Brandon Nelson, of Brandon Nelson Partners, sat down with Boundary Bay’s General Manager, Janet Lightner, for NW Way of Life News.
Q: Janet, tell us about the launch of Boundary Bay Brewery.
A: Ed dreamed up Boundary Bay all on his own. He had graduated wine-making school in Davis, CA, and had taken some malting and brewing classes down there as well. He already had a CPA from the UW and a good solid business sense. He felt strongly that a Brewery or Brewpub rather would be a more secure business model than a winery and chose that route. He loved the NW and wanted to get back so the search was on! He explored Whidbey Island pretty seriously, but was smitten with beautiful Bellingham and the College vibe. So Bam!! Here we are 20+ years after. I consulted with Ed prior to opening on the restaurant side of the business but did not join him for 18 months.
Q: When you and Ed won the Lifetime Achievement Award by
Sustainable Connections, they wrote, “They think local first, take care of their employees and live the principled life.” Can you explain those key principles that guide your life?
A: Think Local First is one of our Mantras. I choose to shop locally as I truly believe that is what gives us personality and longevity as a community. More money stays in Bellingham this way and you get to know your neighbors! Boundary Bay is more than a business to us. It has become a lifestyle and taking care of people is part of that lifestyle. We love and care about our employees and are their supporters on and off the job! Many have gone off to open their own businesses and that is such a proud moment! Both Mount Bakery and Wake-n-Bakery were opened by former Boundary Bay employees.
Q: What has been the most challenging part of the growth and success of Boundary Bay? What are some unexpected lessons you’ve learned as the business has grown and flourished?
A: The most challenging is that Boundary did not come with a book or a manual. Sometimes it feels like we are still writing it! When you love and care about your staff you take on more personal risk, at times I have felt like Mom to over 100 people (and as a Parent Brandon you know the intensity of those feelings)! When the staff thrives, you thrive too! When mistakes are made you feel the hurt as well. So yes, in a nutshell, the people have been the most challenging, but I would not do it any other way. Unexpected lessons!?? WOW!! The whole opportunity has given me so much! My instincts about the good inside all of us has been reinforced! I have dug deep in myself and found strength that I did not know I had. Working hard, dreaming big, caring lots.
Q: Janet, tell us the story of the most meaningful experience you had during your trip to Nepal.
A: Having lost my son Zack early in 2014 I was searching for a trip that would provide me with a physical challenge coupled with Spiritual relief. Trekking along the “Hemline of Heaven” provided both. The people sharing Namaste around each bend, the colorful prayer flags and the majesty of the Himalayas assuaged my heart and built back my stamina and zest for living. I am forever grateful.
Q: Your Women’s Ski to Sea Team has an unmatched legacy of 16 straight victories! What’s it like to be the organizing force that brings these women together year after year?
A: Yes! This will be year 17 for our Women’s Ski to Sea Team and we have won the competitive Women’s division 16 years in a row. The only Team I see beating that record or coming close to that is the Whatcom County Women’s Team. The organizing of the Team has become more event/reunion focused over the years as many athletes return year after year. There have been years of high stress trying to fill a spot on the roster. Injuries occurring days before the race have turned my world upside down. I’ve sat glued to the computer, or back in the day the telephone, waiting for a reply, clicking refresh, refresh, refresh! It has always worked out, but the anticipation can be brutal. It has been an honor to see our women go on to the Olympics and Worlds and becoming role models in their communities for women and girls to get outside and have fun! Going to Vancouver Olympics and watching Dasha Gaiazova race was an experience I will never forget. You can see her jersey hanging in the Tap Room at Boundary Bay right beside our Ski to Sea plaques! Our Team has blessed me with friendships to last a lifetime and a glimpse into the world of elite athletes that few may get to see.
Q: Janet, when I think of you the one word that comes to mind is “Giving.” And we see your endeavors become just so, so successful. Could every business, and the communities they serve, benefit from this “Janet Lightner Approach”? Or am I missing a secret sauce that can’t be replicated?
A: Giving~ It’s good for us to help others! Part of Boundary’s mission is to give back so I guess it is in my job description and I love it! Bellingham is a special place and I truly believe that the Non-Profits in our community help to weave heart into the place we call home. Helping them succeed in helping others or protecting our natural resources is an honor! I am surrounded by wonderful people who make Boundary successful every day. I used to joke it takes a lot of brains to run mine but it’s true. We have a high retention rate at Boundary with many of our Tribe staying for 10 years and more. I am lucky to have landed here and appreciate the contributions from everyone over the years! I believe in seeing the good in people and situations, resolving conflict for Peace. As for the secret sauce… well that is probably the Beer!
Q: What’s on your bucket list??
A: Hmmmm. Today’s answer… visiting every one of our National Parks!