GreatNorthern Cafe on Peace Portal open for business

Published on Thu, Jul 21, 2005 by ara Nelson

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Great Northern Cafe on Peace Portal open for business

By Tara Nelson

When Yolanda Calderon and Joyce Guimond met in San Diego, CA, they had no idea they would run a business together 15 years later in a small town on the opposite end of the country.

On this past July 4, however, the two opened Great Northern Café, a small espresso and café in Blaine’s historical red caboose on Peace Portal Drive.

The two had thought about opening a business together for a few years, Guimond said. They first thought about opening a consignment store based on Calderon’s experience in selling young women’s maternity clothes but Guimond, who loves to cook, said the idea of a café seemed more exciting.

“That’s what we used to like to do anyway,” she said. “We spent our spare time going to coffee shops.”

The idea was further fueled by a mutual friend who began roasting her own coffee in Bellingham. That friend was Trudy Scherting, owner of Moka Joe, an organic, fair-trade coffee roaster in Bellingham.

“We wanted to support her business, too,” Calderon said.
And then there was caboose.

“We saw the caboose and both agreed it had great potential and was ideal for a café,” she said. “The view of Drayton Harbor was also a bonus.”

Calderon, who volunteers with Cirque de Manos, or circle of hands, an art program for children of migrant workers in the Lynden and Ferndale areas, as well as various other local organizations, said she especially likes the idea of having a community space where residents and visitors to Blaine can relax and socialize.

“During its railroad days, this caboose was the heart and soul of the train,” she said. “It’s where the railroad crew worked, ate, slept and chatted over a cup of coffee.”

The café’s baked goods are made daily by Café Avelino in Bellingham and the Mexican popsicles, or paletas, as they are called in Spanish, are handmade in Lynden by a man who traditionally sells the refreshing fruit treats to farmworkers.

One of the more interesting of the 30-some flavors (which rotate frequently) is the Mexican tres leche, or three milks, a mix of both regular and condensed milk with a hint of cinnamon to create a smooth, cold and creamy popsicle with a delicate flavor.

Other flavors include walnut, which has a similar flavor to the tres leche but with lots of crumbly walnuts to fall into your hand as it melts, as well as coconut, pineapple, guava, strawberry and mango-chili, an interesting mix of cayenne pepper and fresh organic mango.
The mango-chili flavor sells quickly, Calderon said.

“You get the sweet, the hot and the cold,” Calderon said. “It’s very good.”

Other food items at the café include breakfast sandwiches ($3.50), croissants, bagels, soups, and gourmet Italian and Polish sausages ($3). The Italian sausage this reporter sampled boasted a subtle fennel flavor and arrived on the table smothered in a delicious sautéed mixture of red peppers and onions, which was worth the extra 75 cents.

Calderon also said she is looking into the possibility of being available for private parties such as children’s birthday parties and private luncheons.

Great Northern Café is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily but is closed on Wednesday and Thursday. They can be reached at 332-1900.