The combined brewery and tamales restaurant is expected to open in January, said Osbaldo Hernandez-Sahagun, who owns Frelard with his husband Dennis Ramey. This will be the second location for the restaurant, which originated in “Frelard,” an unofficial neighborhood between Fremont and Ballard in North Seattle.
Hernandez-Sahagun was raised outside of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and moved to the U.S. when he was 11. His tamales business began in 2015 when he and Ramey saw an opportunity to bring authentic Mexican tamales to the Seattle area with his family recipe, which has been passed down through several generations. The Bellingham site will also be the flagship location for El Sueñito Brewing, which was born from Ramey’s passion for brewing craft beer.
“The [brewing] industry is very hetero, white-dominated,” Hernandez-Sahagun said. “What will be different about our business model is that Dennis and I are a gay couple, and interracial. We were intentional in naming the brewery a Spanish name to break away from the standard.”
Alexarc Mastema, who has lived in the Sunnyland neighborhood for about 10 years, said he is excited about the prospect of a new brewery and restaurant run by a queer, interracial couple.
“I think that's gonna be a really valuable addition to our community. Bellingham definitely has some minority business owners, but they just unsurprisingly don't always get as much attention or notice as they should,” Mastema said. “I’m excited for these folks to be able to have a big, popular presence, and hopefully change people's minds and get them excited about the Mexican culture, food and beer.”
Frelard and El Sueñito will join a growing list of similar businesses located in the Sunnyland neighborhood, which has seen the opening of five other breweries within its boundaries in the last decade.
Hernandez-Sahagun envisions the Sunnyland area as a Bellingham version of Seattle’s Ballard Brewery District, where there are more than 10 breweries within a one-mile vicinity. He said he doesn’t see this as a competitive concern — Ramey and Hernandez-Sahagun have found community and collaboration in their fellow restaurants and breweries.
“Being a block and a half away from both Wander, Kulshan and Otherlands was always appealing,” Hernandez-Sahagun said. “We both came in and we were just embraced by anyone that we talked to and everyone has been very helpful.”
Mastema said new small businesses are “constantly popping up” in the neighborhood, and they give him and his neighbors nearby access to places that meet their interests and needs.
Maggie Mccrady, who runs Wee Ones Reruns, a children’s consignment store in Sunnyland, said in an email that the addition of a brewery and tamales restaurant to the neighborhood “makes perfect sense.”
“This neighborhood has gotten more and more popular through the decades that we have been a part of it,” Mccrady said. “There are lots of long time small local businesses close by as well as a vibrant brewery scene… who doesn’t like tamales?! I’m in.”
Ramey has begun work at El Sueñito to allow enough time for the brewery’s lineup to be featured at the January opening of the restaurant. In the meantime, Frelard will be hosting a “tamales for the holidays” event at their brand new Humboldt Street location on Dec. 15, which will give neighbors an opportunity to see their new space and purchase a variety of tamales to bring home.