It seems like only a few weeks ago I was a shy, new intern awaiting directions for my first project at the Downtown Bellingham Partnership. The task I was given was a pleasant surprise. Instead of immediately diving into Excel spreadsheets and detailed event plans, I was given a list of downtown locations for a scavenger hunt. Off we went, a fellow new intern and me, exploring downtown Bellingham on a priceless sunny day. Being an employee at Downtown Bob’s Burgers and Brew for several years, and a college student familiar with downtown night life, I thought I knew the area like the back of my hand. Needless to say, I was downright wrong! In order to find the majority of our destinations, we had to whip out our iPhones and use Google maps to direct us. We quickly realized the locations were within a few blocks of our office where we started, which made us feel pretty silly. Through the confusion and getting completely lost, we ended up with free tickets to a Mount Baker Theater performance, several new ideas for dining options and an entirely new perspective of the downtown community we had at our fingertips. I couldn’t believe I was a senior, with years in Bellingham under my belt, and wasn’t aware of most of the places on my scavenger list. Needless to say, after that adventure, I made a commitment to myself to visit as many new businesses and destinations in downtown as possible.
I shared interests with another intern I worked closely with, one of them being a love for food, and a weekly lunch tradition was born. While distributing materials to downtown businesses for events, we made note of delicious-looking dining venues we passed by or entered. Every Friday we took our lunch break at one of these places, and over the months enjoyed eclectic food at Ciao Thyme, filling breakfasts at Daisy Café, hearty soups and sandwiches at Café Adagio, tasty treats at Rocket Donuts, yummy snacks at La Vie En Rose French Bakery, ate our fill at Old World Deli, and spiced up our lives with Taco Lobo. It was work mixed with a little bit of play and lots of delicious food! It’s a fantastic feeling knowing you’ve taken a minute to appreciate and immerse yourself in the community you live in while working for an organization that aims to build and maintain its vitality.
It’s not only restaurants and cafes I became familiar with. Prior to this experience, I associated shopping with only the mall, shame on me. There are so many great boutiques, antique shops, thrift stores, clothing retailers, art stores, and more to be discovered in downtown Bellingham. On one particular occasion, while distributing materials for our Downtown Trick or Treat event on Halloween, we stopped in to the cutest shop named Ideal. They had so many great items, but one display especially caught my eye. It was a variety of coffee cups with a simple bicycle design in all different eye popping-colors. Nothing I had seen anywhere else, and absolutely fitting for a close friend’s upcoming birthday. She is a lover of coffee and bike riding, what better than that for a present? In addition to distributing a sign up sheet to the business owner, I eagerly pulled out my wallet and bought the perfect birthday gift. Deep down, I will always love Target, but it is retailers like Ideal that carry items with a little extra personalization that makes for the greatest shopping sprees. It makes shopping fun, which can be a challenge to achieve in many cases.
Life will always be a continuous flow of transitions. College and high school graduations, plans will change, leases will come to an end, and new adventures will take shape. I encourage all who haven’t explored our downtown community to take a day, walk the streets, visit a shop you’ve never seen, dine somewhere that teases your senses, and get to know your community a little more. They’re waiting for you.