After a cross-country drive with no particular destination, 23-year-old Tim Shea said he ended up in Bellingham. The Burlington, Vt., native is now the owner of The Hempest, a clothing boutique at 1307 Cornwall Ave. The boutique opened in mid-December after Shea went looking for hemp clothing in town and couldn't find it. He teamed up with his friend and hemp clothing designer of Nibus Clothing Harley Kelly, as well as the East Coast clothing company, The Hempest to create the new downtown store. The Hempest is a small East Coast chain located in Massachusetts and Vermont.
This isn't the first hemp store in town. The Hemp Emporium, located at 215 Holly St., went out of business in 2005. The Hempest, an east coast clothing company, fills this gap with a trendier edge. There are no tunic tops, Bob Marley posters, or peasant skirts here; instead the walls and racks house an array of high-end urban wear, mainly the ever-popular hoodie. Most of the products are mixed with organic cotton which gives them a softer feel, Shea said. In the future the store will also feature more hemp products such as paper, lip-balm, twine, glass-wear, soap, beads, shoes, purses, bags, and more silk-hemp mixed clothing, he said. Shea said that he wants The Hempest to become a one-stop shop for everything hemp and customers should let him know if they want him to carry any other products.
Hemp is one of the most environmentally friendly and useful products; a one acre plot produces over 400 percent more fabric than cotton, Shea said. Hemp is also much stronger and durable than its cotton counterpart, and since it's a weed it doesn't need herbicides or pesticides to grow, Shea said. The Hempest uses also uses all organic cotton in its blends.
“You can make clothes that stand next to the most fashionable clothing and make it environmentally sound,” Shea said—an example being their hemp lingerie, a mix of hemp, cotton, and lyrca, which Shea described as flying off the shelves.
Harrison Schuster, 19, and friend Quinn Lunde, 19, were at The Hempest on Jan. 29 shopping for jeans for Lunde.
“I think that [the clothing] is pretty amazing, good quality, and looks comfortable,” Schuster said. “It's cool how they can make denim out of [hemp].”
Shea accounts for the clothing's higher prices as due to higher quality and said that their pricing is on par with those of other brands and boutiques in the area.
And he's right—at $65 to $80 for a hoodie, $70 for jeans and pants, $28 for a screen-print T, and $249 for a fur-lined coat (with an internal rolling-paper dispenser), The Hempest's prices fall into the same range as Paris Texas and True Blue Boutique, with generally much lower prices in jeans (which ranged from $65 to $180 elsewhere), and a noticeably high quality of material.
Lauren Kapp, owner of Paris Texas, said that she thinks The Hempest may have hit on a Bellingham-specific niche with its sustainable practices.
“I have gotten yelled at for not having organic cotton pants,” Kapp said.
Bellingham has recently had two new clothing and gift stores appear in the past year—Buffalo Exchange and True Blue. Frank James, Mia Shoes, and Four Starr all appeared within the last three years, and Sojourn and The Paper Doll have been Bellingham staples for some time, but the question still remains of whether there is enough business in Bellingham to sustain The Hempest. Shea described business as currently being a bit slow, but he is hopeful things will pick up when he gets more products in. Shea stands by his products' quality.
“These are the best hemp hoodies in the world,” he said.