BCS History

When A. W. (Arch) Talbot decided to build a cold storage warehouse in 1946, few realized what a visionary path he had embarked upon and how important the new firm would be for Arch’s adopted hometown: Bellingham, Washington.

While Arch was the catalyst that started it all, the history of BCS is more than the story of one man. It is a story of family, of community, of friendship, and of teamwork. It is the story of hard labor and light moments, of hardships borne and success obtained. Above all, it is the story of how communities and individuals can interact, each to become more than either could be alone.

BCS Warehouse beginnings on site of Bellingham Bay Shipyards.

Established in 1946

Bellingham Cold Storage’s founder, A.W. (Arch) Talbot, first came to Bellingham in the early 1940s to purchase a local shipbuilding company called Bellingham Bay Shipyards. The yard specialized in building wooden hull minesweepers for military contracts. After the close of WWII, the lull in shipbuilding activity allowed Arch to undertake another venture on the “Squalicum Fill” property next to the shipyard.

Arch thought local fishermen and farmers could benefit from cold storage warehousing services. So in 1946 he completed the construction of warehouses 1 and 2 (18,000 sq. ft. total) and formed Bellingham Cold Storage. Some of BCS’s earliest customers included Stokely Van Camp (carrots, peas and berries) and Wakefield Seafoods (crab and fish). BCS also made block ice for local fishermen. The cold storage, like the shipyard, was built on property leased from the Port of Bellingham, which has played a critical role in helping BCS and its customers prosper ever since.

Expanding through the 1950s

Although the shipyard closed in the mid-1950s, the cold storage business was expanding rapidly. During the next two decades, Arch built several more warehouses at the waterfront location to meet the demand. Fresh halibut and salmon were brought in from Canada and Alaska for freezing and storage. Shipping company Western Pioneer brought its fleet of small tramper vessels to BCS to deliver Alaska seafood. Local fish processors stored their product at BCS. Also during this time, local Whatcom County farmers were expanding their crop acreage, and BCS provided the freezing and storage for their products as well. In 1959 BCS built a pea-processing line for Lynden Berry Growers and Kelly Farquhar Company.

A minesweeper at Bellingham Bay Shipyard. The shipyard was owned by original BCS founder, Arch Talbot.
BCS General Manager, Mart Asplund, with BCS founder and CEO Arch Talbot and son Jim (center).

New leadership

In the late 1950s, Arch Talbot’s son Jim succeeded his father to become president of BCS. Mart Asplund served as general manager from 1946 to 1978.

New technology, new customers

A technology pioneer since the 1950s, BCS was one of the first to develop and operate mechanical wet fish pumps to convey fish out of vessel holds onto the processing line; use battery-powered “jitneys” or forklifts; and employ a variety of modern fish-processing equipment. More and more seafood companies counted on BCS for their processing needs, including: All Alaskan Seafoods, Bumble Bee Seafoods, Halibut Producers Cooperative, New England Fish Company, Northern Products, Pelican Seafoods; Peter Pan Seafoods, Sea Alaska Products, Wards Cove Packing, Yankee Fish Company and San Juan Seafoods. On the vegetable side, Bellingham Frozen Foods (later purchased by Dean Foods) brought in as much as 50 million pounds annually of carrots, peas, and corn.

BCS facilities expand as fish and vegetable processing demand surges.
The BCS Orchard Facility was originally connected by rail line spur.

Orchard expansion

By 1979, BCS had run out of space for more buildings at the waterfront property, now known as the Squalicum Facility, so a 45-acre tract of land near Interstate 5 was purchased. At this new Orchard Facility site, warehouses 12, 13 and 14 were built in quick succession during the 1980s. Artificial crabmeat (kanebo) processors Icicle Seafoods and Trans Ocean Products located their plants at the Orchard Facility next to the new cold storages. Warehouses 15 and 16 were built soon after, bringing BCS´s total space to its current 170 million lbs. (77,000 metric tons) capacity.

Marine Resources Company International

In 1976, Jim Talbot founded the first Soviet-American joint venture company, Marine Resources Company International (MRCI), a partnership between BCS and the Soviet Ministry of Fisheries. The venture contracted American catcher boats to harvest underutilized species such as pollock and hake to deliver to large Soviet factory ships. The fisheries, located in the Bering Sea and off the Oregon Coast, became one of the largest fisheries in the world in the mid 1980s. In 1989 Bellingham formed “Sister City” ties with the Russian port city of Nakhodka where MRCI had an office. BCS maintains close business ties with the Russian Far East to this day.

BCS partners with the Soviet Ministry of Fisheries to harvest underutilized species such as pollock and hake became one of the largest fisheries in the world in the mid 1980s.

(left to right) Tim Unger, Doug Thomas, Marco Llamos, Gary Hershey, Candy White, Marvin Hawkins, Stew Thomas, Sharon Rouse, Steve Regan, Duane Shelly, Diane Nelson, Veryl Reamer.

Through the 1990s

BCS grew dramatically in the 1990s under the leadership of president Stew Thomas. Stew strengthened ties with BCS’s existing core of on-site seafood customers, while diversifying into non-traditional activities such as distribution services, cooler storage, and freighter vessel loading. In January 1999, his son Doug took over the position of president and Stew became Chairman of the Board. Ownership of the company remains with the Talbot family. Today BCS continues its reputation for quality and innovation by leading the industry in warehouse information technologies and expanding further into the international marketplace.

Purchased by Joshua Green Corporation

The Joshua Green Corporation, a Seattle-based company that had been investing in the Pacific Northwest since the late 19th century, agreed to purchase a majority stake in Bellingham Cold Storage in 2018. Since its founding on the Bellingham waterfront in 1946, Bellingham Cold Storage had been wholly owned by the Talbot family. After the sale, the Talbot family remain as shareholders.

Partner Joshua Green Corporation CEO Stan McCammon beside BCS CEO, Doug Thomas, with siblings and BCS Board of Directors chairmen Jane & Stowe Talbot.

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