Downtownbusinesses bullish about prospects

Published on Thu, Apr 1, 2004 by ack Kintner

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Downtown businesses bullish about prospects

By Jack Kintner

After years of economic doldrums, several downtown Blaine business owners are painting a picture of the local economy this spring that’s much more positive than it has been in previous years.

Based on an informal survey made earlier this week, the optimistic attitude includes both new and newly re-located operations as well as the ancient (founded in 1899) and venerable Goff’s Department Store, near the center of town at 647 Peace Portal Drive. Owner Murray Goff has been running the haberdashery for over half a century, taking over from his father who bought the place in 1915. Son Greg joined him a mere 32 years ago. “2003 was about 15 percent ahead of 2002, and so far 2004 is up even more than that,” said Greg Goff. “Both the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection Services have added a lot of people, so between that and other people moving into the area, things are picking up.”

Goff added that he expects the warehouse-style furniture store that will open soon on the north end of his block to generate additional customer traffic. “Hopefully, it will draw people much like the groceries that were once in those buildings did,” he said.

Petal Attractions
Diane Meichsner closed her downtown Blaine Flower Cottage at 232 H Street in 1993. “It was just one of 26 shops that closed that year,” she said, “because of the mall.” She began commuting to Bellingham to work but missed the small town atmosphere of Blaine, where daughters Deena and Dionn and son Dan all went to school.

Last October she returned, joining with Adrianne Papa to start a new flower shop, Petal Attractions at 147 C Street. Business is brisk.
“There’s enough business here now for two shops,” Meichsner said, “because we try to help each other. When businesses do that then they each can do better than either might on its own.” She said the increased value of the Canadian dollar has also helped.

“The [Canadians] can take cut flowers back across the border, as long as there’s no dirt. We’re getting more Canadians all the time. We had a very good October, December and February, so I guess that means a good April too,” Meichsner laughed.

Her partner, Adrianne Papa, is originally from the Philippines, and her floral design style runs heavy with exotic tropical blossoms like Anteriums, Birds of Paradise and different kinds of orchids. She trained for the craft in Canada before moving to Blaine seven years ago.
“We also use willows, grasses, other kinds of things,” Papa said, “for a contemporary look.” She added that a lot of their business comes from Semiahmoo.
“Location isn’t quite as important for us because so much of our trade is on the phone,” Meichsner said.

Blackberry House
“We’re happy with the response so far,” said Blackberry House’s Andrea Bowyer, who along with partner Danielle Cox re-opened the popular lunch spot at 321 H Street on March 15. “A lot of people come in at 6 a.m., when we open,” Bowyer said, “and then there’s a kind of coffee break crowd around nine or ten, but there’s a very consistent and busy lunch rush that goes from 11:30 until 2 every day.”

Bowyer has lived in Blaine for several years but Cox and her niece came to Blaine just last February 15, making the winter drive south from Fairbanks in four “five to six hundred mile days” on the Alaska Highway. “The bears were asleep, but we saw every other kind of wildlife,” she said.

One of the partners begins at 5:30 a.m. baking pies and pastries, Cox said, and gets off at 3 p.m. while the other keeps it open until their 6 p.m. weekday closing. “We’re starting to get our groove running the place,” Cox said, “and before long we’ll be adding a person or two.

The Hair Shop
Jackie Craig opened up The Hair Shop two months ago after cutting hair in Canada for 20 years. “I married an American,” she said, “so here I am, and it’s been great.” Craig, who is married to local contractor Rusty Craig, said that her ten to 12 customers a day has been “pretty good considering that I’ve got no local clientele built up, and I don’t work by appointments. It’s all just off the street.”
The friendly and funny mother of seventh-grader Gabrielle and first-grader Matthew is about to paint the small concrete block building at 340 Martin Street that was built for Joe Barber in the 1970’s. “I’m just waiting for a good weekend,” she said, “and by the way, you look like you need a haircut.”

Harborview Realty
Chuck Green, broker at Harborview Realty, moved his business into Mel Hollinger’s old office at 685 Peace Portal Drive last October. Appraiser Gail Parlapour also works out of the office as do sales people Dennis Vasquez and Suzanne Magnusson.

The move was only four blocks north and across the street from their previous location at 1046 Peace Portal Drive, but it’s made quite a difference. “The market’s hot right now,” said Vasquez, “and our inventory is low, but being here in the middle of things sure helps.”

H Street Music

Next door to the Blackberry House, at 335 H Street, Jim Varnier and Kent Jarvis have resumed converting a house into what will be a retail music store by the end of summer or early fall. “I had a convergence of time, money and material,” said Varnier, “so we got her going again after two and a half years.” They have as yet to see any business, of course, but were encouraged by the city’s plans for the boardwalk as well as for plans they said they’d heard about concerning a renovation of city hall’s south façade.

“There’s a need for a music store here,” Varnier said, “and beyond that, I’m a guy who loves guitars. I love talking about guitars and I love playing them.” A southpaw, Varnier said he plans a special emphasis on left-handed guitars he plans to market primarily on the internet.

“We’re building this front deck big enough for a little down home outdoor pickin’, too,” Varnier grinned.