Hey Vikings! Start your school year with an intentional visit to local Bellingham businesses using this Western Washington University Student Small Business Guide. From places to grab an early morning coffee to thrift stores where you can find an affordable new look, this guide covers all of your student needs.
Brandywine Kitchen’s motto is “From seed to plate,” which represents owners Azizi Tookas and Chris Sunde’s belief that supporting and understanding local food systems leads to a better product. Azizi and Chris started Brandywine as an heirloom tomato farm in 2002 as a way to unite cuisine and local farming. In 2011, they expanded to open Brandywine Kitchen on Commercial Street in the heart of Downtown Bellingham, combining their passion for food and sustainable agriculture. Brandywine Kitchen offers house-made baguettes and a range of unique entrees featuring gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options using locally sourced produce and products. Regulars wax lyrical about Brandywine’s gluten-free mac and cheese, apple-jalapeno chicken sandwich, and wide range of local beer and cider options.
Mulu Belay began learning to make Ethiopian food alongside her mother when she was 5 years old. She’s since dedicated her life to cooking and sharing her homeland’s foods. Mulu’s restaurant, Ambo Ethiopian Cuisine, which opened in Bellingham in 2014, is her dream come true. Its name is a love letter to where she grew up in Ambo, Ethiopia.
Whether you’re vegetarian or prefer a meatier meal, Mulu has delicious options for everyone. Enjoy your yemisir wat (green lentil stew) or alicha wat (lamb stew) with regular or gluten free injera and your choice of side such as cabbage stew or homemade cheese.
Bonus: Mulu even has her own cookbook, Ethiopian Feast.
Nancy Stuart founded Saltadena Bakery in 2016 working out of her home kitchen. She dreamed of owning a brick-and-mortar where people could connect over cookies, cake, and other sweet treats. In 2019, her dream came true in downtown Bellingham, where she provides joy through food and human connection. Find cakes, cookies, cream puffs and more in the beautiful shop Nancy named after a street she lived on in her home state of Michigan.
Pro-tip: Be sure to try Nancy’s most popular item, Lil’ Scrappies, which are deconstructed cake cups made from leftover cake scraps.
As you sit and enjoy a cup of coffee at babygreens, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a tropical forest. Founder Nick Meza grew up surrounded by his mother’s plants and soon after moving out he discovered that he too had a knack for caring for them. Halfway through his college career at Western Washington University, Nick began thinking about starting a plant-centered business, a place for people to gather and experience the outdoors without leaving Bellingham. In 2019, he started babygreens.
For its first year, babygreens operated purely as a plant store, stocking a diverse selection of tropicals, succulents, and potting supplies. In 2019, however, Nick expanded his business and added a cafe serving specialty coffee, local craft beers, and wine.
Fun fact: The cafe also stocks baked goods from local Bellingham bakeries. Plants + pastries = perfect morning pick-me-up!
Enjoy delicious Peruvian-style sandwiches, drinks, and desserts at Cafe Rumba. Owner Antonio Diaz opened the restaurant with his business partner and friend, Marco Mellet. Antonio and Marco, both from Peru, wanted to share their food and culture with the people of Bellingham. Tragically, Marco passed away in 2016, but Antonio continues to run the restaurant in his memory.
You can get sandwiches anywhere but the sanguches at Cafe Rumba’s come jam-packed with fillings like house-roasted pork, yam, rotisserie chicken, and a healthy spread of chimichurri or aji huacatay, a minty Peruvian sauce. Pair your sandwich with a plate of fried yucca root and salsa or roasted yams and a refreshing glass of maracuya, a Peruvian passionfruit juice.
Bonus: Grab a bag of their roasted coffee beans or a container of homemade salsa before you leave.
Shirlee Bird Cafe
Worn Again Thrift opened their brick-and-mortar Bellingham storefront in early 2021 with the mission to encourage individuality and sustainability. They present a hand-picked, carefully curated selection of one-of-a-kind vintage pieces at a wallet-friendly price point.
In addition to clothing, they feature a variety of local artists’ work for purchase throughout the store. Visitors can take a break between browsing to say hi to Archie, the store dog. With new pieces offered daily, you’re bound to find something that matches your style.
Since it first opened in 1980, independent bookstore Village Books has been committed to “building community one book at a time.” In 2017, the store passed from the original owners to Paul Hanson, Kelly Evert, and Sarah Hutton, who worked for Village Books for years. From new, used, and bargain books to ebooks and audiobooks, the physical and virtual shelves of Village Books are stocked to bring out the book lover in everyone!
Bonus: Village Books also has a location in Lynden.
#WomanOwned #FamilyOwned #MinorityOwned
Brother and sister duo Nico and Alexandra Sanchez opened Black Noise Records in Downtown Bellingham in 2021 to elevate the quality of independent music in Bellingham and the Greater Seattle Area. A musician himself, Nico originally started Black Noise Records as an independent label that naturally grew into a brick-and-mortar shop. You can find new and used records and cassette tapes, but the shop’s collection mainly consists of records that are sold or traded in by the community, making Black Noise a unique reflection of Bellingham. Whether you’re looking to grow your collection or start it, look to Black Noise Records the next time you’re looking to buy, sell, or trade your vinyl.
The Western Washington University Student Small Business Guide was curated by Intentionalist intern and Western Washington University student Alexandra Taylor. Let us know your favorite local businesses in the comments below, and be sure to check out all of the Bellingham small businesses on Intentionalist.