In hard times, businesses think outside the box

Published on Thu, Dec 11, 2008 by Tara Nelson

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In hard times, businesses think outside the box

By Tara Nelson

While many businesses on Main Street are struggling economically, some of Blaine’s own are finding creative ways to stay afloat during the current financial crisis.

One of those businesses is Blaine’s Petal Attractions floral shop on Peace Portal Drive. Owner Adrianne Hanson recently expanded her floral business to include a gallery of works by nine local artists of the Sweet Road Artisan Alliance (SRAA). With sales down nearly 60 percent since last year, Hanson, a florist of 13 years and a single mother of two, had a choice: either diversify or close the doors completely.

“There has been very little business and instead of buying inventory, we thought it would make a good use of the space,” she said. “We were thinking about closing after sales this summer were down 60 percent from last year. The economy’s just been really bad for us.”

Works currently on display include oil paintings and wood carvings by Robert Hogan and Jim Agnello; landscape and abstract photography by Andrew Ryser of Cheap Shots Photography; jewelry by Allie Ryser “Glass Allie” and Karla Eames of Classy Sassy Glass; exotic wood carved knives by Bud Meltsner of Toothed Whale Designs; paintings by Cathy Taggett; as well as knitted hats and scarves by various local residents.

Hanson said she opened the business after working for another local florist and as a freelancer for several years. In 2002, she and a former business partner in a 400-square-foot storefront on C Street with only $3,000 in starting capital funds. She had also worked as part owner of Mailboxes Plus with her mother, Bessie Barredo.

In 2007, Hanson moved the store closer to the center of town and added a coffee bar, tables and ice cream. She also said she plans on expanding the dining area to include soups, sandwiches and a salad bar beginning in January.

Hanson said neither she nor her mother, with whom she also works, have received a paycheck since 2007 and that times have been rough – not just for themselves, but many small businesses in downtown Blaine. Forming a partnership with SRAA could help Hanson’s struggling business.

The deal may not only prove beneficial for Hanson but also for the SRAA, which spent nearly $2,000 to coordinate its annual WinterFest arts and crafts festival last year, although the city of Blaine and the Blaine Chamber of Commerce helped fund part of that.

“It wasn’t all out-of-pocket,” said local artist and member Cathy Taggett. “That included banners and advertisements as well.”
Taggett added that many in the group had long hoped to create an artists co-op in a vacant storefront space in downtown Blaine.

Although revenues from such a business would likely not be enough to cover rent, the cooperative could help create a draw for residents and visitors into downtown, thereby having a multiplier effect that would benefit other businesses and restaurants.

“When you travel around to small artist towns such as La Conner, they weren’t always full of tourists,” she said. “It was the artists and writers who moved in first and brought a certain life to the town, a different element that people like and seek out.

“That diversity adds interest to the town, which also adds to the culture, which, in turn, adds property value. I’ve seen it happen in Seattle, too, where artists move into areas they can afford and then it becomes a more enhanced location.

“We also hope to get the message out that we’re all in a community and we’d like people to try to buy local, we try when we can and we see what’s out there that’s made locally. It’s a real grassroots kind of thing.”

Barredo agreed. A native of the Philippines, said she remains optimistic that Blaine can still thrive if the community pulls together to support its local businesses.

However, she added she thinks the financial recession is nearing the end of its term, citing several recent news articles.

“In my country we have a saying, Bayanihan. It means the community coming together,” she said. “You have to work together, even if those people are your competition because we live in a small community.”
Petal Attractions is located at 810 Peace Portal Drive at the corner of Martin Street. Hours are from 9:30 a.m. 6 p.m. daily except Saturday and Sunday. They can be reached by calling 332-2059.

For more information about the Sweet Road Artisans Alliance, call 332-8082, or check out their website at www.madeinblaine.com.

Other venues for local art

Semiahmoo Marina
9540 Semiahmoo Parkway
360/371-0400
Open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Busy B & Company
684 A Peace Portal Drive
332-4921
In addition works by a variety of works by local artists and their great selection of locally-produced wines, check out owner Bridgette Sanford’s clever handmade bags, aprons, dish gloves, clothing and accessories.
Holiday hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Blaine Bouquets
625 Peace Portal Drive
332-6700
Open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Closed Sunday.

Birch Bay Hair Care
4819 Alderson Road
371-5160
Birch Bay resident and artist Susan Brush opened this hair salon in 2005 to supplement her art career.
She has since used the space for displaying fabulous paintings, wood carvings, sculptures and photographs by local artists such as Jim Agnello and Brian Major, as well Brush’s own paintings.

Wildwood Dream Alpacas
3750 Sweet Road
332-4733
Wildwood Dream Alpacas owner Kelly Wood will host the annual Winterfest craft and art sale at her alpaca farm on Sweet Road in Blaine from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, December 13 and 14. Take H Street west, turn right on Odell Road, and then left on Sweet Road (second stop sign). For more information, call 332-4733.