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Retail Tipsheet: LuLu says goodbye to downtown Bellingham

Kobi Dorning of Lynden makes a purchase from owner Heather Baker at the LuLu women’s clothing store on West Holly Street in Bellingham on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016. The store should be finished with its going-out-of-business sale by early February.
Kobi Dorning of Lynden makes a purchase from owner Heather Baker at the LuLu women’s clothing store on West Holly Street in Bellingham on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016. The store should be finished with its going-out-of-business sale by early February. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Heather Baker may be closing her downtown clothing store, but she remains a big believer in where that retail district is going.

Baker has operated LuLu, a women’s clothing store at 124 W. Holly St., since 2011 but is currently having a liquidation sale. She took over for her mom, Diane Ferree, who opened the store in 2004.

Baker is making a career change. She’s accepted a position at Pacific Continental Realty to be a commercial broker. She also plans on remaining active in the Downtown Bellingham Partnership; currently she is the board’s vice president. With her new job she’ll be able to remain in the district, staying connected to people she’s worked with to improve downtown.

The one thing she will miss once the store closes is her customers.

“The quality of my customers has made a big difference,” Baker said. “They have been so appreciative of the store. That is what I’ll miss the most; it’s been emotional for me.”

With online shopping continuing to grow, retail is changing. Baker believes that most people enjoy the shopping experience, so the brick-and-mortar store is not going away.

“I think the pendulum will start to swing back (to visiting stores),” said Baker, noting that shipping costs and not being able to try something on will slow enthusiasm for online shopping.

As for downtown, Baker is optimistic about its future. Two years ago she felt the downtown district was at a tipping point for retail business, and she wasn’t sure which way it would go. The Downtown Bellingham Partnership was going through a reflective period, trying to decide what it should be focusing on as an organization. That reflection resulted in more activities to try to bring more people into the downtown core, such as the Commercial Street Night Market and enhancing some of the other events.

From Baker’s perspective as a retailer, she has seen fewer behavior issues of late, and that makes customers more comfortable with visiting downtown. Work still needs to be done, but she sees progress.

“I feel great about where things are heading (with downtown),” Baker said.

LuLu will be open while it still has inventory, with the last day probably Friday, Feb. 5. Details about the store can be found on its Facebook page.

Hungry Bear to have farewell celebration

Last week’s announcement that the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Deming is closing at the end of February came as a surprise to many, so the restaurant owners plan on having a farewell celebration Monday, Feb. 29.

The restaurant, known as a regular hangout for local residents as well as a popular pit stop for skiers, hikers and Christmas-tree seekers, did not get its lease renewed. As word spread, the restaurant was swamped with customers and calls from well-wishers, said Vickie Henderson, who operates the eatery with her mom, Barbara Bruland.

“The response was overwhelming,” said Henderson, who is hoping to one day reopen the Hungry Bear somewhere in the area.

The farewell party is currently being organized, but Henderson said they plan on having some cake along with sharing stories at the restaurant, which is at 4965 Mount Baker Highway.

OTHER TIDBITS

A state restaurant liquor license was submitted for a business called Ridemind at 1600 Carolina St. That is in the Transition Bikes building. The applicants are Kevin and Kelley Menard and Kyle and Kari Young. ... Everybody’s Store in Van Zandt is now offering organic chicken feed from Bellingham’s Scratch and Peck Feeds as well as other products for raising chickens. ... Cloud Mountain Farm Center will open for the season on Monday, Feb. 1. The nonprofit agriculture education center provides hands-on learning opportunities for new and experienced farmers as well as home gardeners. Cloud Mountain also has a retail nursery. Details can be found at cloudmountainfarmcenter.org. ... Hoagland Pharmacy at 2330 Yew St. is celebrating its 35th anniversary Feb. 1-5 with prize drawings, including a $3,500 gift card to Bellingham Travel and Cruise. Details can be found on its Facebook page. ... The Lady Foot Locker store at Bellis Fair mall has closed.

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