In the Pacific Northwest there is a small town called Bellingham, WA. Bellingham is centered on many small businesses; there are very few corporate businesses. The city is built right at the base of the North Cascade Mountains, next to a bay. The town is very much a college oriented town because Western Washington University takes up a large part of it. This is where I go to school.
When I first came to Bellingham it was like a foreign land. Even though I was only an hour away from home, I felt out of place. Within a few weeks of classes starting I soon realized that I got too distracted studying in my room. One day I was driving and I came upon a sign that said Boulevard Park. Winding down the road, I found the most beautiful place in Bellingham. As you round the corner coming into the Park you are met with a panoramic view of the bay, and at the bottom of the hill is a park and a coffee shop called Woods Coffee.
When you move to a new town, it is hard to feel connected to that town. Down at Woods gives you that connection to the community and Bellingham. Woods Coffee is only in Whatcom County, so it really makes you feel like you are connected to the Pacific Northwest. Woods Coffee is a family owned chain that opened its first location in Lynden, Washington in 2002. Since then, they have opened 17 other locations. When they opened their doors in 2002, they came up with a mission statement, “Serve Others: Give of yourself fully to each person you come in contact with, co-workers and customers alike. Make a Difference: Look for ways to make a difference in your work environment and community every day. Have Fun: Enjoy life to the fullest in all you do!” This mission statement is reflected in all of the workers here. An employee named Jeff at the Boulevard Park location said, “I love working here. It is very enjoyable and it is very easy to connect with the customers. I worked at another coffee shop and there is a stark different between here and there. At the other place our main job was to constantly ask is they wanted another shot of coffee and our boss wanted us to try an squeeze as many pennies as we could out of them. I have worked for Woods for a year and a half and I love it. We have great benefits and everyone is so nice.”
In the early 2000s when Woods was being constructed, it was built specifically for the Pacific Northwest. Before building their first location, the family went around the country looking at architecture, so they could figure out how to build their coffee shop. Finally, they decided on building it for the area they lived. Around the shop you can find river rock, and high lofted wood ceilings. Being in here makes you feel part of the Pacific Northwest. So if you are not from Washington, and here on a visit, coming to Woods will help you feel connected to this place in the corner of the country.
As you open the door to the coffee shop, you are hit with the smell of roasting coffee beans and the quiet sounds of people conversing. Looking around there are many chairs, tables, couches, a fireplace and most importantly, windows. The windows offer the majority of the lighting creating a very inviting atmosphere. When you glance out the window you are met with a view of the boardwalk and bay. The shop is so close to the water, when you go outside you smell nothing but the salt water. It is very soothing.
Nestled in the middle of the shop is a fireplace providing warmth and comfort. Next to the fireplace is a large brown leather chair. This is where I sat when it hit me that I had finally found home. From this chair you can feel the fire keeping the surrounding area just the right temperature, not too cold, not to warm. Sitting here you can see the employees brewing coffee, people gathered at tables working or talking and you also have a view of the bay from the big windows opposite of you. Hours pass by sitting there and you don’t realize it because it’s not a burden being there, you want to stay as long as you can.
I quickly fell in love with this place and finally felt at home. Apparently, I wasn’t the only student who came down here to study. As you look around the shop you see a lot of Western attire. Students, just like myself found this to be the perfect place to get away from campus to study. I asked one student why she liked to come down here, and she said “I find it very peaceful. I love that you have a view of the water and it’s a very comfortable environment. It’s nice that Woods is so close to campus, it’s very easy to get too. Plus, it’s nice to get away from campus and study, I find the library too crowded and you have to be so quiet there.”
The first time I walked into Woods I realized how different it was from anywhere I had seen before. It made me realize I was part of something else and I had finally started my own life. When I am back in my dorm the feeling of being part of something bigger goes away; I feel like just an ordinary college student. However, the minute I leave campus and come down to Woods Coffee at Boulevard Park, that feeling of independence I’ve been seeking hits me and I feel like I have finally found a place I can call home.