New owners enjoying their favorite Fairhaven restaurant

Jennifer Branch, new owner of Flats Wine & Tapas Bar in Fairhaven, Monday, March 8, 2010, at the restaurant.
Jennifer Branch, new owner of Flats Wine & Tapas Bar in Fairhaven, Monday, March 8, 2010, at the restaurant. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

If you're going to buy a restaurant, it's always good to aim for your favorite.

That's what Jennifer and Patrick Branch were able to accomplish by purchasing Flats Wine & Tapas Bar in Fairhaven from Rich and Yasmine McCudden at the end of January. The Branches have been regulars at Flats since it opened five years ago. When they heard it was for sale, they felt it was the perfect opportunity to make an investment in the local community.

"I never thought I would end up with my favorite restaurant; we had been looking to strengthen our roots in the community by having a restaurant," Jennifer Branch said.

Jennifer has a background in restaurant business and is a graduate of the four-year Culinary Arts program at Utah State University. Although she has been trained in the restaurant business, she's been grateful for the help of the six-person staff that she was able to keep after the sale.

"I think the staff deserves a lot of credit for making Flats what it is," Jennifer said. "I was impressed by what they've done as a customer, but even more so as an owner."

The new owners already have made a few changes. They've brought back lunch - Flats is now open every day from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. They have also introduced the "happiest" hour, serving specials between 2 and 5 p.m. each day. They are also working on freshening up the menu, but it will continue to focus on the tapas style of presenting a variety of small items for customers to try.

"What's most important to us is that people enjoy the experience," said Patrick Branch, who will handle the financial aspects of the business. "Rich (McCudden) did a great job building a loyal following, and we want to build on that by making changes we think will be positive for the customers."

The restaurant also continues to win awards. It recently was honored as a "Restaurant of Distinction" for the third straight year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine for its depth of wine list, the menu and how they pair together.

For details about Flats, which is at 1307 11th St., call 738-6001 or visit


If you've been waiting for a restaurant with meals that stick to your ribs, Bryce Special Sharp and Nathan Lowe might have the answer for you.

Sharp and Lowe are busy converting the former Pescaderia Seafood space at 1215 Railroad Ave., (near Starbucks) into their own place. In a couple of months they plan on opening Man Pies, serving American-style meat pies. The focus of the business will be selling the pies wholesale, trying to get into other local restaurants as well as truck stops across the U.S., Sharp said.

They will also be selling them retail, for around $4.50, trying to appeal to a variety of demographics, from college students looking for a late-night meal to those looking for a business lunch to blue-collar workers who need a substantial meal. The meals will be wholesome, with natural ingredients "you can pronounce," Sharp said.

"It'll be a lot like a pot pie, with a very flaky crust," said Sharp, who was a French chef in California's Napa area and has family here. "I fell in love with meat pies while on a trip to Australia, and I think it will work well here."

Lowe, who once operated the popular Speedy O'Tubbs club in Fairhaven in the 1980s and early 1990s, said the goal is to maintain tight margins to keep the price down while offering something substantial to eat from morning late into the night.


It appears a Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurant will be going into the Bakerview Fred Meyer shopping center. They filed for a business license in that area last week, as well as applied for a tenant improvement permit to do $173,000 in improvements at 1301 W. Bakerview Road, Suite 101. The restaurant chain has more than 550 eateries in 35 states, according to the company's Web site,

Wal-Mart has applied for interior remodel of its Bellingham store at 4420 Meridian St. According to the permit application, the remodel is estimated to cost slightly more than $925,000.

There's a building permit application filed for a new raw food restaurant near The Herald building at 1111 N. State St. called Nama Living Foods.

A tenant improvement permit has also been filed at Bakerview Square for a martial arts studio.

Closed earlier this year, Hot Shotz Martini Bar and Restaurant and Quarterback Pub and Eatery officially had their liquor licenses discontinued by the state liquor board.

There's one more chance to see the Olympic museum at Birch Bay Square near Custer this weekend. Owner Greg Murphy will open the museum and souvenir shop this weekend, March 13 and 14, before closing it up for good. It'll be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Retail Tip Sheet runs each Wednesday.