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Archive for November 2013

A round-up of petitions against early shopping on Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving almost here, it's pertinent to think about the consumer reaction to plans by big retailers to open their doors one day before Black Friday.

We found that that has acted like a gatekeeper, providing links to 63 different no-shop petitions opposing Thanksgiving shopping.

One link that reportedly gathers all those petitions is here.

Several Spokane retailers also made sure they told their customers they're not into business that much; they've all said they won't open until Friday. They're mentioned in this earlier story.

A recent online blog noted that consumers this year are especially trying to change the practice by stores not normally considered big-box.  More petitions this year, it noted, target more niche stories like office supply retailer, Staples. As a petition-starter puts it: “Do they honestly think people are going to be standing outside on Thanksgiving evening for bulk paper and pencils?”


Three Spokane food-coffee businesses move on to Good Food Awards finals

Three Spokane area businesses are finalists for Good Food Awards.

Coffee roasters Doma and Roast House, and restaurant Santé made it through the first round of judging for the 2014 competition, sponsored by Seedling Projects of San Francisco.

The California public benefit corporation is dedicated to supporting the sustainable food movement. According to the organization, finalists “represent the best from America’s growing movement of talented and socially conscious food entrepreneurs.”

This year, there were some 1,450 entries, double the number since the awards launched in 2009.

Finalists were named after 225 experts sampled entries in 10 categories: beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, oils, preserves, pickles and spirits.

Winners will be announced Jan. 16 at a gala in San Francisco. Seedling Projects board member and renowned chef Alice Waters will present the awards.

For a complete list of finalists, visit For more information about Seedling Projects, visit

Boeing pilots mistakenly land huge 747 Dreamlifter at wrong airport in Kansas

Oops. Pilots who fly one of Boeing's very large 747 Dreamlifter aircraft made a mistake yesterday, landing at the wrong airport, then being stuck overnight.

As spotted on, the pilots thought they were landing at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, but instead landed at another nearby airport.

“The modified jumbo jets hopscotch the world picking up sections of the 787 Dreamliner and flying them to the company’s factories in Everett, Washington and North Charleston, S.C. … They landed several miles away at Jabara airport.  (airport code AAO). 

No big deal? Big deal: The runway at Jabara is only 6,101 feet long, a bit shorter than the 747′s normal takeoff requirements,” the Wired report noted.

You might try the interesting audio recording of the ground to pilot communication on the Wired page.  Fun stuff, how they call the plane “Giant 241.”  The pilots don't even know the name of the airport they landed at.

Sidenote: McConnell is the Air Force's selected site for the first fleet of the new KC-46A air tankers.

That monolith in the convention center project? It’s a shear wall

Today's SR story about the large hotel project across from the Convention Center featured an aerial photo by SR photographer Jesse Tinsley.

The photo doesn't display very well the large monolithic wall that's on the site. At the street level, that large wall of concrete is very visible. It's just above the center of this photo. The red lift with the white arm is just below the wall.

Just estimating, it looks to be a concrete slab 60 feet wide by maybe 40 feet high, by maybe 3 feet across the top.

Matt Jensen, a spokesman for Walt Worthy, who's building the 15-floor hotel, identified that slab as a shear wall. In taller structures, shear walls provide lateral stability to the building in the event of an earthquake or intense windstorm.

The new convention center hotel will have six such walls. In projects like this, they are tied in to the foundation walls and will run up the height of the building.

Construction crews hope to get as many started before winter snows come in.

When work picks up in March, the project will add a large crane for moving materials up the walls and onto the building floors.

The Davenport Hotel Collection rendering of how the building will look, more or less, is below.

Sandwich Gardens closes; landlord leases space to women’s clothes shop

Last Friday was the final workday for Pat Matthews and his Sandwich Gardens restaurant in downtown Spokane.

After opening a downtown food place and then closing it in 1998, Matthews got the chance to come back and reopen in 2009, in the east side of River Park Square's second level.

Last week Matthews had no choice but close again. His landlord, the Cowles Co., told him his lease would not be renewed.

In his place, River Park Square has leased the shop to Francesca's, a women's apparel retailer. No opening date has been set.

Matthews continues operating the Sandwich Gardens Catering business. “We've had our catering business all along, for the past 25 years,” he said.

Sandwich Gardens' first downtown location was in the western half of the old River Park second level. He was there for 23 years until forced to move when River Park Square expanded.

Matthews said he'd consider finding another physical restaurant if he finds the ideal location.

Cowles Co., which operates River Park Square, also owns and operates The Spokesman-Review and



GSI’s annual economic forecast starts Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. downtown

Tomorrow (Nov. 20) morning is John Mitchell's annual poetic forecast of next year's economic performance.

Mitchell, (pictured, and formerly of US Bank), has been a longtime provider of the annual forecast of economic conditions facing the region in 2014.

He and Grant Forsyth, formerly of EWU and now chief economist for Avista, are the two presenters in the annual economic forecast presented by Greater Spokane Incorporated.

The event starts with a breakfast at 7 a.m., at Spokane Convention Center, followed by the program running from 7:30-9:30 a.m.

The theme is “Tapering, Tepid and Transitioning.”  Hmm, I wonder if Mitchell is into hip-hop rhythms this year.

You can register online at for $50. Members can pay a lesser amount.

There's a hashtag for catching updates from the session, using #econforecast.




Mark your calendars for our 16th Annual Economic Forecast presented by Greater Spokane Incorporated and the Journal of Business.  See what's on the road ahead for your business as you listen to Dr. John W. Mitchell, Principal - M&H Economic Consultants, and Dr. Grant Forsyth, Chief Economist - Avista. Doors Open: 7:00 am.  Come early for coffee and make connections. Program: 7:30-9:30am

What did it look like when Cyan just started working on its original games?

Now that Cyan Worlds has exceeded its $1.1 million Kickstarter campaign (now at $1.24 million) for its next big game, we felt the urge to find out how Rand Miller, Robyn Miller and their team managed to keep the company together.

More than three times in the past 10 years, the little Mead game development firm seemed to have struck out, losing support as it kept trying to find a sequel to the big hit that Myst and Riven had been.

We found this Tribute Video to Cyan Worlds, uploaded by Matt Giuca.  He says, on YouTube, that he made the film in 2005. But the footage goes back years. Some of the best parts of the video are those early scenes of how Cyan got started and the enthusiastic look on the faces of those building the first game.

Matt, I hope you're still in touch with the Millers, so you can do one more video on the next chapter of the Cyan Saga.


Startup Weekend Spokane nears highest registration ever; final judging on Sunday

Tonight's Startup Weekend Spokane may well be the best-attended so far in our little town.

As of 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 15, 114 people have signed up. The previous highest was 116, for the second #SpoSW. Organizer Brett Noyes said it's likely four to 10 more people will sign up at the door, at the McKinstry Innovation Center.

The event runs through Sunday afternoon. Judging occurs on Sunday, starting more or less at 4 p.m.


Cyan reaches Kickstarter goal of $1.1 million, now plans to develop ‘Obduction’

Cyan Worlds on Wednesday exceeded its Kickstarter campaign goal of $1.1 million.

The Mead company had started the crowd-sourcing campaign more than three weeks ago to raise funds to move the game off the drawing board into digital production. The SR story about the announcement was published on Oct. 18.

The total raised has grown to $1.109 million. The Kickstarter page says more than 18,000 contributors have pledged money toward the project, to develop a game now titled “Obduction.”

Cyan Worlds has said little about the game, other than to say it's the evolved spiritual successor to its breakthrough exploration game “Myst.”



Chris O’Harra of Auntie’s Bookstore has no plans to get friendly with Amazon

A recent story noted that Seattle-based Amazon is trying to make nice with the very bookstores who are threatened by its vast online impact.

The story noted that Amazon is offering to share some of the revenue from eBooks and ereaders that would be sold by independent bookstores.

The story said the share going back to bookstores would be 10 percent of ebook sales at Amazon for two years.

Chris O'Harra, owner of Spokane's Auntie's Bookstore, was pretty clear in her reaction: She hates really dislikes Amazon and wants nothing to do with the offer.

Schmautz completing conversion of former Johnston warehouse into offices

Developer Steven Schmautz is completing the renovation of the former Johnston Printing warehouse into commercial offices at 121 W. Pacific Ave. in Spokane.

The conversion will leave about 8,600 square feet of office space. Three tenants have signed leases: The Union, a yoga salon run by Tyler Lafferty and Nick Murto, principals at Seven 2 design firm; Copeland Architecture; and Helvetika, the new name for the former agency Anderson Mraz Design.

The three tenants are expected to move in sometime in December.

The building has one 2,100-square-foot office not yet leased, said Vic Overholser of SDS Realty Inc., the leasing agent.

Rendering courtesy of SDS Realty, of Spokane.

Dicker buys former Ramada, converts it to a Howard Johnson franchise

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Spokane developer Jerry Dicker and his firm, GVD Commercial Properties, has purchased the former Ramada Express hotel at 123 S. Post St.

The GVD firm also operates the nearby Hotel Ruby at the Corner of First and Lincoln.

The sale price was $2.4 million, according to country assessor records.

Dicker has converted the 50-room downtown hotel into a Howard Johnson franchise. It will undergo a full remodel including new beds, carpets and furnishings. Dicker estimated that renovation will cost around $750,000. The outside will be repainted, as well.

“We’re doing this because we feel the building can be improved, and that we have the right hotel management people to run it,” Dicker said.

“We also think the new Howard Johnson hotel will complement what we’re doing at the Hotel Ruby,” he said.

The original hotel building at that address was constructed in 1959, according to Spokane County records. It was converted to a Ramada Inn in 1998.

Comcast keeps looking for ways to attract more ‘cord-nevers’

Comcast continues to look for ways to reach out to the “cord nevers,” the generally younger folks who don't much care to watch TV over a TV set.  Most of those people tend to all or most of their entertainment on devices via the web.

Cord-nevers are unrelated to the cord-cutters, the growing population of folks who are ditching satellite and cable programming. Comcast along with other providers realize they have to do what they can to reach both groups and make connections.

Hence, when Comcast announced its new updated app called Xfinity TV Go, a quote from one Comcast exec said: .“Television isn’t just about the living room anymore.”

The new TV Go app lets customers watch up to 35 television channels over the web on Apple and Android-powered mobile devices.

The way we understand it, those are 35 live channels that can be streamed direct to a device. Instead of locking up your office PC watching CNN, the app lets you stream it to your iPad.

We want to know if it works with the Amazon Fire devices. Haven't heard the answer on that yet.

The new app will also stream in all on-demand programs that Comcast offers.

OK, what's the price? Let's see if we figured this right.

For $30 a month, you get the 35 channels, plus on-demand access, plus — for three months, HBO and HBO Go. After three months, HBO will cost you.

But it's a two-year commitment and I'm pretty sure (since I know Comcast) the second year will cost more than year one.

Here's the information sheet at Comcast:




Which of the “top payers” really offered the most for scrap gold in BBB test?

The real winner in today's SR story about a BBB secret shop to see which gold buyers paid top dollar, was American Coin & Vault. The north Spokane business made the highest offer — about $510 for a pile of jewelry appraised at $593.

But American Coin's owners don't even advertise they buy scrap gold. Their philosophy is: People already know about us. We get enough of the scrap jewelry business as it is. (They prefer buying coins or bullion instead of scrap.)

The next big winner is Red Line Coins and Jewelry, which offered $465. Red Line (located on Garland Avenue) is one of the lesser-known buyers. Its offer of $465 is the highest among the seven area buyers making the top-dollar claim who were surveyed by the BBB last month.


Etailz (Green Cupboards) wins best retailer in Green Washington awards

Spokane's Etailz (formerly Green Cupboards) recently was chosen the best retail business in the Green Washington awards, a competition hosted by Seattle Business magazine.

As the magazine notes, the awards “recognize companies, nonprofits, and government institutions taking significant and/or  innovative steps to reduce their impact on the environment or to help others be more environmentally responsible.”

Green Cupboards was a finalist a year ago. This is the first time it's won the top retailer green award. The company serves as a one-stop green product retailer, using its own website and that of to sell thousands of green products.

The silver retail winner is T Mobile.

All winners will be featured in the November issue.

More information is at:

How to make a mistake when trying to decipher cryptic company press releases

Entry revised on 11/06/13 12:12 PM

I made a fairly major mistake last week dealing with a business section news item, related to Coldwater Creek. The Sandpoint women's retailer sent out a release saying it would restructure and cut expenses significantly.

It provided a few numbers but did not provide exact numbers on the impact on jobs, which is what many people really care about.

In the absence of information, I tried to generate some of the missing data, and I messed it up.

Here's the scenario that I hope others can learn from: The release from CC said its efforts would reduce “corporate workforce” expenses by 20 percent.  It didn't say how many jobs that meant, and an effort to reach the company for that number did not succeed.

I needed to get some kind of number and I assumed I could work it out, based on public information. I will skip the math I used to come up with the conclusion that “several hundred jobs” would be cut. Using limited absolute numbers, I figured  it would come to at least 300 jobs. 

The next day company representatives informed me that “several hundred” was wrong and I was told it was “less than 100.” We corrected the online story and ran a correction the next day.

I made an inquiry about the types of jobs cut or how to understand “corporate workforce,” but I failed to get additional clarification.

An inside company person said the job number at the Sandpoint office and headquarters was “around 50.” But that was an unofficial guess not for the record.




Bobby Brett and Chris Batten buy former Dutch’s building in downtown Spokane

Spokane Indians baseball team owner Bobby Brett and investor Chris Batten have purchased the historic Dutch’s building at 415 W. Main. The partners say they plan to restore the early 20th-century building and fill it with retail tenants.

The sale is a bittersweet occasion for former owners Mary Singer and Rick Singer, her brother-in-law. The building has belonged to the Singer family since the 1960s.

They decided to sell it following the death earlier this year of Mary Singer’s husband, Gary Singer. He was 66.

The sale price was $479,000.

“I’m happy that Bobby Brett wants to restore the building,” Mary Singer said. “He’s got a good plan for it.,” she added.

Rick Singer, who runs a photography studio on the building’s upper levels, will remain in the building with a 10-year lease.

Until this fall, Dutch’s Inc. had operated as a pawnshop and music instrument store for decades. Gary and Rick's grandfather started the Dutch's business in 1915 on the same block. His son moved Dutch's to its current site in the 1960s.

“I think it’s a great building with a storied history,” Brett said. His sports company also owns the Spokane Chiefs hockey team. Brett has purchased other area properties as investments.

He’s collected historical photos of the building from the early 20th century that document how part of the building hosted a basement speakeasy during Prohibition and later became the Durkin and Ulrich saloon and card room. That Ulrich was Bill Ulrich, who in the 1930s was part-owner of the Spokane Indians, Brett noted.

A factor in Brett and Batten’s decision to buy is Spokane hotelier Walt Worthy building a 15-floor convention center hotel nearby, across from the Spokane Convention Center.

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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 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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