When The Moose Lake Co. opened in downtown Spokane last July, it was like a talented, but unknown, young actor.
The specialty retailer, a purveyor of “typically Northwest” clothing, footwear and housewares, was working toward expansion, with two stores in Kalispell, Mont., and one in downtown Spokane.
Now, it’s been discovered.
The next location, due to open in July and twice the size of its Spokane store, will be in the heart of downtown Seattle’s busiest retail district.
The talent scout? Goodale and Barbieri Cos.
In a deal that will virtually guarantee fast-track expansion for Moose Lake, Goodale and Barbieri Cos. announced Thursday that it had purchased 50 percent of the retailer.
“My focus has always been on my stores, but the reality is, you have to have the infrastructure. It just makes it easier,” Scott Darkenwald, president and chief executive officer of Moose Lake, said of the deal.
G&B;’s extensive accounting, information systems, graphics and advertising departments will promote Moose Lake and allow Darkenwald to focus on store concepts and merchandising, he said. “They can do all that for us.”
The diversified Spokane company’s bigger bank account doesn’t hurt either.
G&B;, in return, gets in on the ground floor of a promising retail operation.
“It’s the thrill of the hunt,” said Art Coffey, chief operating officer for G&B.; “It’s nice to be involved in a business that’s expanding.”
Neither company would disclose details of the deal.
G&B;’s holdings are extensive, but this is the company’s first foray into retail ownership. Among G&B;’s business units: Cavanaugh’s Inns, M&M; Catering, G&B; Select-a-Seat, G&B; Presents, Broadview Dairy and commercial, residential and retail real estate services.
Though Darkenwald is excited about the deal with G&B;, he’s confident his company would have expanded without it. The company has fielded numerous requests to locate in a variety of retail developments, he said.
“I definitely would have been in the Seattle market next year,” Darkenwald said. “We’ve had developers all over the West come to us and say, ‘This place is cool.”’
After Seattle, The Moose Lake Co. plans to check out Portland for suitable locations, then venture into other West Coast cities.
The Moose Lake Co. was born five years ago when Darkenwald - who grew up in a family that owned and operated a chain of stores - and his wife Annette, opened the Powder River Ranch Co. in Kalispell.
Powder River is distinctly Montana in flavor, selling home accessories with a log cabin theme. With Moose Lake, the couple expanded the concept to include the rest of the Northwest. Moose Lake focuses on apparel and footwear, but also sells some upscale furniture, such as wooden tables with inlaid fishing scenes.
Darkenwald prefers a shopper-friendly atmosphere in his stores. Soothing music with outdoorsy sounds plays from a stereo. Free cider is served. The smell of potpourri permeates the store.
“It feels good, it smells good, it sounds good,” Darkenwald said. “It’s way more than just shopping. We try to create a wonderful environment.”
Darkenwald said he’s not concerned that he’ll lose control over the conceptual part of his business because of the deal with G&B.;
“That will all be under my umbrella,” he said. “As president and CEO, those are my decisions, and that’s a strength I have.”
Coffey agreed that G&B; would leave those decisions in Darkenwald’s court. “We’re not going to mess with that,” he said.
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