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Originally published October 2, 2014 at 11:01 PM | Page modified October 5, 2014 at 10:51 AM

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One local retail maven blisters another

Sleep Country founder Sunny Kobe Cook turns on another retailer in a blog post; Super Jock ’n Jill is opening a second store — this time on the Eastside.


Seattle Times business staff

Sunday Buzz

Sunday Buzz is a weekly collection of insightful, entertaining and sometimes irreverent tidbits from the Puget Sound business community. Send tips or comments to business@seattletimes.com.

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If anything is scarcer around Seattle than unicorns in Dreamliners, it’s public trash talk between local business people. But never say never ...

Sunny Kobe Cook, familiar to Northwesterners as the founder and TV pitchwoman of Sleep Country USA mattress stores, takes blistering aim in a recent blog post at J’Amy Owens, CEO of the small, publicly traded Seattle meat merchant Bill the Butcher.

The moral of Cook’s acerbic tale: “Never loan money to family or friends.”

Owens, who launched the six-store company in 2009 and has a controlling stake in its 2-or-3-cents-a-share stock, is also a retail consultant who once made the cover of Inc. magazine.

Cook on her blog recounts some of Owens’ résumé, then writes in boldface type, “Even such illustrious credentials does not preclude one from being a deadbeat.”

She lists several lawsuits in which Owens has been entangled, then reports that “at the start of her many legal battles,” Owens “called me pleading for a loan to pay her attorneys.”

“I viewed her as a friend and someone who has always managed to make a good living,” Cook writes, “so I foolishly wrote 2 checks, each in the amount of $25,000.”

Cook, who sold Sleep Country in 2000 and now writes and lectures about retail and entrepreneurship, goes on to quote from emails she says Owens later sent her. “I am seriously past due with you on all accounts and would like to meet over a bottle of something wonderful (my treat) and give you an update,” says one.

But only $10,000 has ever been repaid, claims Cook. She asserts that with interest she’s now owed about $66,000 and her efforts to contact Owens have been ignored.

Cook says the Sept. 26 blog post was not just a rant of personal frustration: She wrote it to underscore for other entrepreneurs the problems that can arise from making personal loans.

Owens did not respond to requests for comment on Cook’s claims.

Bill the Butcher has struggled financially since inception, most recently reporting a nine-month loss of $3.2 million on sales of $1.3 million.

None of the 10 planned Portland stores it announced last January is open yet. According to its latest regulatory filings, the acquisition of a Montana grass-fed beef operation announced last November is still pending because Bill the Butcher didn’t complete the $300,000 initial payment.

But in an enthusiastic video on Bill the Butcher’s website, Owens, wearing a black beret and a wide red scarf, urges customers to join the company in its mission of “saving the world one steak at a time.”

— Rami Grunbaum: rgrunbaum@seattletimes.com

After 39 years, store adds second site

Having served the shoe and apparel needs of Seattle area runners for almost four decades from one store, Super Jock ‘N Jill is opening a second location Oct. 11 — on the Eastside.

Originally opened in 1975 by Laurel James, Super Jock ‘N Jill has become a fixture in the Green Lake community. It moved in 1977 — three blocks from its original location — to a bigger space directly across the street from the Green Lake trail and it has been there ever since.

Races start there, employees time runners as they head around the lake, neighbors stop in to chat — “It is a family,” said Chet James who bought the store from his mother in 1997.

So finding a place to match it on the Eastside was challenging.

“The Westside has funky, great areas with parks and eclectic neighborhoods,” James said. “The Eastside has more ... old strip malls, new strip malls and recovering strip malls, and we are a stand-alone store mentality.”

But, after six years of looking, James and his wife and co-owner, Judy Albrecht, finally found a spot in Redmond: Next door to three other local businesses that have also expanded from Seattle — Top Pot Doughnuts, Zeeks Pizza and Rudy’s Barbershop.

“They all started on the Westside, so this kind of feels like home,” James said of the new location on Cleveland Street, half a mile from Redmond Town Center.

James and general manager Ty Whitten, a 17-year employee, will float between the two locations. So will five employees hired in Seattle over the summer to be trained, as well as the company’s veteran employees.

“We have a sort of rapport with our customer, and we don’t want to disappoint them,” said James, who still spends part of every day helping customers on the floor. “We don’t want people to say they will just go to the Green Lake location because they know the team there.”

With a park on one side of the building and connections to miles of running trails on the other, James said, he’s sure he can recreate the family feeling of the Green Lake store.

He hopes the Redmond location will achieve even half the sales volume of the original 1,600-square-foot location.

“Green Lake is an anomaly — it turns more volume than other places its size because it has been there for so long,” he said.

— Coral Garnick: cgarnick@seattletimes.com



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