Owners: Jeff Wickland, Ellen Sheen and James McClure
Why Bellingham? “Bellingham is an amazing town, and downtown Bellingham is such a wonderful piece of history. I, personally, was born and raised in Bellingham, so I have seen many stages of its development.” (Ellen)
Favorite shop downtown? “Ideal. Their carefully selected items are funky, they all have a story, they're not found 'just anywhere' and their atmosphere is so welcoming.” (Ellen) “My son’s bar, The Real McCoy Home Bar and Kitchen.” (James)
Wine from all over the world lines the walls of Artifacts Café and Wine Bar on Grand Avenue. Owners Jeff Wickland, Ellen Sheen and James McClure worked hard to create a comfortable, friendly atmosphere in their wine bar that opened in November last year. From novice wine drinkers to wine connoisseurs, the three partners wanted to make everyone feel welcome and excited about wine when they walk in the doors – and they certainly accomplished that goal!
There are two parts to Artifacts – the unique wines and the hand-made food. The wines offered are carefully selected to be those not generally found in grocery stores. The owners hoped to expand the palettes of their customers and support artisan wineries. Paninis, soups, salads and more are found on the menu, as well as bar snacks later in the evening. All of the food is made from scratch and complements the wine.
Jeff has an extensive background in wine. He has been a part of every step in the process of making wine and has previously owned two wine bars. “People develop an interest, then a hobby, a passion, and then it can get out of hand like me,” he said. The small room Artifacts now occupies in the Whatcom Museum building had been vacant for months. Jeff saw the space and thought it was being underutilized and underappreciated, so he reached out to Patricia Leach, the executive director at the Whatcom Museum. In a little over a week, he presented his concept to the board and construction to renovate the space began in June last year.
Coincidentally, just days before Jeff presented his idea, Ellen was walking by the vacant space and was thinking of starting a café, herself. She had been a long-time employee at Jeff’s old wine bar in Fairhaven. So she got on board with Jeff’s idea for Artifacts and James, a long-time customer at Jeff’s old wine bar also joined the team. “The whole thing was just laced with serendipity,” Jeff said.
The three amigos aimed to share different wine with people and offer a new experience. The name was a nod to the museum, “a 4 a.m. thing,” according to Jeff. He thought they would pay homage to the art and architecture of the museum they have created a symbiotic relationship with. In the wee hours of the morning, he Googled the name and sure enough, nothing came up.
Artifacts has a wine and supper club that meets once a month. Members have a chance to taste special wines from across the globe, learn about wine, socialize and have a fun experience. At the supper club, chefs prepare fantastic food that accentuates the wine, and people can enjoy food and wine in an intimate setting. Anyone can come to the supper club, but wine club members get a discount.
Jeff, Ellen and James plan to turn Artifacts into a great outdoor venue in the warmer months. They will have events in the courtyard such as outdoor movies, live music and dinner events. For now though, they want to keep having fun and continue to pursue their passion for wine and their café.
Try some new wine at 202 Grand Avenue
Today's post was written by Kristin Foster, Media Intern.