Frequent visitors of Bellingham’s historic Fairhaven district are sure to have noticed the bright red landmark known as the “Fairhaven Village Bus.”
This double-decker parked on the corner of 11th Street and Harris Avenue hails from London and is more than 90 years old. With a rich history (much like Fairhaven itself), the bus has been home to a diverse batch of local businesses, most recently Fairhaven Fish & Chips which closed in 2020.
After more than a year of vacancy, the bus finally has a new business, “Fairhaven Village Tacos,” and Fairhaven regulars are sure to recognize its owners: Sam and Nancy Hassan from Milano’s Italian Restaurant.
The Hassan’s interest in the bus was twofold: Sam comes from a town in Brazil which, similar to Fairhaven, has a deep history.
“My biggest grudge with the Pacific Northwest has always been the lack of history,“ he says. “Fairhaven has a lot of history and people really try to preserve it.”
Preservation — this was the goal for both Milano’s and the Fairhaven Village bus. When Hassan opened Milano’s his vision was to restore the building to its original look. With the bus falling into disrepair during its vacancy, Sam was determined to restore it to its original glory.
“Knowing it didn’t have a bright future and was going to get moved to a wreck-yard, I decided to approach the owner,” he says. “I wanted to preserve it because it’s a landmark.”
The second thing that drew Sam to the bus was its English roots. As a former London resident, he was a frequent passenger on double-decker buses. Hassan would often use the 171 bus as a method of transport to bring excess food to those experiencing homelessness in London.
In 1996, Hassan barely avoided the Aldwych bus bombing, naming the Fairhaven bus “171 Aldwych Fairhaven” as an ode to the tragedy and his survival.
The new business is a unique one, featuring a hydroponic garden on the top level and a microbrewery on the bottom. You can also find delicious Brazilian barbecue treats such as tacos, soups, tamales, and bakery goods. While all food is currently made in and transported from Milano’s, Hassan soon hopes to put his Brazilian grill to good use and turn the bus into the ultimate outdoor eating venue.
Stop by the bus Wednesday-Monday, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. for some new treats in a historic setting. 1020 Harris Ave., Bellingham, 360.746.8247, facebook.com/fairhavener