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Brenthaven to close its Fairhaven store

Evan Auld, 9, left, his mom Susan Auld, and brother Kellen Auld, 11, shop for binders at the Brenthaven retail store in Fairhaven on Tuesday, August 4, 2015. The store is closing for good on Labor Day, though Brenthaven will keep its Seattle store and online shopping site.
Evan Auld, 9, left, his mom Susan Auld, and brother Kellen Auld, 11, shop for binders at the Brenthaven retail store in Fairhaven on Tuesday, August 4, 2015. The store is closing for good on Labor Day, though Brenthaven will keep its Seattle store and online shopping site. The Bellingham Herald

A longtime local retailer is shutting down its Fairhaven store.

Brenthaven has started a store-closing sale at 909 Harris Ave. that is scheduled to go through Labor Day, said store manager Theresa Ludtke. Sales currently include a 20 percent discount. The discount is expected to deepen to up to 80 percent closer to the store’s final day, but supplies could be limited.

The company will continue to have a Seattle store and a strong online presence, said Nicole Cary, marketing director. It also maintains a small manufacturing facility in Bellingham.

Brenthaven has deep roots in Fairhaven. Back in the late 1970s, Brent Harris had the idea of making a better bag/backpack. By 1980, a company was in place and the manufacturing facility grew in Fairhaven, focusing on custom bags for mountaineers. For a time the company had a store in downtown Bellingham before opening the current Harris Avenue store in 2010.

Over time the company has shifted its focus from mountaineering bags to protective cases for high-tech devices, Cary said. More of the manufacturing aspects of the business began going overseas. As the company continued to head in that direction, a decision was made to close the Fairhaven store.

“We got a great start in Bellingham and appreciated all our loyal Brenthaven followers. It’s been a fantastic 35 years,” said Scott Armstrong, CEO of Brenthaven.

A few of the products are still made in this region, such as the Brentley softpacks. Once the Fairhaven store closes, a limited supply of Brentley packs will be available at the Seattle store and at brenthaven.com. Much of the company’s high-tech protective cases are available at many different retailers, including Best Buy, Apple and Microsoft.

Ludtke said the Fairhaven store has had a very loyal following, with many customers coming in with stories about where they’ve taken their Brentley softpacks.

“It’s almost like ‘Where’s Waldo,’ but (since announcing the closure) it’s been a little more emotional,” she said.

Five years ago in an article about the company’s changes, then-vice president Harvey Stone said it was a difficult decision to have much of the product made offshore.

“We held out as long as we could, but the pressures of competition were just so great,” Stone said at the time. He is no longer with the company.

Reach Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com.

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