Charlie Liu is like many Pacific North-westerners. He loves the outdoors and outdoor activities.
A former site manager at the Boys and Girls Club in Bellevue, he has worked with at-risk youth for most of his life, but he wanted to open his own business to honor his father who passed away recently.
“My father always wanted me to start my own business,” Liu said.
As an outdoor enthusiast he discovered the wonderful properties of clothing made from bamboo. Liu said most outdoor layers are either some sort of polyester or wool.
“Polyester doesn’t breathe, and wool is itchy,” he said. “When I discovered bamboo and how well it performs I was really interested.”
He started out selling a line called Outdoor Panda at markets all over the Puget Sound area. Now, he’s expanded his business plan, opening a retail store in Issaquah’s Gilman Village. He is carrying well known brand Cariloha, from Utah, and goods from several local importers.
Bed sheets, towels and crib sheets are by Bed Voyage of Woodinville. Women’s clothing, and soft fleece blankets are supplied by Wayi of Kirkland. Yala makes baby clothes as well as women’s wear. Liu has also become a dealer for Greenington bamboo furniture, out of Kent where he and his family live. He doesn’t have a huge selection of the furniture on the floor, and most of it is being used for display, but it’s all for sale.
Sleek and modern, he said most people don’t even notice the furniture because they are so distracted by the clothes.
Fabric made from bamboo does have to be blended with another fabric to hold its shape, he said. Most of the lines he carries are a viscose made from bamboo with five percent spandex.
“It doesn’t get as cold when you’re wet, compared to cotton,” he said. “Bamboo is naturally anti-bacterial, anti-microbial (doesn’t hold odor), it wicks, it’s breathable and hypoallergenic.”
He is also proud of the fact that bamboo is a green, sustainable product. No pesticides are used in growing bamboo, it has a low water footprint, there is no need to reseed and it makes for very sturdy product. Everything in the store is made from bamboo. There are bamboo baby wipes and toilet paper. One product, Bambooee, is a roll of reusable paper towels.
“You can wash them up to 100 times,” Liu said. “One roll replaces 286 rolls of normal paper towels.”
He said Bambooee got a little extra boost when one of the investors, Lori Greiner, on the television show, “Shark Tank,” chose to invest in the product.
Many of the t-shirts at Love Bamboo, have designs on them that Liu created.
Bamboo is machine washable on a gentle care setting, and can be tumble dried on low, or laid flat to dry. It’s soft and colorful, and the selection is plentiful. Liu said his wife, Melissa Liu, family and friends help out, but for the most part, he’s the one in the store.
He opened April 19. The store is open seven days a week; Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m, and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. The address for Love Bamboo is 317 NW Gilman Blvd. Suite 5.
Men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, furniture, paper towels, baby wipes, hats, scarves and more are all made of bamboo at Love Bamboo, which just opened in Gilman Village.
Many of the bamboo lines carried at Love Bamboo are local importers.