At a new container village on the Bellingham Waterfront, visitors can drink beer, eat ice cream and rent a bicycle to ride at the nearby pump track.
In the next couple of months, they’ll be able to eat hamburgers and drink cocktails at a bar as the first part of a project to turn old shipping containers into new space for businesses nears completion.
Mike Hogan, Port of Bellingham’s public affairs administrator, said the Port saw an opportunity to bring commerce downtown.
“The Port is developing a pop-up container village built from repurposed shipping containers to increase public access and help create a vibrant downtown waterfront as redevelopment gradually happens over time,” Hogan said.
Businesses that have opened are Kulshan Trackside, the Selkie Scoop and Sun-e-land bikes, which provide beer, ice cream, and pump track bike rentals and electric bike sales and rentals respectively.
Working out of a shipping container can bring challenges, but the container village businesses are making it their own.
Bill Morrison, general manager of Kulshan Brewing, said working out of the container is like living on a boat.
“Everything needs a specific home, and you need to stay organized,” Morrison said. “The bonus part is that moving around your co-workers requires some special dance moves.”
Selkie Scoop opened its ice cream shop last summer for two months and is excited for this summer to begin.
“Working out of a shipping container is great,” said Meika Ziels, co-owner of Selkie Scoop. “It’s just like a normal shop, a little smaller, but it’s the perfect size for what we need right now. I would say one of the benefits was that we were able to design the area to fit our needs.”
But there are challenges to working in a shipping container, like the weather.
“Whatever is happening outside is basically happening in the shipping container,” Morrison said. “Heat, cold, smoke, dust, noise.”
Selkie Scoop hopes to put up an awning for protection, including against the sun.
“The biggest challenge so far in the shipping container has been weather,” Ziels said. “Whenever it’s rainy or windy down there, we can really feel it.”
In the next couple of months, more businesses will open containers in the village to complete the first phase. A new container for Rain or Shine Riviera Club will feature The Filling Station burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, fish and chips, craft cocktails and bar space. Another container will partner with the D.I.S.H Foundation and Our Kitchen, offering coffee and baked goods. The final container for the first phase will feature rotating artists and vendors.
The Port is making plans for a second phase of the container village that would include up to 10 additional containers.
“Providing interim space for local vendors through the creative use of shipping containers allows for growth to occur in an organic fashion that is responsive to market opportunities and public demands without restricting future development,” Hogan said.
The waterfront redevelopment has helped businesses become more involved in the community and they hope to stay for as long as they can.
“We hope the container village lasts indefinitely, at least in some form, as the world gets built around us,” Morrison said.
The waterfront and container village will be a part of more events throughout the summer season, including the Bellingham Farmers Market Wednesday Market starting June 1 and the Northwest Tune-Up festival in July.
Emily Paulson (she/her) is a senior reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a sophomore currently pursuing a double major in journalism specifically news/ed track and in accounting. Emily focuses her reporting on the Bellingham waterfront and other city news stories. Outside of journalism, Emily plays on the Western softball team, enjoys watching sports, spending time with friends and working on her podcast.
Her instagram is @empaulson22