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Originally published Friday, March 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Retail Report

Opal opening third clothing store for women

Standing inside a downtown Seattle storefront, Shannen Wyman spots a knee-length, animal-print dress and declares it "the cutest thing. " "I might just have...

Seattle Times business reporters

Standing inside a downtown Seattle storefront, Shannen Wyman spots a knee-length, animal-print dress and declares it "the cutest thing."

"I might just have to buy it," she exclaims.Actually, she already has. The dress hangs near the entrance of a new women's clothing store called Opal in downtown's Denny Triangle neighborhood. It's the second of three stores Wyman, as owner, will have opened in less than two years.

Next month, the third store opens at Mill Creek Town Center in Snohomish County.

"I have no business opening a third store right now," she says. "The economy is not great. But there are a lot of affluent people in Mill Creek, and no clothes shoping for them."

Wyman, 41, is an Edmonds native and former Seahawks cheerleader whose husband, Dave, played for the Seahawks from 1987 to 1992. She was a stay-at-home mom in 2000 when she started making jewelry "just for fun."

Today, Wyman's Kazia Digo is a $3.5-million-a-year jewelry business that puts on regular sale events for Costco nationwide.

The Wymans live on the Sammamish Plateau with their children, Jake, 14, and Kendall, 12. Dave co-hosts a weekly radio talk show during football season, "Pregame Huddle," and helps in the stores, where he's known as the "handyman with a Stanford degree."

Shannen Wyman started Opal in 2006 after a friend suggested she open a clothing store at the Whole Foods shopping center then going up in Redmond. (She chose the name Opal because it's her birthstone.) Cindy Wooden, whose husband, Terry, also played for the Seahawks, agreed to manage the store.

The Opal customer is a woman of just about any age who likes to be comfortably fashionable while working, running errands or out on a "hot date," Wyman says. Clothes are arranged according to color, so that labels such as Splendid, Vince and Velvet are intermingled among pinks and blacks, reds and blues, oranges and browns.

"We buy cute clothes. Seriously, that's our whole philosophy," Wyman says.

Prices range from $30 to $240 for shirts, $75 to $300 for dresses and $150 to $250 for jeans. Salespeople are paid hourly wages, not commissions and are trained to think of anyone who walks in the stores as a "potential friend."

A year ago, a friend encouraged Wyman to expand into one of Vulcan's mixed-use developments in South Lake Union. Wyman says she's a fan of what Vulcan owner Paul Allen (who also owns the Seahawks) is doing in South Lake Union, and a second Opal store opened in January at the same development as the Pan Pacific Hotel and Whole Foods.

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Business there has been "really slow," Wyman says, "but I know in a couple of years it's going to be fantastic."

Undeterred by a tough economic climate, she recently started a collegiate-apparel line after struggling to find something fashionable to wear to a Seahawks playoff game. The line's tank tops and cashmere hoodies are decorated with Swarovski crystals and the logos of 23 schools, including the University of Washington and Washington State.

"I've really expanded too fast," Wyman says, noting that she'll hold off "a little bit" before opening a fourth store. "It's just that the opportunities were there."

— Amy Martinez

Tidbits

Mercer & Co., a specialty retailer of women's clothes, accessories and home products, has opened its third area location at Bellevue Square. Mercer opened its first store in 2003 at Pine Lake Village in Sammamish and expanded to Seattle's University Village. It also has two stores in California. — AM

Full Throttle Bottles opened in Georgetown last month selling wine, beer and hard cider. Owner Erika Cowan expects to offer free tastings by the end of this month. Most of the wines retail for $10 to $15. MA

Garlic Jim's Famous Gourmet Pizza, of Everett, has become the "official pizza of the Seattle Mariners," with a multiyear corporate partnership whose terms were not disclosed. The pizza will be sold at Safeco Field beginning this year. Garlic Jim's began with two stores in 2004 and now has 51 outlets in 10 states. — MA

Robert Spector, author of books about Nordstrom and Amazon.com, wrote a 232-page book on Bellevue's Freeman family. "Generations: Kemper Freeman Jr. and The Freeman Family," sells for $39. Proceeds go to the Bellevue Arts Museum and Eastside Heritage Center. — AM

Kenya plans to brand its coffee to boost earnings from the crop, the Nairobi Coffee Exchange told Bloomberg News service. "We want to follow the example of Ethiopia," the exchange's CEO, Daniel Mbithi, said. In 2006, the Ethiopian government accused Starbucks of trying to prevent it from winning U.S. trademarks for Ethiopian coffees. The conflict was resolved, although details were not released. — MA

Two wineries in Walla Walla, Waters Winery and Gramercy Cellars, will debut their new joint wine brand, 21 Grams, at a showing of Nihonga artists at the Dillon Gallery in New York City next month. The wineries produced 75 cases of the 2005 vintage cabernet blend, which will sell for $125 a bottle. Twenty percent of sales will be donated to the International Arts Movement, a nonprofit founded by the Nihonga artist Makoto Fujimura. — MA

Bothell-based Brooks Sports said Thursday that 2007 was a record year for sales and profitability as it won a larger share of the U.S. running-shoe market. Overall brand sales rose $30 million, or 17.5 percent, from 2006 to more than $170 million. A subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Brooks Sports designs and markets running shoes, apparel and accessories. — AM

Dry Soda signed a distribution agreement with Glazer's Family of Companies in Texas, which will make the noncaffeinated sodas available throughout Texas and possibly into the Midwest and South. Dry Soda was started in Seattle by Sharelle Klaus as a nonalcoholic alternative for fine dining. — MA

Choice Organic Teas will launch whole-leaf teas packaged in pyramid-shaped steeping bags this spring. The suggested retail price for a box of 15 pyramids is $8.49. A majority of Choice Organic Teas, which makes its teas in West Seattle, was sold last year to Island Horti-Tech Holdings of Singapore, a subsidiary of Bombay Burmah Trading in Mumbai, India. — MA

Retail Report appears Fridays. Melissa Allison covers the food and beverage industry. She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com. Amy Martinez covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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Retail Report is a look at the trends, issues and people who makeup the dynamic and versatile retail sector throughout the Puget Sound region. Every Friday with Melissa Allison and Amy Martinez. Send tips or comments to mallison@seattletimes.com or amartinez@seattletimes.com.

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