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Downtown Bellingham Co-op opens new bakery space

The Bellingham Community Food Co-op opened the new Co-op Connections building on Holly street on Monday, July 13. The new building will hold classes, offices and a retail bakery.  Photo by Jesse Nichols
The Bellingham Community Food Co-op opened the new Co-op Connections building on Holly street on Monday, July 13. The new building will hold classes, offices and a retail bakery. // Photo by Jesse Nichols

The Community Food Co-op opened its new building on Holly Street on Monday, July 13, with a variety features including a bakery, coffee shop, classrooms and offices.

“I think it’s a really great space, and I think it’s going to be popular at the corner of Holly and Forest [streets],” said Kevin Murphy, education outreach coordinator for the Community Food Co-op.

The Co-op Connections building is one of the first steps in long-term a plan to renovate existing co-op locations, said Denise Black, store manager for the downtown Community Food Co-op.

The co-op surveyed members and customers in summer and fall 2014, collecting customer ideas for the expansion.

The new bakery and classroom space downtown will free up space for the kitchen in the Cordata co-op location, said Darcy Mcguirk, Bakery manager for the Community Food Co-op. The kitchen provides soup, salad, sandwiches and pre-prepared food for both co-op locations, Mcguirk said.

Mcguirk said the co-op is hoping to get the new bakery gluten-free certified, which will allow them to produce gluten-free baked goods. Mcguirk said they might get the certification within the next year.

The co-op plans to move offices from the downtown store to the new Co-op Connections building, freeing space on the second floor for a mezzanine seating area, Black said. Black said they also plan to install a salad bar and a hot-food bar.

Mcguirk said the downtown location is often crowded, and the new building will help distribute customers between the two locations to reduce congestion.

The co-op is in the process of acquiring permits to expand the downtown parking lot, Black said. The expanded parking lot is set to allow two-way traffic and hold more cars, Black said.

“One of the biggest complaints among co-op shoppers is insufficient parking,” Murphy said.

The co-op will relocate the original downtown Healthy Connections to free space for an expanded parking lot.

Healthy Connections is the Community Food Co-op education program. The program partners with Whatcom Community College, hosting classes focused around cooking and health, Murphy said.

The co-op plans to relocate classes from the Cordata location and original downtown Co-op Connections building to the new Co-op Connections building, Murphy said.

The classes have becoming increasingly popular in recent years, and the previous Healthy Connections classrooms were not designed for the classes that they teach, Murphy said.

Black said the new facility was designed with suggestions from chef instructors specifically for the type of classes they teach.

The new classroom will have better technology and will accommodate more students, Murphy said.

“By the time we get everything installed and up and running, it’s going to be pretty much of a state of the art kind of facility,” Murphy said.

The original Co-op Connections building was designed by Jim Zervas, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and holds historic value, Murphy said.

Murphy said instead of demolishing the original Co-op Connections building, they put an ad on Craigslist offering the building to anyone who could move it.

The co-op plans to move the building to Cornwall street, where they will donate it to the Community Sailing Center, Murphy said.

“We basically pledged the money that would have gone to demolition to the moving of it,” Murphy said. “We are really excited about the plan to move that building and not have to destroy it.”

Becca Hovey, a 2015 Western graduate, visited the new Co-op Connections coffee shop on its opening day.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” Hovey said. “It will be interesting to see what it develops as.”

The entire renovation process is estimated to end in November, Black said.

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