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Archive for November 2010

Spokane company gets grant for burn treatment

A start-up pharmaceutical company in Spokane has received a $1.38 million grant to develop  new burn treatments for the Department of the Army.

Iasis Molecular Sciences will work with Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Connecticut Health Center to formulate and test compounds based on its research, Chief Executive Officer Dave Vachon said.

The goal of the 30-month effort will be a compound or compounds that can be tested on humans, he said.

“Our early research _ the work that led to this generous award _ has focused specifically on cases where there is considerable skin loss and damage, significant inflammation, and the oxidative stress that can lead to further tissue loss,” Vachon said. “We’ve made good progress.”

Iasis is based at Sirti, where the company will develop and test early-stage compounds. The universities will test their effectiveness, with results expected by early 2013. 

Roads, cold don’t deter shoppers

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Shoppers jammed parking lots from Wandemere to Spokane Valley to North Idaho this morning, ignoring  snowy roads and cold temperatures to buy 46-inch televisions and 700-count sheets.

At the Northpointe shopping Center, Best Buy Manager Keat Shankle estimated as many as 2,000 shoppers had been through the store by 6:20 a.m. A sub-$200 laptop was a big attraction, but discounted Nook e-book readers were also selling well, he said.

Sally Morden emerged from the store with an X-Box and DVDs. She was headed to Target, where husband Duane was still 30 minutes deep in the checkout line.

Asked how much more shopping they had to do, Morden displayed a notebook with three pages of entries. The print was small.

Mallory Arana and her husband, Aristo, left the Sears at the Silver Lake Mall with a full shopping bag this morning. They found slippers for $3.99, blankets for $2 and an $8.99 sweater, normally priced around $60.

The Coeur d’Alene couple, who were shopping for family members, were headed next to Macy’s and Target. Mallory Arana said she’s not an online shopper. After Thanksgiving dinner, they sat down and went through the newspaper inserts to find the best deals.

North Idaho counties lose jobs

Employment in most North Idaho counties fell in October, with Boundary County the notable exception.

The Idaho Department of Labor Friday released a county-by-county breakdown of employment statistics, having announced earlier in the month a statewide rise in joblessness to 9.1 percent from nine percent in September.

For the five northern counties, the October unemployment rates were: Benewah, 15.5 percent; Bonner, 13.7 percent; Boundary, 14.9 percent; Kootenai, 10.8 percent; and Shoshone, 14.9 percent.

Boundary County added almost 200 jobs between September and October, increased its work force by nearly the same total, reduced the number without jobs to 766 from 775, and lowered its unemployment rate from 15.6 percent in September.

Department labor economist Kathryn Tacke attributed the progress to a strengthening timber industry, but added that the October results may not accurate reflect the job market in the Bonners Ferry area.

  

Does the word ‘think’ make you a better thinker?

Our newsroom colleague Paul Turner mentioned in his Slice column recently the appearance in downtown Spokane of the word “think.” on a mural not far from the heart of town. The source, at the time, was unknown. He later got a message from Dennis Magner, one of the founders of Spokane ad agency Magner Sanborn. Magner explained how the word got there.

The company had just moved this summer into newly remodeled offices on the third and fourth floors of the Banner Bank Building, 111 N. Post.

Magner and partner Jeff Sanborn were looking for some way to crystallize ideas, especially for people in the company’s brand new conference room, which looks out to the east over the roofs of the next block.

They settled on a single word, painted on a wall 50 yards away.

In his note to Paul, Dennis wrote:

So at one level, it’s like having something staring back at us when we’re staring out the window. At another level it’s a reminder to our staff that good “thinking” is the core product that we provide. And hopefully it reminds some other folks to think along the way as well.

 Can anyone else find something similar in the community, a calling card or corporate slogan that has  become a quiet (or noisy) part of the landscape?  Please let us know if you know of something that fits.

A local daily deal coupon option ready to start

Two Spokane companies have launched the Deal Planet, a daily online coupon offer modeled on the popular approach taken by Groupon.com.

Bozzi Media and Se7en LLC teamed up and began testing the plan over the past two weeks. They concluded the test and are ready to begin offering the daily coupon deal starting the Monday after Thanksgiving, said Vince Bozzi, of Bozzi Media.

The service sends consumers daily e-mails offering discounts on Spokane and North Idaho businesses, such as restaurants, teeth whitening clinics or movie theaters. The initial test offered $26 of value in tickets, popcorn and drinks at the Garland Theatre for $12. Starting Nov. 29, the Deal Planet will offer a new coupon daily, Monday through Friday.

Bozzi said roughly half the revenue goes to the merchant, with the remainder divided between Se7en LLC and Bozzi Media. He said the two companies plan to give 2 percent of their revenue to a different charity each month. Find more information at www.thedealplanet.com.

Can the owner of Evergreen Towing try to start a second tow company?

This post is sort of a mailbag response. Last week we wrote about the role the Washington State Department of Licensing played in slapping a Spokane tow truck firm for alleged misdeeds during this year’s Hoopfest. A Spokesman.com story summarized the key issues.

The company, Evergreen State Towing was accused by the state of towing vehicles with willful disregard for due process, causing drivers thousands of dollars in recovery and legal costs. In its ruling, the state DOL slapped Evergreen with a five-year suspension (which Evergreen can still appeal).

Question came in: what would stop the owner of Evergreen to shut down one truck towing firm and start another?

We asked Lewis Dennie, the Spokane manager forthe DOL’s dealer and manufacturing services. He said the state agency closely monitors new applications to insure this doesn’t happen. A cross-checking method is used to check names of business applicants and see if the person has any penalties in place, Dennie said.

The same method of cross-checking looks at the address provided by an applicant, he said.

Asked if the state has acted against false applicants, Dennie said: “We have taken formal administrative actions to deny an applicant an application due to the conditions (of having a prior violation). It is important to keep in mind the applicant will often withdraw an application once we begin the review process and make the applicant aware of the pending action by DOL.”


 

OK, here’s how the Trader Joe’s building will fit on Spokane’s South Hill

Trader Joe’s confirmed a long-circulated rumor on Wednesday, affirming plans to build its first Spokane store in the South Hill neighborhood of Spokane.

The specialty grocery chain, based in Southern California, is going to lease 12,000 square feet in Lincoln Heights Shopping Center, at 29th and Regal.

The aerial map here provided by Trader Joe’s shows the location. It will only dislodge one existing shopping center business, Referee Photo, which is the business immediately north (left) of the Hogan’s diner.

Vandervert Developments, the property manager for Lincoln Heights, agreed to move Referee Photo to another Lincoln Heights location. When the new Trader Joe’s building goes in, it will tear out Referee Photo and extend due north and east to fill the 12,000-square-foot footprint shown above.

Once permits are filed with the city, we’ll get an idea of the projected construction cost. Notably, the owner of the shopping center is Lincoln Heights Center LLC, one of whose principals is Spokane businessman Dick Vandervert.

He also owns Vandervert Developments, which manages many retail centers including Lincoln Heights. And the construction on the new Trader Joe’s will be done by Vandervert Construction. All in the family, you might say.


Seasonal hires brighten jobs picture

The unemployment rate in Spokane County slipped to 7.8 percent in October, the lowest rate in almost two years.

The number of employed rose to 220,210, up from 216,960 in September and 218,850 in October 2009.

But Doug Tweedy, local labor economist for the Washington Employment Security Department, cautioned that the seasonal and part-time jobs captured in the October numbers do not necessarily signal a turnaround in job numbers.

Spokane statistics are not adjusted for seasonal variations.

“We’re still well behind where we were in 2008,” he said, noting the county lost 8,000 jobs in 2009. For the first 10 months of 2010, unemployment in the county averaged 9.3 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for all of Washington was 9.1 percent, unchanged from a revised figure for September. The national rate was 9.6 percent.

The unadjusted rate for Washington was 8.5 percent. Employers added 5,900 workers. 

 

Economists forecast more of same for 2011

The economic recovery will grind slowly forward next year, extending this year’s modest improvements but not breaking out strongly enough to significantly affect unemployment and household income, economists John Mitchell and Grant Forsyth said today.

Speaking at a Greater Spokane Incorporated forecast breakfast, Mitchell said businesses are delaying investment decisions because of uncertainty regarding future tax policy, health care reform and environmental regulation.

Paralysis on Capitol Hill has put the levers of economic stimulus in the hands of the Federal Reserve, which is keeping interest rates low and expanding the money supply in an effort to fuel more investment and consumer demand, he said.

Meanwhile, Mitchell said, consumers are repairing personal balance sheets by backing off on the use of credit.

Household wealth has plunged by $11 trillion since peaking in 2007 and housing prices, the foundation for much of that wealth, will continue to lose value in 2011, he predicted.

“This isn’t over,” said Mitchell, an independent consultant and former chief economist for US Bank.

Eastern Washington University Professor Grant Forsyth said he expects some job growth in Spokane and Kootenai counties, but unemployment will remain above eight percent.

Rates in neighboring counties will be higher, he said.

Forsyth said per capita income may increase slightly, but home prices will continue to fall by around four percent. Public projects are propping up commercial construction activity, he said, warning that sector is headed for a fall without more private-sector building.

Forsyth said rural counties are much more dependent on government jobs and transfer payments like Social Security and Medicare. If government austerity measures cut those benefits, the economies in outlying areas will be disproportionately affected, he said.

 

 

Eco Depot will present a workshop on solar power

Spokane green product retailer Eco Depot Inc. will present a  a class on the basics of solar power, from 9 a.m. to noon on Nov. 20.

Company CEO Nadine Sullivan, in the picture here, will lead the class at the Eco Depot office, 1226 E. Sprague.

The company is one of the area’s foremost sellers of solar and eco-friendly home and business products. The class costs $35, and pre-registration is required.  Contact Sullivan at 1-509-924-8803 for additional information, or to register.

 

Mayor Verner wants to meet with Spokane small business owners

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner is hosting a “Let’s Talk” conversation focused on small business and its challenges on Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the city council chambers in City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

Three area small business owners will talk about their challenges during the recession. Others are invited to take part.

The city will also release results from a recent survey that asked questions about the impact of economic conditions, workforce issues, access to capital, and local government’s role.

CityCable 5 will carry the 90-minute session live. It will also be streamed live on www.spokanecity.org under the “Watch It Live” section for CityCable5.

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said the mayor held a series of business talks in 2008. Wih the economy still weak, “we decided to go back to look at where are there impediments to small business and are there any places where the city can place renewed focus?” she said.

Nordstrom offers shoppers an online Rack experience

North Spokane residents who are disappointed that the Nordstrom Rack store moved last month from NorthTown to Spokane Valley Mall can now do their Rack-shopping online.

Last month, the Seattle retailer launched an online section to Nordstrom.com that features some of the items sold at its off-price, discount Rack store.

Nordstrom has been opening new Rack stores around the country, including one not long ago in the middle of Manhattan.  The online expansion is a sign that the company realizes many of its customers are more mindful than ever of the option of shopping for price.

The company now has 86 Rack stores in 23 states.  In its SEC documents, the company has noted that, while monthly sales at Nordstrom stores declined from mid-2008 to late 2009, the Rack division has posted growth in the low- to mid-single digits.

Absence of first-time buyer credit had huge impact on Washington home sales

Washington State University researchers have determined a housing trend that most of us could have predicted, that home sales in July through September this year skid to their year’s lowest point, reflecting the point right after the federal tax credit for first-time buyers expired.

This came by way of WSU’s Center for Real Estate Research, which looked at home sales in the third quarter for Washington’s 37 counties. It found:

Statewide sales declined 26.5 percent from the second quarter of the year to 70,550 units. It said that’s 20.2 percent below the rate from one year ago.

Glenn Crellin, WCRER director, noted only two counties saw increased sales rates compared to the second quarter, Jefferson and Adams. Only seven had increased sales from a year ago.

The areas showing increases were primarily in rural communities.

Among the urban counties, six of the 16 counties identified as metropolitan had declines of at least 35 percent compared to the second quarter, while only four urban counties reported declines of less than 20 percent. 

Spokane did not fare well, either. It had 4750 home sales, a 34.2 percent drop from the previous quarter and 30.6 percent below the same period of 2009. Its median resale price for a home was $181,000, done 5.6 percent from 2009.

The full third quarter data set is here

Someone is trying to get your credit card details, STCU warns

A Spokane credit union says local consumers are reporting a phone scam aimed at tricking them to reveal debit and credit card information.

The STCU phone center today is inundated with calls from credit union members and some non-members who reported receiving official-sounding automated phone calls that supposedly come from STCU.

As of 10:30 a.m., more than 100 callers contacted STCU about the phone calls, spokesman Dan Hansen said.

The calls inform the recipients that “Your debit card (or credit card) has been deactivated.” They are asked to provide their debit or credit card number, PIN and expiration date, Hansen said.

The calls appear to be blanketing the region at random, as many of the recipients are not STCU members, he added.

STCU never calls its members asking for credit or debit card information, Hansen said.

Consumers should be wary of any call or e-mail seeking credit or debit card information or other sensitive personal information, Hansen said. These contacts often are scams perpetuated by people looking to commit identity theft.

Black Friday shoppers, we’d like to meet you online specialists

Black Friday is two weeks away. It’s one sure date when otherwise cautious shoppers turn into crazed and dedicated sales-hounds.

We’re looking to find four to five different readers who would take part in a Black Friday study. We want to talk with only those shoppers who will be hunting online for Black Friday sales; if avoiding the street crowds is your thing and hunting online for deals is your goal, you are the person we’re looking for.

We can’t offer compensation. We would intend to talk with you before and after your Black Friday shopping session.

At some point we would possibly use your name in a story published at spokesman.com and in print.

You can post your interest here in the Comments. Or e-mail tomsATspokesman.com. (use @ and not AT)

 

Inland Northwest Partners hosts its annual meeting Nov. 18

If it seems not enough discussion or energy is focused on economic development in the Inland Northwest, we suggest people go find out in person, at the annual meeting of Inland Northwest Partners.

That event is Nov. 18 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Spokane Club, 1002 W. Riverside in downtown Spokane. 

INP is an organization of communities, economic development entities and individuals looking to boost the economic profile of North Idaho and Eastern Washington. The non-profit organization advocates a “grow from within” philosophy and works to empower smaller communities and regional groups.

The meeting’s keynote speaker is De Scott, (in photo) founder and owner of Simply Northwest, a  successful  Spokane Valley retail business. Her remarks are titled: “Steps to Small Business Success.”

Cost for members is $30 and $50 for non-members. To register, go to www.imwp.org, or e-mail inlandnorthwest@comcast.net.


Seattle site Avvo adds doctor rankings to its listings of lawyers

Avvo, the West Side blog started in 2007 by Gonzaga University grad Mark Britton, is expanding into ranking doctors.

Avvo, a Latin word for “advocate,” started out and continues as an online forum for people to rank attorneys.

Starting this week, Avvo will offer rankings of doctors, drawing on public records and company research into doctors’ backgrounds and experience.

Both groups, doctors and lawyers, are scored on a 1 to 10 ranking. The rankings result from a variety of measures, but include comments by others.

The available documents being used by Avvo cover 800,000 doctors — 90 percent of the licensed doctors in the country, along with medical question and answer forums.

Britton, a former Expedia executive and general counsel, said the effort has taken about eight months to incorporate the physician data.

Avvo has about 70 employees and is based in Seattle. It makes money through online ads and draws about two million visitors a month. It generates 160,000 referrals to lawyers per month, Britton said.


 

Spokane agency 14Four helps develop social media ‘sobriety test’

Social Media Sobriety Test from TDA_Boulder on Vimeo.

Spokane creative agency 14Four has helped put together a social media sobriety test meant to stop Facebook or Twitter users from posting stupid remarks after partying.

The Spokane company developed the free software plug-in for Webroot, a Boulder, Colo.-based web security firm. The project stemmed from past work 14Four has done with Colorado ad agency TDA, the lead agency for Webroot.

The test’s tagline is “Nothing good happens online after 1 a.m.” The test can work on six social sites, including YouTube and MySpace. The tool also allows for adding custom websites.

TDA Account Director Christi Tucay said 14Four was hired to code the sobriety test software and design how it interacts with the user. “14Four took our idea and made it happen; they built all the Flash, HTML and javascript that makes it work,” Tucay said.

The onscreen test can be set manually to force the user to complete a challenge before posting a message at preset times of the day or night. The extension has six challenges, selected at random, that force the person to answer or do something.

One challenge requires a person to keep the mouse cursor inside a moving circle appearing on the screen. If the person can’t do that, the user fails the test.

The challenge might also ask you to type the alphabet backwards, or use your mouse to guess how long 30 seconds is.

Jeff Oswalt, 14Four’s president, said his firm jumped at the idea when they were first asked by TDA to collaborate. “We saw it as an awesome idea. Plus we would be getting paid for work, which is also a great idea.”

Housing sales plunge in October

Home sales plunged 40 percent in October compared with the same month last year, when a federal income tax credit boosted sales.

The Spokane Association of Realtors reported 304 sales, down from 509 in October 2009, and 317 in September.

Average and median prices were up substantially, to $189,541 and $166,250, respectively.

The tax credits targeted at first-time home buyers tended to increase the sale of lower-priced homes. Originally scheduled to expire Nov. 1, 2009, they were extended through the end of April.

So far in 2010, 3,634 homes and condominiums have been sold, down six percent from the first 10 months of 2009.

There were 3,179 homes of sale as of Nov. 3.

When did Washington start licensing tow truck companies?

Yesterday’s announcement that the Washington Department of Licensing was teeing off, big time, on Spokane-based Evergreen State Towing Co., made us wonder: How many towing companies do we have in this town?

Lewis Dennie, the Dept. of Licensing Northeast regional manager, came back with the answer:  49 registered and licensed tow companies, a number that still includes Everygreen State Towing. Evergreen, as this story by Shawn Vestal explains, got hit by the DOL fairly hard for a scurrilous practice of batch towing of vehicles, without the proper authorization, during this past year’s Hoopfest.

We tried on Friday to determine how long Washington has been in the business of regulating tow companies. The state’s DOL people are still hunting that information.

Here’s the big takeaway:  For all you folks and Tea Partiers who denounce the role of government as being too intrusive and too costly, take a good look at how this situation turned out. If the state was not in charge of watchdogging and regulating tow companies, who’d have provided any control or redress for the couple dozen folks whose vehicles were caught up in this scam?

Was this a case of Big government getting in the way of ordinary daily give-and-take? Or was this the way the system is supposed to work? Or is this about as much government as people around here care to support?

Footnote: Kent Meyers, the owner of Evergreen State Towing, has routinely not replied to any media inquiries, so I didn’t call him for a comment.  He has about 20 more days to file an appeal of the state’s penalties, which amount to a fine of $38,000 and a five-year suspension of the towing license.





 

LaunchPad INW moving next month to the downtown 1889 Building

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Spokane business-services company LaunchPad Inland Northwest is moving its offices to the 1889 Building, starting next month. The company, launched by co-founders Bill Kalivas and Alan Battle, is one year old and up to now has used the Holley Mason Building for offices and rented spaces for entrpreneurs.

Kalivas said the new site, at 120 N. Stevens, has advantages that the firm’s current site can’t provide. LaunchPad works with businesses in finding partners, financing assistance and marketing consulting. It also offers work space for its member businesses.

LaunchPad will take 1,000 feet on the ground level of the building; close to two-thirds of the main floor will belong to a new wine tasting business, Nectar Tasting Room, being opened by Spokane resident Josh Wade.

Kalivas said having Wade’s coffee and wine bar as a nearby business helped him make the move, making available wine and other offerings for LaunchPad events or visitors.

The other benefit of the new space, he added, is having street-level access to networking events and work spaces used by LaunchPad members.

Washington ranks 6th among states working hard to be oil-independent

The Natural Resources Defense Council has a new list, based on three years of research, showing the 10 states working hardest to cut dependence on oil, and the 10 states most vulnerable to gas price spikes.

To read the executive summary on the method to the rankings, go to the continuation of this entry (click on continue reading below).

Washington is No. 6 on the list of working hardest to get free of oil dependence. The ranking is:

1)  California
2)  Oregon
3)  Massachusetts
4)  New York
5)  Connecticut
6)  Washington
7)  Pennsylvania
8)  Minnesota
9)  New Mexico

10)  Hawaii

The states most susceptible, according to the survey:

50)  Alaska
49)  Wyoming
48)  Nebraska
47)  Ohio
46)  West Virginia
45)  Oklahoma
44)  Mississippi
43)  Kansas
42)  Alabama
41)  North Dakota

 

Tech firm F5 Networks is on a roll, based on three Forbes rankings

Seattle tech company F5 Networks has hit a nice awards trifecta recently. We care because the publicly traded firm has a substantial presence in Liberty Lake, where a good number of engineers work on their network-optimization hardware and software.

It was listed by Forbes as among the 100 fastest-growing companies, landing in the No. 64 position.

Forbes also placed F5 among its “most trustworthy companies.” It came in with an AGR rank of 53, which is a score based on “accounting and governance risk.” The higher the score, the less risk the company has of exposing shareholders or investors to fraud or financial wrongdoing, according to Audit Integrity, a company that tracks that area.

F5 also landed on Forbes’ companies most actively involved in hiring right now. That list notes that F5’s sales growth and demand for products translates into adding between 80 and 100 hires per quarter. 

Company wide, F5 has added close to 300 positions since last October, said Alane Moran, F5’s director of corporate communications.

Red Lion adds California franchisees

Red Lion Hotels Corp. will add two California properties early next year, the Spokane-based company said today.

A Fairfield Inn in Rancho Cordova, near Sacramento, will re-open as a Red Lion in January.  The 111-room hotel built by Marriott as a Fairfield in offers limited service.

The Red Lion brand will also be adopted by an independent, 189-room property at Oakland International Airport that offers full service.

“Red Lion has been a very strong brand in California, and these hotels strengthen our footprint,” interim President Jon Eliassen said.

Red Lion, with 43 hotels in eight states and one Canadian province, wants to add 11 more properties in the Western United States and British Columbia, ihe said.

Dan Jackson returning to Red Lion Hotels

Red Lion Hotels Corporation of Spokane has hired Dan Jackson as senior vice president and chief financial officer. He will begin Nov. 10.

Jackson has been involved in senior-level finance and strategic planning for more than 20 years, and he has significant experience in the hospitality industry, Red Lion said today.

As executive vice president and CFO for KinderCare Learning Centers, Inc. and its successor, Knowledge Learning Corporation, Jackson oversaw all financial operations and worked with investment banks and lenders in negotiating financing for a company with more than 1,650 locations.

Prior to KinderCare, Jackson was vice president and controller for Red Lion when it was held by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

Jackson replaces Anthony Dombrowik, who left Red Lion in October after accepting a position as chief financial officer at Ambassadors Group, Inc., based in Spokane.

Mountain West Bank CEO Jon Hippler to retire

Mountain West Bank CEO Jon Hippler will retire at the end of the year. Hippler, 66, has served as chief executive since the bank was founded in 1993 in Coeur d’Alene.

He will be replaced by Russ Porter, the bank’s president and chief operating officer. Porter will be replaced by Rod Colwell, who recently joined the bank’s executive team.

Mountain West Bank has 23 locations in Idaho, Eastern Washington and northern Utah. It’s the largest state-chartered bank in Idaho.

“We have been living in a difficult banking environment these last three years,” Hippler said in a news release. “As I leave, I’m confident that the leadership we have put in place and the nearly 400 employees of Mountain West will continue to not only deal effectively with ongoing challenges,but also take the bank forward to new heights as conditions continue to improve.”

Hippler grew up in Coeur d’Alene, graduated from Coeur d’ Alene High School and the University of Idaho, and served with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. He will remain on the Mountain West Bank board of directors.

Sandwich shop now offering Cinnabon in Veradale

Included in the advantages of working with a national franchise is the chance to pick up a second product line when when the company you’re working with adds another business.

That’s what’s helping Veradale businessman Bruce Brown go from a reliable Schlotzsky’s provider to offering Cinnabons to his morning or afternoon customers.

Parent company Focus Brands acquired Schlotzsky’s in 2006 and has since picked up several other brands. Cinnabon is one of them. As part of the Focus strategy, its sandwich shop franchisees can now offer Cinnabons out of the same location.

In the past month Brown has added a drive-thru to his business, at 901 N. Sullivan Road in Spokane Valley, letting morning customers get Cinnabon orders on the way to work. He’s also sells them the rest of the day.  

Historical footnote: the very first Cinnabon store or outlet opened on Dec. 4, 1985, in Federal Way.


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