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Originally published May 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 25, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Retail Report

"Baby Bucks" borrows idea for new nail salon

Jane Park's new venture, Julep Nail Parlor, offers manicures and pedicures in a "third place" setting, a concept used to describe Starbucks cafes...

Seattle Times business reporters

Jane Park was in a salon chatting with girlfriends when they were shushed several times by employees. "They said, 'Please use your spa voices,' " Park recalls. "I didn't know there was a spa voice. I'm a mother. I know about the indoor and outdoor voice."

So Park began thinking about what was missing from her experience. A Starbucks executive at the time, she was well versed in the "third place" concept used to describe Starbucks cafes as a public living room between work and home.

She decided to apply that same concept to the salon world. Her new venture, Julep Nail Parlor, offers manicures and pedicures in a "third place" setting, with an emphasis on providing services to groups. Its first location, across from University Village, opens June 1. Park, a Yale-trained lawyer, is among a burgeoning group of "Baby Bucks," former Starbucks executives who have gone on to start high-profile, well-funded companies, similar to the string of "Baby Bills" who left Microsoft to found their own technology startups during the Internet boom.

Women in this group include Colette Courtion, who founded the medical spas chain Calidora, and Victoria Roberts, proprietor of the upscale lingerie retailer Zovo. Each of the concepts has potential to become a national brand.

For Park, who was director of Starbucks Liqueurs when she left in October, it was important to get the experience right. She traveled to salons in Chicago, New York and San Francisco for insight, mostly from independent boutiques.

She worked with a furniture-maker in Chicago to develop hand and foot stations that include movable chairs (so you can position them in groups), and foot ottomans (she jokingly refers to them as otto-womans) that include lightweight bowls that are easier for employees to lift and pop into a high-pressure dishwasher for sterilization.

She selected ergonomic chairs that provide back support for the nail technicians (called vernisseurs here), and sought out nail polish free of formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals. Julep has its own line of branded, organic lotions.

Park says she is backed by some angel investors and has enough funding to open her first three stores, but won't divulge more about Julep's finances.

In a nod to her former employer, perhaps, Julep offers health care to those who work 30 hours or more.

Five years from now, Park says, she envisions five locations in every major metropolitan area.

To incubate this social culture, Julep will start "Mommy Mondays" and "Ugly Betty" Thursdays in June, with "Sex and the City" reruns during the offseason. She's already thinking about Oscar night.

"As a working mom, I have a high standard for what I want out of my professional life," she says. "It's brought all my skills to bear."

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— Monica Soto Ouchi

Tidbits

Coffee shops are bursting out like rhododendrons in Seattle this spring. Brian Wells, a former manager at Caffé Ladro, opened his first coffeehouse, Tougo Coffee, on 18th Avenue in the Central Area in March. Named after his nearly year-old son, Tougo features a wall of art from students at T.T. Minor Elementary School across the street.

This week, Caffé Fioré opened its third location (on Leary Avenue Northwest in Ballard), which other Seattle coffeehouse owners are hailing as among the most gorgeous they've seen. Owner Deming Maclise is another former manager from Caffé Ladro.

Over the long weekend, Seattle Coffee Works is opening at Pike Place Market, selling espresso and small batches of beans from various local roasters. For $5.50, customers can sample three double-espressos served on a silver platter, said co-founder Sebastian Simsch. The opening will feature the unveiling of an 8-foot "coffee drinking man" in front of the store. — MA

Dilettante Chocolates is lowering Seattle's coffeehouse count by one with the upcoming closure of its Central Area location, where it has made chocolate since the 1980s. It remodeled the retail store there to become a Mocha Café a couple of years ago.

Now Dilettante's new owner, Seattle Gourmet Foods, has moved the chocolate-making operation from 23rd Avenue and East Cherry Street to another factory in Kent. Rather than keep the café, Dilettante founder Dana Davenport, who owns the location, decided to look for someone who could rent the entire 4,200-square-foot space. He's had several nibbles, including one from a coffee shop and wholesale bakery. — MA

At Redhook's annual meeting this week, CEO Paul Shipman had little to say about the company's merger talks with Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland.

"Discussions are ongoing" was all he'd divulge.

But Seattle's other publicly traded brewery had an opinion on the subject. "We expect Redhook to merge with Widmer," Pyramid Breweries CEO Scott Barnum told investors at his company's annual meeting, also this week.

Both breweries have struggled with profitability in recent years, and both told shareholders that they're counting on people in their 20s and 30s to boost sales going forward. "Thank God they showed up for us, because for a few years it looked like they were going to skip the beer scene entirely," said Redhook's Shipman. — 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. Monica Soto Ouchi covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-515-5632 or msoto@seattletimes.com.

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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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