Starting a new store during a pandemic is tough, but this Fairhaven store is surviving

Feb. 7—Starting and maintaining a retail business during a pandemic is no small task, but Bridget Knutson and Melissa Hatcher have found that kindness and support from family and the community is getting them through it.


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Knutson opened the women’s clothing store Adored Boutique in Fairhaven last summer, before the second surge of COVID-19 cases hit Whatcom County in the fall. Hatcher manages the store at 913 Harris Ave., near the Village Green.

When the COVID-19 virus took hold here last spring, Knutson debated about when and how to open the store. Small retail businesses have been hit hard during this pandemic, but clothing stores have been especially hard hit as many residents and visitors stayed home and socially distant. According to Washington Department of Revenue retail sales data, clothing sales in Whatcom County dropped 50% in the spring of 2020 compared to the same period a year earlier.

“We are hanging in there and are so thankful for that,” Knutson said in an email. “The community has been tremendously kind, welcoming and supportive. Their encouraging words and their desire for us to succeed is what has helped us rally through this. It has been slow, but we feel as we become more known, restrictions are lifted, and people feel safer coming out, we will make it.”

While every retail business is being impacted by the pandemic, it can be especially tough on new businesses that started after the pandemic arrived because they usually don’t qualify for government aid or grants. Being new and not having longtime clientele or vendors for support also hurt, Knutson said.

Family history

The retail space has some family ties for Hatcher, Adored Boutique’s manager. Her great-grandfather, Frank Wright, started building fiberglass boats in that space in 1955. The business would become Wright Manufacturing, which is now known as SeaSport Boats and operates nearby on Harris Avenue, closer to the Bellingham Cruise Terminal.

Frank Wright started out selling 12-foot car-top dinghies, which were sold for a time through the Sears catalog, according to the website. Over the decades the company expanded into large recreation boats.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Fairhaven wasn’t as busy as today. Hatcher said her grandparents told her that except for Good Earth Pottery (which opened in 1969, according to its website), there were few shops.

“Fairhaven was filled with many Volkswagen vans and was typically a place where many hippies would hang out and live,” Hatcher said.

Now that Fairhaven is more known as a retail district, Knutson and Hatcher said they are hoping to participate in the events the area held before the pandemic. They also want to create their own events as restrictions are lifted, like private parties where guests can do some shopping with their favorite people once again.

“At Adored, we strive to create an inviting and memorable experience where each guest feels welcomed and cared for,” Knutson said.

For further details about the store, visit the Adored Boutique’s website.

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