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Originally published November 16, 2013 at 8:08 PM | Page modified November 17, 2013 at 9:16 AM

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Fantagraphics discovers friends online

Sunday Buzz: Crowdfunding benefits Fantagraphics; for single-serving coffee, a recycling dilemma; CEO’s face a familiar one.


Seattle Times business staff

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When Seattle-based comic-book and graphic-novel publisher Fantagraphics Books took to Kickstarter earlier this month asking for a $150,000, co-founder Gary Groth saw it as a way to help boost the company’s sagging funds for the spring-summer publishing season of 2014.

What he didn’t expect was how quickly the money would pour in.

Exactly one week after the project was posted, Fantagraphics reached $150,000 with over 2,000 backers.

And it’s still growing. Stats on Thursday showed nearly 2,500 backers and almost $164,000 raised with 20 days of funding still left to go.

The company’s financial problems turned for the worse earlier this year. Co-founder Kim Thompson was diagnosed with lung cancer in February, forcing him to stop work on translating 13 foreign titles meant for the company’s spring-summer season this year.

Thompson spoke five languages — French, Danish, German, Spanish and English — and was in charge of selecting, translating and publishing the bulk of the company’s European line.

Months after being diagnosed, Thompson died in June at age 56. The 13 titles were never published, causing about $200,000 of lost profit.

Since titles from the European line are generally less popular among customers, Groth says at first he didn’t realize how much the stalled projects were costing the company. He turned to crowdfunding to help make up the loss. The company’s 20-person staff decided on the $150,000 goal because they figured trying to go for $200,000 was too risky for a 30-day period.

“I think it’s a combination of ... the goodwill we’ve generated over the last 37 years (and) the fact that we have a readership that appreciates and loves what we do,” Groth explains.

The average donation was $60, and Groth says backers were from all over the world. He also attributed its success to enticing premiums.

Several artists offered autographed books and original artwork to backers. For example, Seattle-based cartoonist Peter Bagge gave a T-shirt of his artwork to 100 supporters who gave at least $40.

Since reaching $150,000 Monday, the company said it would use the extra funds to hire translators to finish Thompson’s 13 foreign titles. One of them is completed — French cartoonist Jacques Tardi’s “Run Like Crazy Run Like Hell.”

The Kickstarter campaign goes until Dec. 5, and the company is thinking of other ways to spend the extra cash.

But Groth says he’s cautious about going too far.

“I think we’ll reach our next plateau, which is $200,000, but beyond that I dare not say.”

— Alisa Reznick

Coffee craze conundrum

The single-serve coffee craze has grown into an estimated $8 billion market with billions of coffee capsules purchased each year. But what happens to those capsules?

Because the capsules and pods are so small and usually made of mixed materials, they are often not accepted at recycling centers, even if the majority of them are made of recyclable plastic. Robin Freedman from Waste Management in Kirkland said they are not accepted in Seattle’s recycling program.

For that reason, machine makers Nespresso, Illy iperEspresso and Keurig all have initiatives to try to keep their capsules out of landfills.

In October, TerraCycle, an upcycling and recycling company in New Jersey, announced a partnership with Seattle-based Sur La Table to collect Nespresso and Illy capsules in all locations around the nation and send them to New Jersey.

William-Sonoma also accepts Illy capsules at select locations, including Pike Place Market, University Village and Bellevue Square locations.

“This recycling program was a natural solution for the customer as well as at the store level,” said Jacob Maurer, general merchandising manager for Sur La Table. “Our impact is small but it all adds up.”

Starbucks, which embraced the single-serve market later, has yet to come up with a plan for the capsules.

A Starbucks spokesperson said the company is working with manufacturers and waste-management experts on a practical solution for the coffee capsules it produces.

— Coral Garnick

Back in the market

Extended Stay America, the largest owner of midprice long-stay hotels in the United States, jumped 19 percent in its trading debut Wednesday after raising $565 million in an initial public offering.

Talking that morning about the Charlotte, N.C., company’s prospects on TV with CNBC was a familiar face — Jim Donald, who joined the company as CEO in February 2012.

Donald was last seen in these parts as CEO of the privately held Haggen grocery-store chain.

Donald led the Bellingham-based company from 2009 until it was sold in February 2011.

Before that, Donald was CEO of Starbucks for nearly three years.

He was replaced in 2008 when Chairman Howard Schultz took back the reins.

Extended Stay sold about 14.1 percent of the company in the IPO, giving it a market value of about $4 billion, according to Bloomberg.

Starbucks had a market cap of $14.9 billion at the end of 2007.

Extended Stay hotel rooms are equipped with kitchens and are rented by the week or month.

No word on who supplies the coffee and stocks the shelves.

— Becky Bisbee



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