Though we all love Fairhaven, we all experience it to varying degrees. You may work in Fairhaven, or enjoy going there for dinner. Or maybe you take sunset strolls on the boardwalk and finish the night with a cocktail or an ice cream. Fairhaven has so much to offer, and I feel grateful simply to get to visit as much as I can. But for those who live in Fairhaven, there are charms and local secrets that gradually show their face the longer you spend there. I had the chance to talk to a couple of local residents, to get their perspectives on living in the village. Alexandra works remotely, and lives with her husband in Fairhaven. She has lived in much larger cities previously, and likes the small town feel of Bellingham. Jeff and his wife are retired, and moved to Bellingham to be closer to their children. After another daughter moved here, they left their house in Bellingham and moved to Fairhaven. They are grateful for the community and the chance to be closer to family.
Question: What do you most enjoy about living in Fairhaven?
Alexandra: My absolute favorite thing about living in Fairhaven is the way that my husband and I can easily walk to so many great businesses, as well as the seaside. Our visiting friends enjoy staying at the Village Inn, within walking distance of us and all the businesses. I personally love being able to walk to the grocery store, Village Books, and the tennis club, and my husband and I have enjoyed many a sunset while walking along the Taylor Dock Boardwalk.
Jeff: [I enjoy the] Community. We see more of our friends and family living “in town” than we did living in the house (of course that was during the pandemic). When people are out and about, there is a constant positive vibe about the village. People are smiling and happy, vendors are kind and generous, restaurants and shops are vibrant and creative (because of the COVID protocols).
Question: What was most unexpected, but you now enjoy, about living in Fairhaven?
Alexandra: When we first moved to Fairhaven 2.5 years ago, we didn’t realize that a bunch of fun day cruises launch out of the Bellingham Ferry Terminal. As soon as we discovered San Juan Cruises’ cracked crab cruise, we’ve made going on it a summer tradition.
Jeff: City sounds. It’s remarkable how many bottles and cans find their way into dumpsters, and the fact that the garbage collectors seem to relish in emptying the bins at 7 in the morning. At first I found it very annoying. But now, it’s comforting to know that stuff is happening in town. I can hear it almost every morning, the sounds of city living.
Question: Why did you choose to live in Fairhaven?
Alexandra: Walkability was a big factor for us, both so we could enjoy a few drinks out a dinner without having to worry about driving and so we could downsize to having just one car. I work remotely for a video game studio based in the Bay Area out of an office space in Sycamore Square, while my husband commutes to Redmond 2-3 times a week for work, so living in Fairhaven helped us be a little kinder to the environment, too.
Jeff: Easy: it’s charming. But also, it’s close to all the activities that old folks need to keep young.
Question: What is the single biggest benefit of living in Fairhaven?
Alexandra: I’ve lived in Kansas City, Phoenix, LA, Boston, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Redmond, and nowhere else that I’ve lived has provided such a welcoming and varied community. Whatever kind of art you want to make, Fairhaven has an avenue to help you pursue your dreams. (I’ve found the Village Books writing groups to be such a nice place to meet new people, get inspired, and push myself to improve my writing skills.) As a queer indivual, I’ve felt welcome in Fairhaven from Day 1, both when I spotted clearly displayed Pride flags to the literal kind words that Fairhaven businesses owners spoke to me. It truly feels like people of all ages. backgrounds, and skill sets are welcome to thrive in Fairhaven.
Jeff: Proximity. There’s nothing we need that isn’t right here. In addition, we have the best view in the country – the bay, the mountains and the unbelievable sunsets – regardless of the weather.
Question: What is your favorite place to eat in Fairhaven?
Alexandra: This is such a tough question because there’s so much good food in Fairhaven! If I can only pick one, I have to say Maikham, the Thai and Laos restaurant in the Orcas Building. I get takeaway from Maikham a few times a month and have gotten a chance to chat with the head chef, Chef Usanee Klimo; she’s incredibly talented (her curries are to die for!), so I still can’t believe we’re lucky enough to have Maikham in our backyard. Honorable mentions go to Shirlee Bird as my favorite café (Shirlee herself makes you feel so welcome every time you visit, both with her friendly chats and her soul-warming food) and Galloway’s as my favorite bar (their creative, rotating craft cocktails are a big part of why we decided to move to Fairhaven in the first place).
Jeff: Everywhere. Milanos for Italian, Archers for dungeon dining, Zanes for chocolate milk shakes, Mt. Baker bakery for Monte Cristo’s, and of course Harris Cafe for sandwiches.
Question: How do you utilize the greenways and trails?
Alexandra: While my husband and I aren’t as outdoorsy as some, we so enjoy relaxing by the seaside along the Taylor Dock Boardwalk and exploring the various paths of the Interurban Trail on casual walks. It’s also fun to watch others do their thing within nature, like when we’ve gotten to watch Ski to Sea competitors finish in Marine Park. We also enjoy visiting with friends and their cute dogs in the off-leash dog park and at PAWS for a Beer.
Jeff: Of course. Our entire family lives on the Interurban. Our house has a gate to the west end of Padden. My son-in-laws mother (who is an intregal part of our family) lives on the 24th Street entrance, and our daughter lives on the 20th Street entrance. Yes, trails and greenways are an everyday part of our lives. The girls still get together every Sunday morning to walk to Woods at Boulevard.
Question: During the pandemic, what has been the best part of living in Fairhaven?
Alexandra: The strength of community really persevered in Fairhaven during the pandemic. During the pandemic, the Village Books writing group I was in still met regularly via Zoom, and I was still able to play tennis with my friends, both inside and outside (masked-up, too, if you can believe it!). Fairhaven’s walkability also really came in handy during the pandemic; we could easily walk over to restaurants and businesses to make sure we still gave them our business, even in a take-out capacity. Since we live in an apartment, we’re also so grateful that there are so many trails nearby so we could spend time outside and safely get some fresh air during lockdown.
Jeff: Sorry, most of the time we were still in the house.
Question: Can you describe the atmosphere of Fairhaven?
Alexandra: Fairhaven is a cultured, seaside town that welcomes all and cares about community. As compact as it is, there really is something for everyone in Fairhaven (my husband and I once counted up every Fairhaven business that sells “coffee and a pastry,” and there are over 10! And they’re all so different).
Jeff: As I mentioned earlier, the vibe is very positive. The pandemic has forced people to be more tolerant and you can see it everywhere you go in town.
Question: How would you describe the people of Fairhaven?
Alexandra: To me, the people of Fairhaven are a wonderful mix of tight-knit and welcoming. I encounter friends from my writing group, the tennis club, and the local theater scene around town all of the time (they run many of our fabulous local businesses!). No matter where you came from, the people of Fairhaven genuinely want to get to know you and welcome you into the joys of living here. Also, living in Fairhaven has given me a chance to form lovely friendships with people of all ages, from college students to retirees, which I think has enhanced my personal understanding of and appreciation for the world.
Jeff: There is a definite 60’s atmosphere to many of the longtime folks. For the outsiders I’ve come in contact with, excitement. They are very surprised at the hidden gem this community represents. And for the newcomers, like us, great fun exploring the personalities of the community.
Question: What are some of your favorite shops in Fairhaven?
Alexandra: Picking favorites in Fairhaven is so tough because there are so many to love, but I’m a huge fan of Drizzle. They have a wide variety of vinegars and oils for cooking, unique meats and cheeses, and fresh spice mixes. Also, not only do they have pre-made gift baskets, but they’ll work with you to create something more personalized (I’ve ordered gift baskets from them for my dad, who loves to cook, for years now). Also, the Bellingham Training and Tennis Club is a huge part of why my husband and I decided to take the leap and move here from Redmond. I played college tennis but set it aside afterward, and the BTTC welcomed me exactly where I was in my tennis journey and helped me get back to a fun level of play and form friendships that I deeply treasure. Finally, I love Village Books and could list the reasons why for ages. Their writing community welcomed me with open arms, they provide a huge assortment of events and activities (love the VB passport!), and they make it so easy to shop local. The first thing that visiting friends always want to do when they get to Fairhaven is go to Village Books.
Jeff: Village Books, Southside Cafe, Diane loves the French Hen, and of course the toy store with my grandchildren.
Question: Can you describe your perfect day in Fairhaven?
Alexandra: Love this question! I’d start my day off with a vegan olive tapenade croissant from Shirlee Bird Café and some 8:15am tennis at Bellingham Training & Tennis Club. Then, I’d walk along the Taylor Dock Boardwalk with my husband; if the sea’s a little choppy, we’ll try to spot some seals surfing the waves (we’ve seen a few!). Back in town, we’d enjoy takeout from Maikham in the Village Green for lunch, watching dogs play in the grass and enjoying whatever event happens to be going on in the Green at the time (art fair, fish tossing for Dirty Dan Day, you name it!). I’d then browse Village Books for a bit and go to a writing group meeting. Since this is a perfect day, my husband and I would then catch a cracked crab cruise out of the Bellingham Ferry Terminal. Once we got back, we’d finish our night with a cocktail-of-the-day at Galloway’s.
Jeff: First, waking up every day. After that, everything is perfect. Remember – context:).