras only documented a two-week period. Store officials didn’t have enough evidence to press more serious charges than shoplifting, and insurance didn’t cover the losses. She told the Tribune that about $100,000 in cigarette purchases were unaccounted for.

The grocery business has very tight margins, so this was a significant shortfall to make up – distributors want cash up front. The Dodson family went to work solving the shortfall but didn’t want to ask the community for donations. Instead, they came up with a gift certificate plan: Customers could buy a grocery gift card for $50, but then wait a few months to use it. If customers waited long enough, the certificate’s value would increase to $55.

The community stepped up to help. To date, store owners have raised more than $10,000. Store shelves are still a ways away from being restocked and the budget is still “very tight” each day, but Dodson said store owners think they have a clear path to survival and are getting closer every day. For now, they are concentrating on restocking areas in the meat, hot deli and produce departments and then putting what they can on the shelves.

While Dodson didn’t ask for direct donations, those are coming in, too.

Also, several people purchased the gift certificates and immediately tore them up, while others who live outside the area have purchased them with no intention of using them, Dodson said.

“We are so grateful and appreciative of the support,” Dodson said, adding that they worried if the store were to close, it would be difficult for another grocery to reopen in that area.

Regular customers said they want Dodson’s to stay open because there are so few options to shop in that part of the county. Resident Gwen Barron said she would have to drive about 12 miles to Everson or 20 miles to Lynden to reach a grocery store. For years, Dodson’s has been the place to go to pick up a few items without having to go into town.

“I’ve always been impressed with what they’ve done for the community, whether it is fundraisers or supporting the fire department,” she said. “They serve a lot of farmers in this area.”

Carol Simmons has lived in the area for 18 years. For her, Dodson’s is a place to shop when she needs a few items, or when her grandchildren visit and want a treat. She stops in at least once a week.

“I love the fact that the store is nearby and it has some of the friendliest people I’ve seen in a grocery store,” Simmons said. “I see a lot of people who go there that might not drive and would have a difficult time if they closed.”

For further details about the store or to check out Dodson’s recipe of the week, visit dodsons.iga.com.

NAAN & BREW RESTAURANT OPENS IN BELLINGHAM

Downtown Bellingham has a new restaurant serving up Indian lunch and dinner dishes.

Naan & Brew had a grand opening on Friday at 200 E. Maple St., Suite 101, near the Depot Market Square and Boundary Bay Brewery. The restaurant has plenty of items on its menu, including fish tandoori, karahi chicken, lamb curry and salmon tikka masala. They will also serve a variety of naan flatbread.

The restaurant is owned and operated by the Chana family. Mike Chana and his dad, Harbhajan, remodeled the space.

“My dad really wanted a place where people could relax and enjoy some food,” Mike Chana said. “We want to be here for a long time.”

Along with sit-down service, Naan & Brew also has a buffet format for lunch. Takeout is offered and a delivery service is in the works. The restaurant also has a small bar with happy hour specials from 2-5 p.m.

The family is considering staying open later into the evening, but customer demand will dictate the hours. For further details, visit naanandbrew.com.

OTHER TIDBITS

Owners of a proposed restaurant named Captain Bellingham have applied for a liquor license at 300 N. Samish Way, in the former Diego’s Mexican Grill building. Applicants are Dae Seob Kim and Ling Yun Zhu. ... The Vault Wine Bar is also seeking a liquor license for a proposed business at a former Bank of America branch at 277 G St. in Blaine. Applicants are Alan and Michelle Finston. ... Buyer’s Market in Bellingham is having an Ugly Door contest that goes until noon on Dec. 19. Submit a picture of your ugly door to its website and the winning entry will win an exterior door of their choice, including installation, valued up to $1,500. Winners will be judged based on how many “likes” the photo gets on the Buyer’s Market Facebook page.

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