The Downtown Bellingham Partnership's Scepter Awards have recognized small businesses in Bellingham since 2015. The goal of these awards is to have a yearly celebration of the hard work put in by community members that otherwise might go unnoticed.
Community awards like this are vital for encouraging businesses to continue their hard work in making Bellingham a flourishing and bustling community.
“We get into a daily flow and it’s important for us to step back and realize the impact that people have,” said Nathalie Wagler, the events and promotions coordinator for DBP. “It's about recognizing people that go above and beyond.”
Without further ado, let’s get to know 2023’s Scepter Award recipients.
WinkWink Boutique, Mo’s Parlor, MW Soapworks, Third Planet, Brandywine Kitchen and Great Northern Bottle Shop were all co-recipients of the Community Collaboration Scepter Award for their work on planning the Commercial Street Block Party last year.
The idea for the small business block party first came to be after Mo Green of Mo’s Parlor talked with Erika Millage of Third Planet.
“It was so easy to [collaborate],” Green said. “We’re all on the same street and everyone thought it was a fun idea.”
Andrea Lawson, the owner of MW Soapworks, said that a lot of the businesses on Commercial Street started out as vendors at markets, and they kept that in mind when planning the Block Party.
“We know how much work goes into vending at a pop-up market,” Lawson said. “We wanted to offer an accessible option for independent artists as a way to give back to our arts community.”
With everything from drag shows to chalk art, there were activities for everyone in attendance.
“We’re a diverse group of businesses. Black-owned, woman-owned, queer-owned and disabled-owned right on one city block downtown,” Lawson said. “Any time marginalized voices get amplified and honored is a win for everybody.”
Keep an eye out for the 2024 Commercial Street Block Party next summer.
City Block Superhero
Kate Groen is a co-owner of the Horseshoe Cafe as well as the recipient of the City Block Superhero Scepter Award.
In 2021, the DBP started a city block program that encouraged downtown business owners to discuss their needs with each other and resolve them.
“It was a time where we were still coming out of the pandemic, but things were still kind of a rollercoaster,” Groen said. “It was a time where everyone needed additional support.”
Groen quickly took on the responsibility of the city block representative, speaking at the town hall and addressing issues that had been discussed in previous meetings.
“I ended up being the person who brought all the issues we had identified to the mayor,” Groen said. “I took a step up into that role, but I did it alongside other folks.”
Groen said she is honored to receive this award and looks forward to continuing to share the voices of business owners.
“To be recognized by [DBP] was huge because I respect what they do so much,” Groen said. “Just knowing that I was helping be part of their mission was wonderful.”
Logan McQuaig is the owner of Redlight Kitchen and Bar and the recipient of the Transformative Space Scepter Award.
Before buying Redlight with his wife, McQuaig had only worked there for a few years.
“We had a baby and decided I needed to not work so late. So, we decided to try ownership,” McQuaig said.
Redlight was a cocktail bar when McQuaig and his wife took over. They decided to add food to their menu, which ended up helping them through the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Redlight and their new food items became more popular, McQuaig realized they were outgrowing their space on State Street.
“At the original space, we didn’t have a hood for the kitchen. We had to boil and steam everything which really limited us,” McQuaig said. “It was hard for our food and space to meet the level our service and drinks were at.”
McQuaig found a space on Grand Avenue that would allow him to design and build his new space from scratch. After starting construction in October 2022, Redlight opened its new doors to customers in June of this year.
“I loved downtown Bellingham when I moved here 20 years ago and I love it now,” McQuaig said. “It’s the only place I would want to own a business like this.”
Downtown Sounds is a yearly summer music festival, taking up more than three city blocks over the course of five weeks.
On top of providing his keg trailer for use at the festival over the years, Serface has organized keg pickup and dropoff with the participating breweries, supported keg and bar managers during the event and helped with teardown at the end of the day, according to Wagler.
As the crowds have grown at Downtown Sounds, so has Serface’s keg trailer. This past summer, he had additional taps installed on his trailer to accommodate the longer lines.
“He is a dedicated business owner who cares deeply about his community and we are so grateful to have his help at Sounds,” said Wagler.
Trish Manley is the recipient of the Longstanding Contribution Scepter Award. She has owned A New Leaf Flower Shoppe for 43 years. While they’ve moved around here and there, the current location on Cornwall Avenue is Manley’s favorite out of the handful of spaces the store has occupied.
“My community involvement can be attributed to how long I’ve owned my shop,” Manley said. “I’ve gotten to know my neighbors downtown and the people who help to support us.”
Manley has a unique perspective on the area, having been involved in the downtown ecosystem for so long. She was there when the mall was built and all the big chain stores moved into it.
The mutual support of other businesses downtown and loyal customers is what helps keep Bellingham alive, she said.
“When you have a healthy, vibrant downtown, I think it makes Bellingham an even better place to live,” Manley said.
Rachel Horgan is the events director at the Puget Sound Business Journal, which hosts over 30 events similar to the Scepter Awards every year.
“People want to support small businesses, but they might just not know where to look,” Horgan said. “By receiving an award, they can also gain credibility and visibility, which can drive more people to them.”
There will be a celebration for this year’s awardees held on Nov. 3 at Time and Materials Taphouse from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Aubrey Black (she/they) is a second-year news-ed major at Western. She enjoys making Spotify playlists and perusing used bookstores.
You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.