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Originally published March 13, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 13, 2009 at 12:52 PM

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Retail Report

Savory Moment's customers come to the aid of its founder

In late January, Kay Conley sent an SOS to customers. With sales down 20 percent at Savory Moment, her prepared-meal company in Redmond, she was on the verge of closing.

Seattle Times business reporters

In late January, Kay Conley sent an SOS to customers.

With sales down 20 percent at Savory Moment, her prepared-meal company in Redmond, she was on the verge of closing.

She decided to e-mail customers first, telling them about her efforts at cost-cutting and business-building, and asking them to buy more meals and spread the word.

"There's so much devastating news for people right now," Conley said. "They might come in and spend $50, but they're not as willing to spend $150 to $200 as they were before."

About a third of Conley's $800,000 in annual sales comes from people walking into Savory Moment's store at 18005 N.E. 68th St., Suite A-115, in Redmond. The rest are delivered to customers' homes and offices.

After the e-mail call for help, Conley's business picked up, and she plans to launch a line of gluten-free meals next month to attract more customers.

"If we get through these next couple of months, I think we'll be fine," she said.

Conley started Savory Moment, formerly Month of Meals, a decade ago in the kitchen of her Kirkland church.

Over the years, she has put about $500,000 into the business and now has a commercial kitchen and five full-time and five part-time employees.

At first, customers had to commit to at least 24 meals a month. Then the minimum dropped to 12 a month, and a few months ago Conley eliminated it altogether.

In a financial pinch, it's hard not knowing how many orders are coming, but the flexibility keeps customers happy, she said. She offers a 10 percent discount for early orders.

The average Savory Moment entree costs $6.95 a serving. Side dishes average $2, and desserts average $3.95.

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To Diane Rzegocki, the price is worth putting some of her family's favorite meals on the table in Lake Forest Park while she does clinical social work for schools in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. She orders the meals online once a month.

"If I was home, I might have cut back a little, but I'm not," Rzegocki said.

Swedish meatballs are a hit with her family, and each month her son fills a freezer chest with meatloaf, macaroni and cheese and Asian flank steak to take back to the University of Montana, where he is a student.

"All his friends wait for him to come back, because I make sure he has one big dish to share," she said. "They go online and say, 'Ask your mom if she can get that.' "

— Melissa Allison

Tidbits

The Bravern mixed-use development in Bellevue announces two new retail tenants: Italian fashion house Piazza Sempione and multi-label boutique DNA 2050. Both chose the Bravern for their first West Coast locations, said developer Schnitzer West. The project, which also includes condos and offices, will open 305,000 square feet of retail space this fall. — AM

Taco Del Mar will give away free tacos April 15 to customers who have a Free Taco 1099 coupon from the Mexican food chain's Web site, www.tacodelmar.com. Seattle-based Taco Del Mar has more than 260 locations in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and Guam. — MA

Sabra Dipping, of Astoria, N.Y., launches its first national advertising campaign for its hummus this month in Seattle, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. A spokeswoman said Seattle was selected because of its "progressive" food lovers and "heavily entrenched dippers" — women ages 35 to 64 who are into dips and spreads. And a tidbit within a tidbit: The TV spot features an actor whose character was murdered on "Desperate Housewives" earlier this week. — MA

Julep Nail Parlor opens a fourth Seattle-area location today at 221 Bellevue Way N.E. Founded two years ago by former Starbucks executive Jane Park, Julep also has nail parlors in University Village, downtown Seattle and Uptown Gig Harbor. — AM

Catherine Reynolds, who started the wine-delivery business Queso y Vino last fall, is recovering from an aneurysm, her husband Ken O'Hara told customers in an e-mail this week. "She is recovering well but will need to take some time away from work until she heals," he wrote. "Our friends and I will be taking care of her budding business, with her direction, of course, until she is able to return to her desk." — MA

Women's clothier Kasper has opened a new store at The Outlet Shoppes at Burlington, Skagit County. Other recent additions include lululemon athletica and Oshkosh. — AM

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 © 2009 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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