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Originally published January 11, 2014 at 8:07 PM | Page modified January 13, 2014 at 9:33 AM

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Alpha stars wrap up first season of Amazon TV

Amazon’s “Alpha House” is a hit; end’s in sight for car dealerships in downtown Seattle; and Texas town is thrilled it’s getting a Starbucks store.


Seattle Times business staff

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Nooo, I missed the statement that the convention center in downtown wants to expand. ... MORE

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From the any-publicity-is-good-publicity department, disgraced New York politician Anthony Weiner has emerged yet again, this time, courtesy of Amazon.

The former congressman and New York mayoral candidate, whose career was derailed by sexually explicit texts and photos, makes a cameo appearance in the season finale of “Alpha House,” an original program created by Amazon Studios for its Netflix-like streaming video service, Amazon Prime Instant Video. It’s a brief, nonspeaking walk-on, during the funeral of a senator who died during sex.

The finale, available to Amazon Prime subscribers on Friday, also includes brief cameos at the funeral from anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, among others.

And Bill Murray, who appeared briefly in a profane-laced scene in the series pilot, makes another cameo to close the season out.

“Alpha House,” created by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Garry Trudeau, and starring John Goodman, is about four Republican senators who share a house in Washington, D.C. The first season, with 11 episodes including the pilot, has been generally well-received by reviewers. While The Hollywood Reporter found HBO’s “Veep” funnier, it said, “if your heaving, capacity-deprived DVRs are up for it, add another potential winner to the list of shows you’re already watching.”

Amazon, which is creating several original programs to boost its Amazon Prime business, declined to disclose any details regarding viewership.

—Jay Greene: jgreen@seattletimes.com

Car business looking up

The Honda of Seattle dealership, abandoning a site at the corner of Boren Avenue and Olive Way that’s been home to auto salesrooms since 1929, is going vertical next year in a six-story building in Sodo.

Toyota of Seattle, displaced from its site at Westlake Avenue and Lenora Street by Amazon.com’s high-rise construction project, also will move next year into that 400,000-square-foot Sodo building.

Over the past decade, the blue-collar machine shops and expansive auto showrooms that characterized the area north of downtown Seattle in the 20th century have given way to residential and office towers.

Auto dealers, who survive on thin profit margins by keeping fixed costs in check, struggled with rising property taxes on their big, flat auto lots as the neighborhood’s property values skyrocketed.

“If you’re in a metro area where land prices are high, you’re going to have to figure out how to serve your customer in a high-rise situation,” said Brad Miller, president of Seattle-based Miller-Nicholson, which owns both Honda of Seattle and Toyota of Seattle.

Miller-Nicholson bought the Honda of Seattle franchise in 1986 from Auburn-based Cassieford, which established a car dealership on the site in 1929, Miller said.

“They told us we could count on no more than five years” before the dealership would have to move, he said. Extension after extension followed.

Finally, last month, Cassieford sold the land under the dealership for $56.5 million to the Washington State Convention Center, which is considering a major expansion project there.

Construction has begun on the 2.6-acre site that Miller-Nicholson bought in early 2012 at the southwest corner of Airport Way South and South Holgate Street in Sodo, a little north of the Mercedes-Benz of Seattle dealership. (That dealership relocated last year from Capitol Hill, where it had been for decades.)

Miller said Bellevue-based general contractor Foushée & Associates is overseeing the pouring of pilings, some going as deep as 90 feet, into an area that once was Elliott Bay.

The new showroom is expected to have its grand opening in March 2015, he said.

Once the Honda and Toyota dealerships move, it’s the end of an era for auto dealers in downtown Seattle.

— Sanjay Bhatt: sbhatt@seattletimes.com

Hooters aims to expand in NW

The Pacific Northwest could soon have more than just a pair of Hooters.

The restaurant chain, which attracts more attention for its waitresses than its food, operates in Tacoma and Portland since locations in South Lake Union and Renton closed a few years back.

But now a North Carolina company, Chanticleer Holdings, is acquiring the Tacoma and Portland restaurants and the franchise rights to Oregon and Washington.

CEO Mike Pruitt says he expects to add at least one more in the region this year.

The Charlotte-based company operates overseas Hooters locations in South Africa, Australia, Hungary and Brazil, and recently acquired two small U.S. restaurant concepts unrelated to Hooters. In the nine months ended Sept. 30 it lost $2.9 million on revenues of $4.9 million.

Pruitt said he’ll be in Portland this week and has already tasked a Seattle real-estate broker with scouting for locations.

“Seattle is a great sports town and I’m confident we’ll put a store there,” he said.

— Rami Grunbaum: rgrunbaum@seattletimes.com

Texas town in tizzy over first Starbucks

It may be hard to believe in Seattle, where hundreds of Starbucks have blended into the urban landscape, but the prospect of hosting the green siren still makes some towns shudder with excitement.

Take Seguin, an old Texas town with 25,000 souls some 35 miles east of San Antonio.

The place is named after Juan Seguin, a hero of the Texas revolution. An equestrian statue of the so-called “Paul Revere of Texas” graces its downtown, not far from a 1,000-pound metal sculpture of a pecan that sits in front of the county courthouse.

Now a new monument is being erected, much to city fathers’ joy: an 1,850-square-foot Starbucks on the side of busy Interstate 10 that links Houston to San Antonio.

“A second New Year’s Celebration is in order for Seguin coffee lovers,” read a news release put forth by the city. “With this announcement, it is clear that Seguin has arrived,” Terry Trevino, Seguin’s director of economic development, said in the statement.

It was front-page news in the Seguin Gazette. The paper’s editorial board also weighed in, calling the event a “big landing” for city officials.

Starbucks’ arrival “really moves the needle and sends a message that Seguin has crossed some unseen hurdle.” The editorial cited a poll the newspaper ran last year that determined Starbucks was near the top of the list of shops eagerly awaited by Seguinites, along with Target and Chick-fil-A.

The city, which said it had been missing out on tax revenue due to out-of-town Starbucks runs, is also in the middle of another revolutionary development: the unprecedented economic boom in south-central Texas due to hydraulic fracturing.

In the vicinity of Seguin, the technique cracked open one of the biggest oil fields in the world, the Eagle Ford shale, a magnet for round-the-clock fracking operations and oil crews eager for a good cup of joe.

— Ángel González: agonzalez@seattletimes.com



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