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Originally published Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 8:03 PM

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Denver leads Seattle (in rent hikes)

Seattle rents climbing, but not as much as 5 other Western cities; also, European menswear shop is drawn here by Boeing, Amazon, and Macklemore; and Starbucks tests fizzy drinks.


Seattle Times business staff

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Apartment rents rose an average 5.5 percent in the Seattle metro area last year, ranking the market among the nation’s best for landlords, reports Dallas-based MPF Research.

But Seahawks fans may derive some satisfaction from knowing that Denver led the nation for rent increases in 2013, with a 7 percent hike in average rent. San Jose also had a 7 percent average increase.

In King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, the average one-bedroom rent was $1,051 , while two-bedrooms were $1,255, the research firm said.

Its survey covers 163,000 units, about half of the market’s supply, and skews heavily toward large corporate properties with 50-plus apartments, said Jay Parsons, MPF’s national market-analysis manager.

Oakland, Calif., and Portland tied for second place, with a 6.6 percent increase in the average rent. San Francisco was next at 6 percent , followed by the Seattle metro area with the sixth-largest increase.

Within the Seattle metro area, Everett led in rent hikes with an 8 percent average increase, followed by South Seattle, where the average rent rose 7.1 percent.

Rounding out the top five submarkets were Kirkland/Bothell (6.6 percent), Kent/Auburn (6.4 percent) and Federal Way/Des Moines (6.4 percent), according to MPF.

As for 2014, MPF forecasts an average 3.8 percent rent hike in the Seattle metro area, buoyed by continued strong hiring that skews toward younger, educated and higher-paid workers.

That’ll be little comfort to renters, but this is one statistic on which Seahawks fans are probably happy to see Denver take the lead.

Sanjay Bhatt: sbhatt@seattletimes.com

Suit store likes Seattle

Seattle typically plays second fiddle to Los Angeles when it comes to trendsetting fashion. But for its first store on the West Coast, Amsterdam-based menswear company Suitsupply chose the birthplace of Boeing, Amazon.com — and Macklemore.

Suitsupply, which sells Italian-style suits for between $400 and $1,000, opened a 4,300-square-foot store downtown on Fifth Avenue last month, taking space once occupied by Z Gallerie.

It marks the 10th U.S. location for the 14-year-old company and the first of three slated for the West Coast this year. Outposts in Los Angeles and San Francisco also are in the works.

Vice President Nish de Gruiter, the creative force behind Suitsupply, said he began seriously considering a Seattle store in late 2012, after opening one in Chicago. Executives at Boeing headquarters there were among the store’s top customers, and soon they were spreading the word about Suitsupply during business trips to Seattle, de Gruiter said.

Likewise, de Gruiter said he also noticed a significant number of online orders being shipped to Amazon employees at work downtown.

Seattle’s tech scene is better known for business-sloppy than formal business attire, but de Gruiter said he sees lots of opportunity in Amazon’s rapid headquarters expansion.

“There’s always a sales team who’s meeting clients or investors. Those are the guys who take great care in how they look,” he said. “I always say if you wear something you like, you’re already a step ahead.”

Apparently, Seattle-based rapper Macklemore also has been turned on to Suitsupply. De Gruiter said Macklemore heard about the brand during a guest turn as judge on Tim Gunn’s new TV fashion-competition series, “Under the Gunn,” and now is among Suitsupply’s most famous fans.

“We don’t pay him to promote the brand. He comes in, buys something, and we give him a little discount,” de Gruiter said. “He just loves the environment and the product. He wears it all the time.”

Even at the Grammys.

Macklemore wore a $550 jacket-and-pants ensemble from Suitsupply during his performance of “Same Love” at last Sunday’s awards show. The performance, which featured 33 gay and straight couples getting married in a group wedding officiated by Queen Latifah, was probably the most memorable Grammy moment. It could, in a roundabout way, draw more exposure to Suitsupply.

“I’m not going to say, ‘Hey, Macklemore shops here, so you should shop here, too.’ It should speak to your style,” de Gruiter said. “We also sell a gray suit to accountants.”

Amy Martinez: amartinez@seattletimes.com

Fizzy drinks may be next for Starbucks

Starbucks’ future could get a lot fizzier.

Never shy about a new challenge, the Seattle coffee giant seems poised to take on soft-drink giants like Pepsi and Coke.

Starbucks rolled out carbonation equipment at some coffeehouses in Atlanta, Austin, Texas, Singapore and Japan, where it sold its own ginger ale, lemon and root beer-flavored sodas. The price: $2.45 for a tall, $2.95 for a grande, and $3.45 for a venti.

“The results of tests we’ve conducted in stores in select U.S. and Asian markets last summer exceeded our most optimistic expectations,” Chief Executive Howard Schultz said in the company’s Jan. 23 earnings call. A rollout of cold carbonated beverages could come “in the months and quarters ahead,” he said.

Schultz says the carbonated-drinks business worldwide is worth $140 billion.

In its testing, the company also allowed customers to get a little fizzle in their coffee — though not in espresso beverages or Frappucino blends, according to a spokeswoman. The stores offer Starbucks Blonde Roast Iced Coffee without dairy as a carbonated option, she said.

The spokeswoman added that the drinks are still available in the stores where carbonation was tested, although they’re not being promoted like they were.

Starbucks’ bubbly project fits in with its bigger quest: to extend its empire beyond the caffeine-fueled morning, into lunch and beyond.

Already quite a few Starbucks offer evening fare such as wine and small plates, and the company is revving up its food offerings as it rolls out La Boulange products across the U.S. over the next few quarters. Premium sodas complement the food offerings — and add yet another way to tweak a Starbucks drink.

Ángel González: agonzalez@seattletimes.com



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