Retail Tipsheet: Making a better tarp the goal of new Bellingham store

When Jim Watt was in the Navy decades ago working as a parachute rigger, he thought he had a pretty good business idea.

Now he’s taken a step forward with that idea by opening a brick-and-mortar store called Northwest Tarp & Canvas.

Watt opened the 3,200-square-foot store last month at 703 W. Holly St., having started the company several years ago as a home-based business. He operated the business part time while working in the mental health field. As he approached the 20-year mark working as a counselor this year, he decided to shift gears career-wise and fulfill his dream of opening a store.

“I had it (the store idea) in my mind the whole time in the Navy,” Watt said. “We can make anything from this material.”

Watt said he realizes anyone can buy a tarp at stores around town, but he wanted to make a product with stronger, heavier material so it will better handle the Pacific Northwest winters. He said the material he uses lasts around 10 years, longer than the typical tarp. The tarp is put together right at the store, custom-designed to the customers’ needs.

“It’s really fun for us because no job is the same,” Watt said.

While he’s focused on the marine industry, Watt said he’s already getting plenty of orders to cover things like cars, barbecues and hot tubs. The company also has an online presence, which is also keeping the five employees busy right after the move. He’s hoping to increase his workforce to 10 in 2015. As a home-based business, it generated $128,000 in sales in 2013; he is projecting sales to be around $200,000 this year.

“The acceptance in the community has been great,” he said. “We’ve really been doing this through word-of-mouth.”

Along with tarps and canvases, the store sells a variety of other marine related equipment and tools, including the nylon deck loops for kayaks and fasteners. Eventually he would like to bring in higher-end kayaks to sell.

Store hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday. For details about the company, visit or call 360-656-6550.


A new Ethiopian restaurant is getting close to opening in the Bellingham Public Market.

Mulunesh Belay, also known as Mulu, is planning to open Ambo Ethiopian Cuisine on Saturday, Nov. 8. at 1530 Cornwall Ave. in the space formerly home to Seven Loaves Pizza. Belay has operated a booth in the Bellingham Farmers Market for nine years before making the move into her own restaurant space.

“I want to share my people’s food,” Belay said in a news release. “I am so, so happy. This is my dream.”

According to the news release, Belay learned to cook from her mother in the village Gindeberet, Ethiopia. At age 15 she moved to Ambo, Ethiopia, a town the restaurant is named after.

All of the dishes she made at the Bellingham Farmers Market will be on the menu as well as a variety of other authentic dishes. This includes chicken stew, spicy lentil soup and a sourdough pancake known as injera.

Hours will be 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday. Details about the business can be found on the restaurant’s Facebook page.


Kelly Norton has decided to convert his food truck business into a drive-through eatery with indoor seating.

Norton, who has operated Bare Bones Bar B Q for five years, is busy moving into the Shell gas station building at 4240 Meridian St. Norton is currently waiting for final permit inspections before moving in, so for now the truck is at that location serving beef and pork sandwiches from 10 a.m. until around 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Once the inspections are completed in a few weeks, Norton plans to offer a drive-through service and expanding hours to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. He also plans on opening an espresso stand, which will be open every day.

While he enjoyed the mobile truck business, Norton believes customers will appreciate the indoor seating, particularly in the winter. Updates about the indoor opening can be found on the company’s Facebook page.


A Bellingham tenant improvement building permit was submitted to put in a new restaurant at 2430 James St. in the Sunnyland Square shopping center. The proposed new restaurant is called Over Easy. ... A permit was also submitted to put in a Domino’s pizza outlet at 3930 Meridian St., in the Meridian Village shopping center. ... In my Oct. 19 column I wrote about Seasons Fashions opening in Bakerview Square. I originally wrote that they had moved from Birch Bay Square, but actually the owners decided to have stores in both locations. ... A state liquor license application to sell beer or wine was submitted for a new cafe at 1151 N. State St., in the Herald Building. The proposed name is Cosmos Cafe & Catering and the applicants are Cinnamon Berg, Michael Berg and Jamison Rogayan.