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‘Greenlight’ takes top Spokane pot shop honors in January

Trent Avenue's "Greenlight" reported the most retail marijuana sales in Spokane County last month, according to numbers released Tuesday by the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

The shop at 10309 E. Trent Ave. reported $271,599 in sales for the 31-day period ending Saturday. It is the first time the store, opened in September, has led Spokane's I-502 stores in sales.

Marijuana sales in Spokane County, June '14 to January '15
E. Trent retailer Greenlight led sales of legal marijuana in Spokane County last month.

Greenlight's neighbor and last month's highest sales store, Sativa Sisters, reported the third highest sales of Spokane stores, with $254,179 in product sold. In total, 34 cents out of every dollar spent on legal marijuana in Spokane last month filled coffers on Trent Avenue.

Spokane's 10 retail marijuana stores sold a total of about $1.5 million in marijuana products last month, continuing the county's upward trend in revenue. The newest contributor to that total is 4:20 Friendly, a store that opened at the top of Sunset Hill on New Year's Eve.

"My goal was to open before the end of the year, come hell or high water," said Carol Ehrhart, who owns the store with her wife. The couple built the new store "from the ground up," Ehrhart said, and has been enjoying a younger customer base due to its location nearer Cheney than the other stores in town, she said.

"We're getting a little bit younger demographic," she said. "We're getting a lot of Eastern students, because we're close to the university."

The shop at 1515 S. Lewis is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Ehrhart said the shop offers about 40 strains from 10 different growers, and has been looking to "break" new producers into an already bustling market.

"We're trying to pick some of the growers who haven't had a shot to get into the store yet," Ehrhart said.

Statewide numbers show producers reported the lowest sales in January since September of last year. State farmers reported $256,000 in sales last month, compared to an all-time high of $1.9 million in November. Earlier this month, The Associated Press reported several growers across the state were sitting on large amounts of marijuana they couldn't sell because of a glut in supply.

In an email, Washington Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith said the organization has not analyzed any recent drop in prices, but officials have heard some growers are waiting to sell their product when prices tick up again.

Local pot shops set plans for ‘Green Friday’

Owners of local marijuana shops hope to cash in on the biggest retail sales day of the year, an event many of the stores are calling "Green Friday."

Though state law dictates when the area's nine retail shops may open their doors (8 a.m.) and how much they can charge for marijuana (stores can't sell pot for less than they paid to acquire it from producers/processors), area store owners say they plan to extend their hours and offer discounts on items including edibles and J.R.R. Tolkein-inspired paraphernalia.

"If you buy a full ounce, we'll give you a free 15-inch Gandalf pipe," said Cristy Aranguiz, lead "budtender" at Cannabis & Glass, a shop that opened earlier this month in north Spokane. The glassware resembles the long pipe smoked by the wizard in Tolkein's classic Lord of the Rings series.

Check out this map of stores, their business hours for Friday and a brief description of the deals they plan to offer customers, and read more about the shops' specific plans inside the blog.

Chatters vacates its River Park Square shop; no new tenant lined up

Retailer Chatters Salon & Beauty Supply has closed its shop in downtown Spokane's River Park Square.

No new tenant for the main floor shop has been announced.

The company is based in Canada and reportedly had just the Spokane store as its first U.S. location.

Bryn West, general manager of River Park Square, said the company informed RPS it wasn't willing to continue operations in Spokane.

RPS is owned by Cowles Co., which also operates The Spokesman-Review and Spokesman.com.

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 spokesman.com.



What happened? Why did Wholesale Sports close its area retail stores?

Is this the Cabela's effect?

The new owner of the Wholesale Sports outdoor and sporting equipment outlets in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene will close those two stores in mid-March.

Employees at the stores said company officers informed them on Feb. 21 that their stores’ final day will be March 10.

The announcement was a sudden reversal, following last week’s announcement that Wholesale Sports was selling 14 U.S. stores back to Sportsman’s Warehouse, a Utah company, and a partner, Alamo Group.

That announcement came from Calgary-based UFA Co-operative Ltd., which had purchased the 14 U.S. Sportsman’s Warehouse stores for roughly $800 million in 2008.

After the purchase, UFA rebranded the stores as Wholesale Sports, the name it uses for outdoor equipment stores it operates across Canada.

Last week’s announcement said the sale was part of UFA’s refocusing solely on its Canadian retail businesses.

Canadian newspapers reported that Sportsman’s Warehouse plans to operate 10 of the reacquired stores, but that Alamo Group, which bought four stores, was closing them in March.

It’s unclear which two other stores will be closed.

Alamo Group, based in California, is described as a real estate investment company.

The Spokane store moved last summer from Spokane Valley Mall to NorthTown Mall. It took a 30,000-square-foot space in the mall formerly used by Emporium.

The NorthTown store employs roughly 40 workers. The Coeur d’Alene store, at 3534 N. Government Way, employs about 35 workers.

CDA’s Mountain Comfort Furnishings closing due to problems with lease

Mountain Comfort Furnishings and Design, based in Coeur d'Alene, will close its doors and sell off its furniture.

The press release announcing the closure also noted that the business was chosen as “Best Furniture in North Idaho” by Spokane Coeur d'Alene Living Magazine.

So, that award won't pay the rent, apparently. The press release noted that owners Andy and Heidi Jarski were not able to negotiate a new lease for their store, located on Highway 95 north of I-90. The company is a franchise location and the only one in this area.

They've been leasing a 13,000-square-foot store for a number of years.

It will close June 5-June 8 and then open for a sell-off of inventory on June 9.

Spokane County jobless rate 8.3% in October

Seasonal hiring of educators and retail workers helped push Spokane County’s unemployment rate down last month. It fell to 8.3 percent in October, down from September’s revised rate of 8.4 percent.

It’s the lowest rate so far this year but remains high than in October 2010, when unemployment was 8.1 percent. There were about 5,000 more jobs here one year ago, said Doug Tweedy, regional economist for the state Employment Security Department.

October typically has the highest employment rate of the year as schools bring on teachers and staff, and as stores get ready for the holiday shopping season. The local economy supports about 25,000 retail jobs, which is up 280 jobs over last October.

But the public sector continues to be a drag on the economy due to federal, state and local government layoffs – a trend that will persist into 2012, Tweedy said.

“We’re still making up for lost jobs over the year,” he said.

Private employers, however, have added about 800 jobs this year in Spokane County. The bulk of those have been in the manufacturing and health care sectors.

Another positive sign is that initial claims for unemployment benefits are down to 2007 levels, which tweedy said can be a leading indicator of job growth.

Statewide, unemployment in October was at 8.3 percent, down from 8.8 percent in October 2010.

Day after Black Friday is being called Small (is Beautiful) Business Saturday

Expert Author Laurie BrownSmall businesses who are trying to gain advantages during the coming holiday season are being urged to reate a party atmosphere, especially during the Black Friday weekend.

A number of retail experts are making their suggestions known, advising small business owners to think creative, think friendly, think social media this coming season.

The usual suggestions are back:  Offer treats your store would not normally offer customers, such as cookies, hot cider or even a cup of cocoa. Offer free wrapping, or make extra efforts to find an item a customer can't find in one's own store.

Since social is the buzz term, advisers also say use Facebook and Twitter to connect to customers with updates on merchandise, especially including unique items and great deals.

Laurie Brown, considered a "customer service expert," urges small businesses to really push their message to their community.

Brown says Small Business Saturday — a sponsored event that some retailers should become an ongoing effort for the day after Black Friday — is an opportunity to shine, and in doing so making an impression and hopefully a customer, in the local community, for life.

Ecommerce at highest-ever level, Spokane below average in ‘digital deals’

Two shopping related items caught our attention.

First, the online retail industry had a very successful second quarter. For various reasons more folks are shopping online than ever before. Ecommerce sales rose 17.6 percent over last year, jumping to $47.5 billion in the second quarter, according to figures from the Census Bureau released this week.

That's also a modest, but notable 3 percent gain in ecommece sales from first quarter of 2011. All U.S. retail sales only rose 1.2 percent from the previous quarter. 

So, doing the math, the Census Bureau said ecommerce accounted for a 4.6 percent share of all retail sales, the highest it's ever reached.

The second item was a survey from Scarborough Research measuring the volume of coupon shopping done in U.S. metros. Notably, across the country the survey finds coupon shopping for household groceries is up 24 percent since 2006. It found the largest single source of shopping coupons is: The Sunday newspaper.

The survey also tried to identify which cities had the highest level of "digital coupons" use. That refers to shoppers who rely on email or web based promotions and follow up with direct purchases, either with national stores on with local retailers.

On the whole, the survey said 27 percent of adult consumers engage in digital-coupon shopping.

And Spokane is lower than that number. According to Scarborough, 18 percent of adult consumers in Spokane County use digital coupons.

Grand Rapids and Detroit rank highest, at 36 percent. Portland scored 31 percent adoption; Seattle is at 27 percent, according to the survey.

Michaels debit fraud found in 5 Western Washington stores

Debit card PIN pads at five Western Washington Michaels stores are among 90 nationwide that show signs of tampering, the Texas-based crafts store chain said this week.

Pads in stores in Tukwila, Marysville, Lynnwood, Kirkland and Everett were identified as having shown signs of tampering, the company said. Those pads and 7,200 debit card terminals of similar design have been removed from the company’s 964 stores across the country, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported.

No stores in Eastern Washington or in Idaho were on the tampering list.

Michaels’ investigation began after customers in some of its Chicago stores complained of unauthorized withdrawals from their bank accounts. Michaels Stores says the debit-card fraud has spread across 20 states.

Michaels identified 90 key pads that were tampered with in Illinois, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

The company said it is using cash register terminals to authorize debit and credit card transactions at the stores affected by the PIN pad removals until those pads can be replaced. Replacement is expected to take about two weeks.

Artemis Grand Opening

Take one Air Force kid with a Moroccan mother, mix travel, careers in nursing and graphic design, stir in a big romance and a love of antiques and you have the story of Kris Mack.

After graduating from Eastern Washington University, a stint in nursing, graphic design and marrying back into the military, Kris Mack landed back in Spokane. And she’s landed with style. She's working with partner Wendy Allen and their new shop, Artemis, is opening this weekend.

I was able to get her attention long enough to answer a few questions about the road to Spokane and what we can expect from Artemis.

What brought you to Spokane?

“(My husband) Brian received orders in 2009 to Fairchild AFB where he is a pilot in the KC-135.  We moved here in January of 2010. My parents now live in the Tri-Cities, so it's nice that they are close.”

What made you decide to start a business here and open a store?

“With my own business, I could create an environment of positive energy and help other people.  I learned these principles from my own grandparents in Israel. My grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Morocco and they owned shops there.  My grandmother Simi had a restaurant.  I don't know that grandma ever made a dime from her cooking.  They fed Muslims, Christians and Jews and really lived this incredible life.   They touched a lot of people's lives regardless of religion with their generosity and sense of community.  This shop symbolizes so much for me." 

What can we expect from Artemis?

"You'll see a lot of new artists, funky antiques, vintage clothing, upcycled furniture and an expanding clothing and jewelry line.  Artemis supports local artistry and craft. One hundred percent of our new clothing, jewelry, furniture and art is made in the USA.  We are committed to spending our dollars locally, buying wholesale from and promoting new designers from the USA."

How did you find just the right vendors for your store?

“The deal with local vendors was really serendipitous.  Last year I bought a desk from Al and Lynda Rogers of Yesterday and Today Antiques and I just kept coming back.  Once we had begun construction on the shop, I heard that they were closing up and it just gutted me.  I sent Al a quick note and asked him to get in touch with me and from there we had a series of conversations that lead to them putting their antiques in our shop!  I started searching for other vendors. I found Ronni Ryno of Glamarita and Kadra Evans of  Assassin Apparel.  I just sent them a note and they responded.
I found Jessica Fouche and Rachel O'Brien on Etsy.  Artemis will have their jewelry and soaps and lotions.  
 I also met a lovely woman, Judy Rosier of Frosting, that will be providing Artemis with our free cupcakes on Saturday.  We are also looking into carrying some items from Gladys Hanning of Junebug.”  

With Artemis launched, what’s next?

"Our new website artemishop.com coming in 6 months We also have  a daughter business called 'Pickn' Chicks.'  We will sell your estate (buy your estate in some cases) or help you clean out your garage, barn, house.  We're developing that side of the business currently.”

Artemis Grand Opening Details
Where:3109 N. Monroe
When: Saturday, April 16
Hours: Mon - Fri: 10 am - 5:30 pm; Sat: 9 am- 5:30 am; Sun: 11am-5:00 pm
For more information call: 509 995 8860  
(Vendor inquiries welcome)

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Redbox adds videogame rentals in 90 Spokane kiosks

Starting last week, many of the Spokane Redbox kiosks have begun renting videogames in addition to recent movies.

A company release said 90 Spokane kiosks are part of a Redbox test to determine the popularity of the games.

Spokane-area consumers can rent a variety of videogames for the Wii, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

Rentals will be $2 a night plus tax.  The choices will vary by location. For a better idea of games available in Spokane, visit Redbox.com/games.

Tri-State Distributors sells its four sporting goods stores

Tri-State Distributors has sold its Tri-State outdoor stores in Lewiston, Moscow, Coeur d’Alene and Moses Lake to Sportsman & Ski Haus, an employee-owned sporting goods retailer with locations in Kalispell and Whitefish, Mont.

Sportsman & Ski Haus has no plans to close stores or alter the inventory of the four stores, each of which are independently profitable, said Gerard Connelly, president and majority owner of Tri-State Distributors, reported the The Lewiston Morning Tribune.

Tri-State had a record year of selling upper-end sporting goods, hardware, clothing and kitchen gear in 2008, followed by an even bigger one in 2009, Connelly said.

Connelly and his sister Mary Connelly, Tri-State’s chief financial officer, will stay with the company for a year following the sale, which is effective Oct. 1.

“My primary responsibility, for the sake of my family, our employees and the community, is to secure the future of Tri-State beyond my own career, and that is what we are accomplishing with this transfer in ownership to a great company,” Gerald Connelly said in the news release.

New Rite Aid to open in Valley

A 16,000-square-foot Rite Aid store will open at a high-traffic Spokane Valley intersection on Thursday.

Rite Aid used what it calls a “customer world” design for the new store, which the Harrisburg, Penn.-based company launched five years ago based on meetings with focus groups. “Customers told us that their relationship with the pharmacist was important, so each new store highlights the pharmacy,” Rite Aid said in a news release. It includes a waiting room with chairs and TV and a private consultation room.

The store, at 12222 E. Sprague, is across the street from a longtime Rite Aid store. The company has said in the past that it sought a more-accessible location at that intersection.

Its grand opening will take place Thursday at 8 a.m.

Macy’s closing downtown Boise store

It’s the last remaining department store in downtown Boise, and Macy’s, formerly The Bon Marche, is a downtown institution. But today the department store chain announced that it’s closing five stores around the country, including the downtown Boise store, as “part of the ongoing annual process to selectively prune underperforming locations while also opening new ones to fill gaps in local markets.” The chain also operates a bigger, newer store out at the Boise Towne Square mall; click below to read the company’s full news release.