Store Manager: Erika Millage
Why Bellingham? “I love Bellingham. It has everything you could possibly want. My favorite part about downtown is that it brings people together. I run into people I know all the time. It’s a hub for the whole city. And of course the beautiful nature. We’re right on the water, and the mountains are close by. You can walk, ride your bike or take public transportation - you don’t even need a car!”
Favorite shop downtown? “Wonderland Teas. I love going in there. It’s so little and they do such a good job, and it’s a mother-daughter duo. They provide such a great service. My second favorite is Film is Truth. I’ve watched so many amazing films because of that business that I never would have seen before. I appreciate what they do for the local film community.”
Some Bellingham locals lovingly refer to Third Planet as a hippie boutique, but Store Manager Erika Millage thinks of it as much more. There are items geared towards all sorts of lifestyles in the shop on West Holly Street that opened in January 2014. Erika has been with the Bellingham location from the start, helping open the shop as an employee. Third Planet also has three locations in Kansas, where it started 25 years ago as a traveling car that sold handmade items from people in Bali. Owner David Jess wanted to help those in developing countries sell their goods. After a couple years of traveling to trade shows, he went into the retail market. He opened the Bellingham location to be closer to family and because the shop fits the feel of the community. “Bellingham has a local-minded community, dedicated to supporting the arts and sustainable living,” Erika said.
In Third Planet, you’ll find “a little bit of everything” including men’s and women’s clothes, festival-type items, crystals, decor, beautiful sterling silver jewelry, pipes, accessories and more. Items in the store are from all over the globe. Some are local to Bellingham, while others are from international places. However, a common theme runs through everything in the store - they are unique, high-quality products, most of which are made by locals or people in developing countries. David chose the name Third Planet to represent a global feeling and to embody the variety of international goods.
Erika is in charge of going to trade shows and selecting everything that Third Planet will sell, excluding pipes and other glass. She absolutely loves supporting people in developing countries from all over the world. When she goes on buying trips, she is able to meet the small business owners who know each of their employees by name and actually visit the craftsmen in other countries who are making the products. She has a great appreciation for the stories behind each and every product she chooses to sell in Third Planet. One of her favorite experiences was going the Tucson Gem and Mineral show to buy crystals for the shop.
In addition to buying internationally, Erika is huge on buying items here in Bellingham. She has bought necklaces from those in their teens, which helps fund some sort of trip expense, crystals and rocks from local rockhounds, and items from all sorts of artists. “It’s helping to fund someone’s passion,” she said. People will come into the shop with their family to see their products in the case, pride in their eyes. Another rewarding part of managing Third Planet is building a community in the shop, within the greater downtown area. Since Erika has been with the shop from the beginning, she recognizes the regulars, and knows people’s names.
Erika has lived in Bellingham on and off since 1993, and has seen the downtown area go through substantial changes. She remembers downtown being quiet and not very welcoming when she first moved here. In the last 10 years, she has watched the area come back to life and thrive again. “I think the Downtown Bellingham Partnership has a lot to do with it,” she said. Because of this, Third Planet is a sponsor for the DBP’s Wine Walk. Through events like the Wine Walk, Downtown Sounds and Art Walk, Erika has noticed downtown come back to life. She has also recently become a wine enthusiast. Last year, she made over 50 gallons of wine from all sorts of fruits. She wasn’t involved in the event last year, but is excited to host a winery in Third Planet, which will have a sale and be open later that night.
“I love supporting the Partnership,” Erika said. “I truly appreciate all they've done to make downtown the welcoming and vibrant hub that it is. They have been instrumental in bringing fun, unique, family-friendly events to the Bellingham community.”
Visit the shop that “deals in everything rad” at 200 W Holly St.
Today's post was written by Kristin Foster, Media Intern.