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Archive for August 2013

iCPooch launches its Kickstarter campaign, already raised $2,300

Our earlier story this week on iCPooch, a Spokane startup initiated by 13-year-old Brooke Martin, drew a good deal of interest.

We just spotted the Kickstarter campaign page where Brooke and her father, Crhis Martin, are seeking $70,000 to help get the company off the drawing board.

The video here is part of the Kickstarter application. The goal is to be producing the first iCPooch units by the end of this year, selling for around $169.

Berg’s shoe store in downtown Spokane closes; owners don’t cite a reason

The husband-wife owners of Berg's Shoes, one of downtown Spokane’s longest-surviving retail stores, announced they’ve closed the business.

Beth and Alex McCauley recently posted a note on the store’s door announcing the closure. In 2010 the McCauleys bought the business from Chris Berg, the grandson of the business’s founder, Oliver Berg.  

Originally started in the Peyton Building, Berg’s Shoes survived in downtown Spokane for more than 80 years, specializing in footwear for children.

In 1942 the family moved to its current address at 818 W. Sprague. During the 1960s the family-owned business added stores in University and Shadle Park malls.  In the 1990s the owners closed all but the downtown store.

On their Facebook page the McCauleys didn’t offer a reason for closing, saying: “To all our valued customers and those who have supported us, it is with a heavy heart we announce that Berg's Shoes is closed. We sincerely appreciate all your support and have truly loved serving the Spokane Community over the last four years.”

Photo: SR file photo. Former owner Chris Berg stands next to new owner Alex McCauley.

Still for sale: downtown Masonic Temple and Huppin’s, each for over $1 million

You can find all sorts of available commercial properties for sale in the downtown Spokane core.

Go to http://www.commercialmls.com/ and search just the 99201 zipcode and you'll find about 40 listings.

Two that caught our eye were already well-known: the downtown Masonic Temple at 1108  W. Riverside and the former Huppin's retail building, at 421 W. Main. Both buildings are part of early 20th century Spokane history.

The Huppins building is listed for $1.4 million, and is represented by NAI Black.

The historic Masonic Temple building — a sprawling 109,000 square feet of space — is listed for $1.75 million, which comes down to a measly $16 per square foot. It's also represented by brokers from NAI Black.

We'll keep track of the downtown real estate clicker and watch for sales of some of those 40 properties.

Raw video of Wilbert Precast completing a concrete dolo

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Here is a raw video taken last week at Spokane's Wilbert Precast plant in northeast Spokane. Worker Steve Gregorson is removing one of the 140 concrete dolos being made in the plant. They're 1,600 pounds each, and are shipped to Pierce County to be used along the banks of the Puyallup River, for preventing erosion.

Banner Bank completes purchase of Liberty Lake AmericanWest Bank branch

Spokane-based Banner Bank today has completed the purchase of an AmericanWest Bank branch in Liberty Lake.

The branch is at 1221 N. Liberty Lake Road and its current staff of four will join the Banner group, a press release noted.

As part of the transition, Banner is closing a current branch housed in a nearby grocery store and relocating that branch staff into the former AmericanWest building.

Green Cupboards — now Etailz — hits Inc. magazine list of fast growing firms

Spokane ecommerce company Etailz — formerly known as Green Cupboards — is listed No. 128 on Inc. magazine’s list of the 500 fastest-growing U.S. private companies.

It’s the only Spokane firm on that list. Eight other Washington companies were in the top 500, an annual ranking based on percentage of revenue growth covering 2010 through 2012.

After acquiring the online retail firm ecoMom earlier this year, Green Cupboards was renamed eTailz.com. The new name better describes the wider range of products offered beyond the “green eco-friendly” inventory developed by Green Cupboards, said CEO Josh Neblett.

The Inc. listing says Etailz generated sales of $13.1 million in 2012 and was enjoying a three-year-growth rate of 2,898 percent.

It currently has 72 employees and is based in the McKinstry Innovation Center near the Riverpoint Higher Education Center.

“It’s a cool thing to be included and to have a page featuring us,” Neblett said. “But it’s not something we spend a lot of time thinking about. We’re more focused on what’s next and what we’re doing now,” he added.

The recognition generated a spate of contacts from companies offering business services and some venture capital overtures. Etailz is not in the market for either, said Neblett.

“We’re not trying to raise any (venture capital) money. Even so, it’s always good to talk to someone about that. You always learn something,” he said.

He predicted privately held eTailz would likely double 2012’s revenue, generating $25 million in sales this year.

The eight other Washington companies on the top 500 list are Level 11, a Seattle IT services company; HasOffers, a Seattle advertising and marketing firm; Spoken Communications, a Bellevue telecommunications provider;  DiscoverOrg, a Vancouver business products and services provider; The Force Realty, a Bellevue real estate firm; Rooster Park, a Seattle software company;  Add3, a Seattle-based advertising and marketing firm; and C2S Technologies, a Bellevue IT services company.

Level 11 had the highest Inc. ranking, at No. 22. It reported revenue growth of 9000 percent over the previous three years.

Hit hard by the recession, GSI’s member list is bouncing back, Hadley says

Tuesday's main business story in the SR was the announcement that Rich Hadley, CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated, was stepping down in April.  That will mark a 20 year career at the helm of the region's largest chamber organization.

How large? Well, it was 1,400 business members before the recession, but then dipped notably in 2009 and 2010.

In recent years, according to an email from Hadley, the member list is back close to 1,300. Last year, for the first time in a decade, membership costs increased.  The base price is now $425, up from $400. The upper membership tier is priced somewhere above $1,000. (Checking to find what it is.)

GSI board members are doing an annual retreat this week. Among the issues being discussed is whether or not the group wants to push forward with a long-running economic development idea — trying to convince voters in Spokane County to create a port district.

It was tried once before and failed terribly. Our best guess is GSI will sponsor or pay for a public opinion poll and release the results. It will take a very positive poll result for GSI to take on the project of promoting a port district.

State regulators fine Frontier Communications $41,400 for check policy

Washington state regulators fined Frontier Communications Northwest Inc. (DBA Frontier) for overcharging customers for returned checks. 

Washington's  Utilities and Transportation Commission found Frontier committed 414 violations of the state’s consumer protection rules and penalized the company $41,400 for improperly charging customers a higher fee than allowed for returned checks. 

Frontier has 15 days to pay the fine, request a hearing to contest the violations or seek a mitigated solution and lower fine.

The company is not allowed to pass penalty costs to customers through rates. 

The violations were found during an investigation of returned check fees charged to customers from Aug. 1, 2010, to March 31, 2012. UTC staff found Frontier was improperly charging $20 and $25 fees for returned customer checks, higher than the $15 the company is authorized to collect.

Frontier is the fifth-largest U.S. landline company.  In Washington it has 321,300 phone lines; its Eastern Washington cities are Wenatchee, Kennewick, Pullman, Chelan, Richland and Newport.

Clear Chiropractic opens South Hill office with open house today

Clear Chiropractic has opened a new clinic at 2503 E. 27th Ave. on Spokane’s South Hill. The business will have an open house Monday from 5 to 7 p.m.

This will be the first Clear clinic in Eastern Washington, a release said. The company has offices in Redmond and Kirkland.

Running the clinic is owner Rachae Bell, who is a member of the International Chiropractic Pediatric and the Washington State Chiropractic associations.

Idaho jobless rate inches up, Kootenai County’s drops in July

Kootenai County’s jobless rate fell a fraction in July while Idaho’s statewide unemployment rate inched upward during that period.

Kootenai County’s rate dropped from 7.5 percent to 7.4 percent; the statewide increase was from 6.4 percent to 6.6 percent, according to Idaho’s Department of Labor.

In July 2012 Kootenai County had a 9.4 percent jobless rate.

The statewide jobless rate reflects an increase in seasonal government layoffs and a slowing down of summer hiring, the department said.

At the same time, the state said unemployment in Idaho’s five metro areas all declined in July.

Ada County, Idaho’s largest county, dropped from 5.9 percent to 5.7 percent, the labor department reported.

The state uses civilian labor force numbers to define the jobless rate. Those are derived from interviews of worker households. Another job-tracking number, total non-farm employment, comes from employer surveys.

Using nonfarm job numbers covering the past year, the Coeur d’Alene metro saw a 4.3 percent gain. That is the highest year-over-year gain in the state, said Alivia Metts, regional economist for North Idaho. The statewide nonfarm gain from July 2012 was 2.7 percent.

The July-to-July growth for Coeur d’Alene came in several sectors, with the largest coming in the accommodations and food service sector, she said. The total nonfarm employment was 53,200 in July 2012 and 55,500 in July 2013.

“July was the third straight month that (Coeur d’Alene’s) nonfarm total grew year over year,” she said.

U.S. Attorney Ormsby will discuss pot selling at Valley breakfast Friday

The Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce is setting a Friday morning breakfast topic on the minds of a lot of people

Namely, how frienldy wil the Valley be to new businesses who will want to grown and legally sell marijuana?

The featured speaker is someone whose opinion on the legality of pot sales here is important, U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby. He'll be the main person at the “Marijuana: Budding Business or Bad Idea” session starting at 7 a.m. Friday at Mirabeua Park Hotel.

The event is part of the Valley's Business Connections Breakfast.

Ormsby is likely to discuss the status of the federal laws with regard to the new Washington State law that resulted from voter approval of Initiative 502, which legalized and allows regulation of the sale of marijuana in the Evergreen State.

The breakfast starts at 6:30 a.m. Reservations may be made online or by calling (509)924-4994.  Admission to the Business Connections Breakfast is $25 per member and $35 per non-member.

To sign up, go to www.spokanevalleychamber.org.

If you’re looking for more information on the planned convention center hotel, here’s the link

Should you want to dive into the actual agreements signed by the Spokane Public Facilities District with the Walt Worthy company that intends to build a large downtown convention center hotel, here is the link.

Look down near the bottom of that page. The major links are to the Joint Development Agreement and the Purchase and Sale Agreement. In the long and generally boring sale agreement is the very basic and simple to understand condition: the land is being sold as-is to the developer.

Wednesday's Spokesman Review story on the actions taken so far to build the huge hotel (with 900 parking spaces) is at this link.

The same site provided this jpg image of the tentative floor plan of the main floor of the proposed 15-level building. The parking area/garage is in the lower right, the southeast corner of the building, in this plan.

New cocktail bar will open this fall in Peyton Building, DBA the Volstead Act

Matt Goodwin will open a new cocktail bar in the Peyton Building later this fall, calling the business the Volstead Act.

The cocktail bar will move into the former Fraiche Contemporary French location, at 12 N. Post St. Goodwin said he hopes to open in September.

Goodwin has been co-owner of several area businesses, including the Boiler Room in the new Cedar Crossing development.

Goodwin said the business name refers to the law that created Prohibition in 1919. “The business will be a pre-Prohibition, classic cocktail lounge,” Goodwin said. He said cocktails produced in speakeasies and illegal bars after Prohibition relied on flavorings, sugar and syrups to mask the taste of bootleg whiskey and gin.

“Classic” pre-1919 cocktails are an emerging social trend, he said.

He’ll lease 750 square feet for the main seating area. Erik Nelson, Cody George and Alison Bantz, all with Kiemle & Hagood, arranged the lease.

Sterling rebrands Sonoma Bank and Borrego Springs Bank as Argent Bank

Sterling Financial Corporation  and its subsidiary, Sterling Savings Bank, announced on Monday the rebranding of its two California banks under the name Argent Bank.

The name applies to Sonoma Bank and Borrego Springs Bank, the two banking systems Sterling has acquired in California. It will also attach the name to the Commerce National Bank system it's buying pending approval later this year.

CEO and President Greg Seibly said, in a release, “Argent Bank unifies our California banking operations under one brand, providing a cohesive identity for the bank to continue to grow and deepen its roots in California. Our recent acquisitions demonstrate that we are committed to California and are ready to build a strong franchise in the state.”

Sterling Financial chose the name Argent — which means “silver” in French — because it wanted a name that aligned with the bank’s identity. It is linked in a clear way to the name “sterling.”

Sonoma Bank and Borrego Springs Bank will transition to the Argent Bank name on Sept. 23, 2013. Commerce National Bank, which has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Sterling Financial, will transition to the Argent Bank name after the acquisition is completed, which is expected to occur in the fourth quarter of 2013.  
  
The BankWithArgent.com website, which will share the same look and feel as the Sterling Bank website, is now live.

Those busy bakers, Sweet Frostings, open second store in north Spokane


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Business partners Judy Rozier and Sally Winfrey are about to open their second Sweet Frostings bake shop, in the Wandermere Shopping Center at 12501 N. Division.

They opened their first cupcake-cake-truffles-cookies shop in November 2011 in downtown Spokane. Business is so good they're expanding into north Spokane.

The new store, with roughly 1,700 square feet, opens on Wednesday. It will operate six days a week, closed Sundays.

The location includes a party room, an option the two owners don't have at the downtown store, Rozier said.

They expect to hire eight to 12 employees. The company produces roughly 18 different cupcake styles daily.

“Once we  get this store operating and profitable, and then we'll consider expanding south or to the Valley,” Rozier said.

Cody George, of Kiemle & Hagood, helped arrange the lease.

Like it or not, Tom Quinn’s GU mural deserves its own website (and has it)

Tuesday's SR story about the mural taken off the wall of the former Bulldog tavern can be founder here: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/aug/06/iconic-mural-in-need-of-wall/

Maybe lost in the story was the sidebar link to a cool website focusing on the mural: Loganmural.com.

Spokane resident and webmaster Mike Thompson created that site, which provides a key to the 40-some figures painted by artist and art instructor Tom Quinn.

Thompson runs Spokane web design firm Omni9.com.

Righteous Rags, a dying breed for eight-track tapes, will close its doors

One of the few remaining Spokane stores to sell hard-to-find eight-track tapes, among other items, plans to close its doors this month.

Righteous Rags & Records, a used clothing and second hand music store, will close by Aug. 31, said business owner Doug MacKenzie. He's operated the Spokane business near Gonzaga University since 2000. He earlier was co-owner of the prior business there, Drop Your Drawers.

The reason is purely economic. “The last few years have been a steady drain,” MacKenzie said. He’s leased the building, at 1307 N. Hamilton, from owner Willard Quinn.

MacKenzie said he’ll offer clothing items at 50 percent off until he shuts the business down. His unsold collection of LPs, CDs, cassettes and eight-track tapes will end up as part of a home-based business.

“I may be one of the last few places in Spokane that sells eight-tracks,” he added. He has roughly 100 eight-track cassettes, most of them selling for $2.

His interest in acquiring and selling eight-tracks happened several years ago when he learned how to repair defective cassettes.  MacKenzie said roughly half the eight-track tapes at his store were personally repaired.

“So I can guarantee you if you buy one it will definitely work, for at least one good play,” he said with a laugh.

He sold one a few weeks ago, an indicator that the now-obsolete eight-track technology is still being used by people.

“It’s probably because someone buys a car and finds an eight-track player in it. Then, they start looking around for tapes” he said.

Quinn, the landlord, has signed a lease for the building with two people who will run a skateboard and T-shirt shop, said Chris Nichols, co-owner of Chairs Coffee & Public House, a business that’s opening next door to Righteous Rags.

Ciao Mambo restaurant downtown closes, looks to morph into pizza place

Spokane's downtown Ciao Mambo restaurant, 818 W. Riverside, is saying arrivederci, and plans to morph into a MacKenzie River Pizza operation.

The restaurant opened its doors in March 2011. It closed on July 30.

Plans for the transition are being reviewed by parent company Glacier Restaurant Group, out of Whitefish, Mont.

Its now-defunct Facebook page had said the goal was to reopen as a MacKenzie Pizza within a few months.

Notably, the Ciao Mambo ended up in a main level part of the building previously used by a Washington Mutual Bank branch, in the Lincoln Plaza Building. That bank's implosion made the space available for the restaurant.

More details on the next food operation in the former Ciao Mambo will appear in next week's Spokesman-Review food section.

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The Spokesman-Review business team follows economic development in Spokane and the Inland Northwest.

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Alison Boggs (@alisonboggs) Online Producer Alison Boggs posts and manages content on spokesman.com and its social networking accounts.

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Scott Maben Scott Maben is a Deputy City Editor who covers North Idaho news and higher education.

Addy Hatch is the city editor, and formerly was business editor.

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