Last year was a fairly stable one for Whatcom County retailers when it comes to storefront openings and closings.
For 2015, I counted 44 retail Whatcom County storefronts that closed, which is the lowest total since 2007. The Fairhaven Pharmacy was the oldest establishment to have closed, having been around for 126 years. Another longtime business that said goodbye was the Blaine Marina. It had been around for more than 50 years, selling a wide variety of items including fishing supplies and furniture.
The 2015 total for closures was much different compared to the years following the 2008 global financial meltdown. The peak year for closures in Whatcom in recent years was 2009, which had 89 closures.
As for business openings, I counted 92 in 2015; in recent years the number of openings has totaled around 100. Some of the bigger openings in 2015 include Safeway in Bellingham, the Ferndale Grocery Outlet, Designer Shoe Warehouse in Bellis Fair and the tenants moving into the Waples Mercantile Building in Lynden.
There’s no official count to local business openings and closures, so I rely on things I spot, news releases and tips from readers.
HUGE RETAIL PROJECT NORTH OF BORDER
One thing Whatcom County retailers and residents will need to keep in mind is the arrival of some major competition this year in Tsawwassen, B.C., near Point Roberts.
A retail center called Tsawwassen Mills is under construction near the B.C. ferry terminal. According to its website, the mall will have 16 anchor stores and 1.2 million square feet of retail space. For comparison, Bellis Fair has around 773,000 square feet of retail space. One of its main anchors will be a Bass Pro Shops outdoor store. According to an article in the Delta Optimist, Bass Pro will be about 145,000 square feet and is expected to open this spring, while the rest of the retail center and its 200 or so stores will open around October.
Going in nearby is Tsawwassen Commons, a 550,000-square-foot retail center. Major tenants include the Canadian home improvement store Rona, Canadian Tire and Walmart.
The arrival of all this retail just a few miles away could have an impact on retail sales in Whatcom County, especially if the Canadian dollar remains weak. Along with it being a new alternative to cross-border shopping for Canadians, it could become an option for Whatcom County shoppers.
One local retailer is also going into the Tsawwassen area. Woods Coffee currently has a cafe under construction at Tsawwassen Golf Club, which is near these retail developments. Woods is aiming to open its first Canada cafe sometime this spring.
A new grocery store and deli is opening soon near Deming. Welcome Grocery Store at 5565 Mount Baker Highway is going through final inspections and remodeling work, and it’s expected to open in the coming weeks, said Barbara Patterson, who is opening the store with her husband, Chuck. ... Ciao Thyme at 207 Unity St. announced on Facebook that it would remain closed through Jan. 11 for the holidays while construction takes place around its building. It will reopen for lunch on Tuesday, Jan. 12. ... The Rhododendron Cafe at 5521 Chuckanut Drive will be closed until Wednesday, Jan. 13, for its winter break. ... Also taking a break is the Bellingham butcher shop Carne, which will be closed Jan. 3-11. ... Taco Del Mar at 122 E. Magnolia St. in Bellingham has closed, but a similar restaurant is in that space. It’s called Monster Burritos and Tacos and has similar prices, menu and hours. Hours of operation are 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.