Why Bellingham? “It’s the sort of place where people will give things a try. They come up with an idea and follow through with it. It may or may not succeed, but that’s not the point. Also, I haven’t gotten tired of Bellingham. I’m always discovering something new.” (Dan)
Favorite shop downtown? “You don’t have to have a favorite because there are so many. Because of the variety, I love all of downtown.” (Dan)
Business partners Dan and Ken were tossing around business ideas for a while before they decided on a pizzeria. Next on the list was deciding where to open their new business. They were inspired by a pizza place in Mt. Vernon and saw a need for high-quality pizza here in Bellingham. An opportunity to move into a vacant building along Railroad Avenue popped up, and the two jumped on it. The restaurant opened in 1998 with a focus on using the best ingredients possible. Although the area was quiet at the time, the location proved to be a prime spot as downtown has been revitalized over the years.
The name came from another location idea that was an old brick building that still had a neon sign for The Flame Tavern. The Flame worked for a name, and really stuck when Dan and Ken decided on using a wood oven. La Fiamma means “the flame” in Italian. Since opening, La Fiamma has become a popular pizzeria for people of all ages and budgets. Dan and Ken aim to have a way to keep the kids happy, but also appeal to adults. Though the menu isn’t the cheapest, customers aren’t required to “spend the big bucks” to get delicious, high-quality food. This allows for the restaurant to reach as many people as possible.
Every decision Dan and Ken have made for La Fiamma centers around their original goal: quality. This includes everything from chairs, tables, restaurant design, menu items, and ingredients. “We do think local, but quality is really the most important to us,” Dan said. This way of thinking is also apparent in the business duo’s second restaurant: Fiamma Burger.
Dan is constantly keeping a finger on the pulse of trends and watching out for what is going on in the world. He saw burgers picking up and he and Ken were ready to try something new. Fiamma Burger started out as a food truck at the farmer’s market. Although he ended up not enjoying running a food truck, Dan realized they should open another restaurant. They found another vacant building downtown, and went to work on redesigning it. Eight years ago, the doors to Fiamma Burger opened and customers have been enjoying all-natural beef that is ground in-house, house-made buns and tasty food ever since. Dan and Ken did their absolute best to make sure everything worked smoothly in order to give their customers a positive experience.
One of Dan’s favorite parts of owning the restaurants is the creative aspect, whether it’s collaboration on designing an ad, coming up with new ideas, tasting food or tweaking menu items. Everything on the menu goes through a critique by Dan and Ken to make sure it is to the restaurant’s standards. Dan also loves meeting new people and staying connected with the community. He is proud of the restaurant’s longevity and seeing relationships last years and years. “It’s fulfilling knowing that we provide a positive workplace for a lot of people,” he said.
Dan notices that business owners, including himself, get busy and wrapped up in their businesses. He thinks it’s vital to have an organization to help everyone work together, and continue to make downtown enjoyable for all. Believing the Downtown Bellingham Partnership does this job well, La Fiamma and Fiamma Burger are both donors in the DBP’s Spring Campaign: We Are All Downtown. “Everyone has contributed a lot to the overall vitality and prosperity downtown,” Dan said. “But it’s important to have a cohesive voice and shared vision.”
Feeling hungry? Head to 200 E Chestnut St. or 1309 Railroad Ave.
Today's post was written by Kristin Foster, Media Intern.