After 45 years, a key downtown store has begun a retirement sale and will be closing in late January.
Greenhouse had a private customer event on Sunday and began its public sale Monday, offering discounts on its entire inventory.
The home decor store at 1235 Cornwall Ave. will also be selling the fixtures in its store and warehouse. An exact closing date hasn’t been determined, but the current lease expires at the end of January so the last day will be around then, said co-founder Chris Foss.
Foss and her partner Foster Rose decided to put the business up for sale in April 2016, beginning the process of transitioning to retirement. While they talked to a lot of people interested in buying the business, it just didn’t come together.
Given the current retail climate of rising online sales, even a well-established business with a physical location can be considered more a risk than a few years ago. Across the U.S., several national retailers have gone through closures and bankruptcies in 2017.
“I was told it (selling the business) would be a challenge, and it was,” Foss said.
Foss was overwhelmed by the response at the Sunday private customer event. Some customers arrived with cards congratulating her and Rose on the upcoming retirement, with many mentioning they were happy for them but sad the store was going away. There were also plenty of hugs, tears and well wishes.
“Not one of us heard a discouraging word,” Foss said.
Customers also came to shop – at one point the lines at cash registers were 90 minutes long, but customers didn’t seem upset, Foss said. The ones that didn’t have time to stand in line said they would be back. Foss said it was the biggest day they’ve ever had in terms of sales.
While the retirement sale is just getting started, Foss said she is surprised at the number of people who have already come from out-of-town to visit. People who went to Western Washington University and became customers are coming back, along with the parents of current students. That, along with the regular local customers, made Sunday especially busy, she said.
A DOWNTOWN LANDMARK
After getting started as a household plant and card store in 1972, Greenhouse rose to prominence in the mid-1980s, a crucial time for the downtown district.
That was when Bellis Fair mall was being built in the north part of town and several large retailers, including JC Penney and the Bon Marche, left downtown. Instead of leaving, Greenhouse decided to expand its downtown operation. Rose became a two-term Bellingham City Council member from 1986 to 1994 and was heavily involved in the downtown area as it adjusted to the opening of Bellis Fair.
As Greenhouse started getting more into home furniture, decor and kitchen accessories, Foss said they wanted to focus on high quality, unique inventory that customers might not find at the mall. The goal was to create a destination store, giving people a reason to shop in downtown Bellingham.
In a previous article, Foss said she’s been impressed with the recovery of the downtown district, noting that the tipping point for her has been the Depot Market Square and the growth of Bellingham Farmers Market.
“That was really, really positive,” she said, “and very Bellingham.”
The Greenhouse has about 12,000 square feet of retail area and 6,000 square feet of space in the basement that will be available for lease after the store closes. David Hovde, a Windermere real estate agent who owns the building with other business partners, said he’s not sure yet what the space will be used for, but believes it will attract interest because it sits on one of the better corner spots in downtown Bellingham.
Greenhouse is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For details, visit its website or call 360-676-1161.