Boho in Bellingham--Cafe Bouzingo

Café Bouzingo

Owner: Shannon McLaughlin

Why Bellingham? “Why not? We’re becoming an international destination, sandwiched between Vancouver, BC and Seattle. Bellingham has a love for the arts that runs deep in the community.”

Favorite Shop Downtown? “There are so many to choose from! My first choice is Leaf and Ladle. Linda is an inspirational woman and a damn good cook, with a soul to match.”

Thrown into art from an early age, Shannon McLaughlin has always appreciated the arts. She has recognized that in one’s vulnerability up on stage, there is a powerful opportunity for connection. Whether it is musicians, poets, dancers, artists, writers, performance artists or anything in between, she was inspired to create a place where everyone could express himself or herself and grow their talents and skills. Four months ago, she opened the doors of Café Bouzingo, a late night venue with a focus on music and the arts.

It is difficult to put Café Bouzingo into a particular category, as it is a unique business that offers coffee, tea, hookah, and entertainment. Shannon wanted to bring back the original idea of hookah - community connection. Hookah originated in India as a way to sit, relax and talk about the world’s issues.

Every Tuesday night, Café Bouzingo has an open stage where anyone can perform a talent or art. “Ultimately, I want to see people feel comfortable here and break out of their shells,” Shannon said. She wants performers to experience the moment where they look out in the crowd and see every person is smiling. Helping make that happen is one of the greatest rewards of owning her business. She also really enjoys meeting new people, making connections and hearing other perspectives.

Before deciding on Café Bouzingo, Shannon went through a multitude of name ideas. The Bouzingos were a revolutionary group of writers, artists and poets in Paris in the 19th century. They rejected the middle class and made their own way in the world by exercising their abilities of freedom. Essentially, they were the precursor to the Bohemians. Shannon admires how they believed in autonomy and having their own destiny. She wants to celebrate their innovational ways by encouraging free thought through the arts. Bouzingo actually means noisy, and hopes people will take their words and thoughts and turn them into positive noise.

Since her business doesn’t fall into a specific category, Shannon doesn’t really have an infrastructure already put into place by other businesses similar to hers. She has no rules to follow, which can be tough, but also allows for her to be imaginative. She has many ideas for the future of Café Bouzingo. She has started hosting private events, fundraisers, galas, birthday parties and auctions, and also offers an events team to plan and host events. One of her goals for her business is “un-subduing Bellingham,” and plans to accomplish this by continuing to be a freethinking space with an artistic environment.

To share your art and enjoy great company, visit 1209 Cornwall Avenue. 

Today's post was written by our Media Intern Kristin Foster.