Local Business

6 Bellingham Businesses That Don’t Exist, But Probably Should

Have you ever had one of those moments where you really want to go do something, or eat a particular sort of food, and you have to face the disappointing reality that no Bellingham business offers that service? We here at BBN know that feeling, and we decided to take inventory of the best ideas we’ve heard for non-existent Bellingham businesses. Here are a few of our favorites:

Fresh Salad Restaurant with Delivery

A picture of salad

It’s no secret that Bellingham has a well-established and creative vegetarian & vegan community. Delicious options for any dietary preference can be found in the majority of local eateries (even though very few are fully vegetarian). And yet the local scene is noticeably lacking a business which specifically caters to that great mainstay of vegetarian cuisine: the salad.

Thanks to the fine folks at Viking Food, you can get pretty much any kind of food delivered straight to your door. A salad, however, usually doesn’t even register on the delivery radar. A custom order salad, possibly made with local ingredients and a rotating seasonal menu, is something even the most steadfast carnivore should be able to appreciate. Throw in the ability to have that salad delivered to your door, and you have a recipe for successful business. The market is there – it just needs a willing entrepreneur to fill the niche.

Cat Café

Cat Sleeping on Cat Platform, Bellingham Business News

If you are a dog person, and this idea repulses you, feel free to move on to the next section. The rest of you are probably aware that this isn’t exactly a new idea. Cat cafés have been springing up since the late 90s, and have opened across the globe from Italy to Seattle.

Since most locations serve coffee alongside feline companionship, the Pacific Northwest is a logical place to open up a location. The need for a furry friend can sometimes be urgent, however, making the drive to Seattle a major obstacle. A cat café in Bellingham would allow cat lovers all over the region the option to relax in furry company without paying quite so much for gas.

Dim Sum

Baked Dim Sum Rolls Prospective Bellingham Business

The Chinese food scene in Bellingham is decent for a city our size, with some notable standouts like Dragon River offering really authentic menu items. Unfortunately, Dim Sum, which is fast becoming a favorite in big cities around the country, is missing from the equation.

There’s a certain irony in that fact, given that Richmond, BC (just across the border) houses the largest Chinese immigrant population in North America, and is also home to some of the greatest Dim Sum this side of the Pacific. Seattle also has its fair share of great Dim Sum restaurants, especially in the International District. Just as with cat cafés, however, requiring a trip to Seattle or across the border makes getting Dim Sum inconvenient for the hungry Bellingham resident. A local offering would be sure to pull in plenty of business from those familiar with the cuisine, especially if it offered some cheap to-go Baozi for students.

Party Bikes

Party bikes

What’s a party bike, you ask? An innovation pioneered in the states by cities like Portland and Denver (naturally), a party bike is essentially a mobile bar, simultaneously serving beer and local scenery from the back of a specially modified vehicle. Given Bellingham’s typical weather patterns, this business might be best suited for the summer months, when nature is at its friendliest. Bellingham certainly has the requisite profile: a beer-loving community, beautiful scenery, and an enthusiasm for the outdoors.

A prospective party bike operator would also need to discuss the legalities of the business with local officials (drinking is NOT permitted while driving the party bike). Clearing these hurdles, however, would provide an adventurous soul with the opportunity to make entertain locals and tourists, get exercise, and earn money all at the same time. Local breweries could even feature special brews on the bike. Someone please make this happen!

Mountain Bike Tours/Lessons

Galbraith Peak in Bellingham

Local mountain bikers, please forgive us for suggesting this one. Galbraith Mountain is one of Washington’s best known and loved locations for mountain biking, with a network of trails, features, and even artwork that draws visitors from all over the state. The mountain is well maintained and hosts enough variety of terrain that even beginners could enjoy the experience while they get the hang of the sport. An enterprising pro could turn their hobby into a business by offering lessons, and even guided tours of the trails. As students improved they could be taken to more difficult terrain, and eventually go solo. Just make sure you get them to sign a waiver before the lessons start!

Dry Bar

Interior of the Bellingham Beaver Inn Bar, shot by Damien, October 28, 2014

Dry bars are a new trend that has been gaining traction in Britain in recent years. Several articles, including this one from the Guardian, have discussed the new businesses, which offer the essential “bar experience” sans alcohol. The inspiration for dry bars came as a response to a collective liver disease epidemic in the UK, a problem which might not seem as pressing in Bellingham.

Dry bars taken on their own merits, however, could appeal to the local food scene. A bar offers a great opportunity for socializing, hosting concerts, and just getting out of the house. In a traditional bar, the mere presence of alcohol invites imbibing, and excludes minors and abstainers from the crowd. A dry bar could provide the same kind of entertainment and social scene without the need to find a designated driver or leave your younger friends and family behind. It’s well known that alcohol makes the majority of the revenue for most food service businesses, but underselling traditional prices slightly might allow a dry bar to capitalize on a common reason customers abstain in the first place: price. Although Bellingham may not be in desperate need of an alcohol-free alternative, our community is open-minded enough that if a dry bar could catch on anywhere in the States, it would be here.

These are just a few potential ideas for new businesses that could find a great home here in Bellingham. Our city has a great environment for innovation, and several of these businesses have been called for by the community before (I’m looking at you, Bellingham subreddit). If you feel that Bellingham desperately needs a business that we didn’t list here, please let us know in the comments!

Photo credits:

WWU Huxley School

Tobias Osterhaug

Tobias Osterhaug

Tobias is a full-time contributor to Bellingham Business News, covering local business events, tech news, and advice for job seekers in the Bellingham area. He graduated from Western Washington University with a double major in History and Chinese Language & Cultural Studies, and has previously worked as a coordinator in Western’s Writing Center.


  1. Christine
    October 29, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    Yes, Dim Sum! I’ve been asking that for years! Also (this would never happen) a year-round carnival on the pier next to the granary would be Awesome =)

  2. October 29, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    Glad you agree! Pretty much everyone in Bellingham I have brought it up with thinks a Dim Sum place would be a great addition to our food scene. We just need somebody to open one!

  3. November 6, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Party bike is already in the works!

    The path to having one on the street is paved with red tape, but we’re doing our best to navigate the process and have one available by next year.

  4. November 7, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    Great to hear that! Let us know when things get rolling, and we’d be happy to do an article about it!

  5. Brian
    January 30, 2015 at 9:26 am

    While a good idea, mountain bike tours here……I couldn’t get behind. We have great maps, wayfinding, and helpful people on the trails already. In my humble opinion, tours take away from the adventure experience and just getting lost! That’s just me though. I’m sure it’ll happen soon enough!

    Darn straight we need Dim Sum here!! Someone needs to jump on that!!

  6. January 30, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Hey Brian!

    We understand that the mountain bike tours are a controversial idea, especially among the riders who already use the trails. We’d hope that the trails could accommodate everyone’s needs without it getting crowded, but expanding the trails could also be a great way to let people who want to get lost have the space to do so. Either way, we’re happy to have your input here!

    As for Dim Sum, it seems like everyone is on board with the idea. We just need to find someone to actually open the location!

  7. Tara Nelson
    March 25, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Great photo! It seems as though it is being used a lot lately. Did you by chance take it? Looks like it was taken via drone… See also: http://livability.com/top-10/downtowns/10-best-downtowns/2014/washington/bellingham

  8. Tara Nelson
    March 25, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    P.S. All great suggestions for Bellingham.

  9. March 27, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Hi Tara! I’m afraid I don’t know who took this photo. This is the one accredited to the WWU’s Huxley School, so you might want to get in touch with them and see if they have an idea. Thanks for your comment!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post

NABE September Business Outlook

Next post

Bellingham Tarp Business Seeks to Cover More Than the Pacific Northwest