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Originally published April 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 25, 2008 at 12:59 AM


Retail Report

Amanda Brotman inherits passion for retail

In the upper echelons of Seattle's retailing community, Amanda Brotman has a famous last name. Not Nordstrom famous, OK? But famous nonetheless nonetheless...

Seattle Times business reporters

In the upper echelons of Seattle's retailing community, Amanda Brotman has a famous last name.

Not Nordstrom famous, OK? But famous nonetheless.

Yet when deciding what to call her new line of pricey purses, Brotman chose Amanda Pearl (Pearl being her middle name). An Eastside native now living in New York, she says name-dropping isn't her bag.

"I've never used my name to get an in," she said. "It's not my style."

Brotman, 29, performed with the Pacific Northwest Ballet while growing up in Medina, but she could not shake a seemingly innate need to be part of the retail business.

Her late grandfather, Bernie Brotman, operated men's clothing stores in the state from the 1940s to the mid-80s.

Her father, Jeffrey Brotman, is co-founder and chairman of Costco Wholesale, the world's largest warehouse-club chain.

Mother Susan was a buyer and sales-promotion director for Nordstrom, and brother Justin recently left a job managing a Simply Seattle store to start a new, as-yet-to-be-determined business.

"They say it's in the blood. I don't know scientifically how true that is, but there must be something to it because everyone has been involved in retail on some level," she said.

This past week, Brotman returned home to promote her purses at Mario's clothing store in downtown Seattle. The Italian- and New York-made purses are designed to be worn with evening gowns and cocktail dresses, or to punch up jeans.

They feature jeweled handles, colored silks and metallic brocades. Prices range from $350 to $2,400. Her signature style, the Pearl, is ball-shaped with a bracelet handle of semiprecious stones or pearls.

"Certainly, it's not the best time to launch, but there's always a market for very good products," said Susan Brotman, referring to widespread concerns about a possible U.S. recession.


"Also, I think women are very creative. If a woman wants a handbag, she'll figure out a way to budget for it."

Move to New York

After leaving the ballet in 1998, Amanda Brotman moved to New York to study art history at Barnard College.

She then spent four years at Marc Jacobs, where she honed her design skills and managed production.

In 2007, she helped fashion designer Erin Fetherston set up shop in New York.

Striking out on her own, Brotman introduced Amanda Pearl at New York Fashion Week in February.

She figures she's spent more than $50,000 getting the business up and running, relying on personal savings and a small inheritance.

Husband Antoine Schetritt, a former boss in the residential mortgage-backed securities division of Banc of America Securities, helps with the finances and business strategy.

Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom are among the retailers she'd like to see selling her purses.

Some reluctance

Some are reluctant to take on new designers amid a slowdown in consumer spending, preferring those with more predictable sales.

"They're just sticking with their tried and true, which I understand," she said. "It's risky."

At Mario's, Brotman's purses are displayed near dresses costing anywhere from $600 to $6,000.

Admiring a gray Amanda Pearl clutch with gold-plated clasp, women's fashion director Lynwood Holmberg explained that Mario's customers "like little details rather than tons of stuff. The Northwest tends to be more understated."

So what about Costco? It's been known to sell expensive wines and fine art. Why not thousand-dollar handbags?

"She would never sell at Costco," Jeffrey Brotman said of his daughter. "She wants to sell at all these fancy places around the country.

"Plus, we would discount them," he added, laughing. "And she wouldn't like that."

-- Amy Martinez


Forza Coffee Co. will open its 21st espresso bar and cafe at 20038 68th Ave. S. in Kent on April 30.

Another Forza will open soon at Champion Center Church across from Bellevue Community College. Forza is based in Gig Harbor. It started in 2005 and within a year had three company stores, eight wholesale accounts and seven franchises. -- MA

Eileen Fisher, an upscale clothing retailer known for simplicity, will open a new store at Bellevue Square this summer. Irvington, N.Y.-based Eileen Fisher is one of a half-dozen additions planned for Bellevue Square this year, along with previously announced Lacoste and Burberry.

The mall's marketing manager, Jennifer Leavitt, says Vera Bradley will open its first Washington state store at Bellevue Square by the end of next month. Based in Fort Wayne, Ind., Vera Bradley sells quilted handbags, luggage, stationery and rugs.

Also, two Asian-themed restaurants, Boom Noodle and Blue C, will take up two floors where Borders and JZ Rose used to be. JZ Rose stays on the third floor. -- AM

Meanwhile, Redmond Town Center announces the arrival this summer of Naartjie, a children's clothing brand founded in 1989 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Worldwide rights to the brand were bought in 2001 by Naartjie USA, of Salt Lake City, Utah. Design and productions are still done in South Africa. -- AM

Top Food & Drug and Haggen Food & Pharmacy stores will offer seafood with the Safe Harbor seal, which certifies that its mercury level is among the lowest available for each species.

Safe Harbor-certified seafood meets a stricter standard than that set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to the Bellingham-based company. -- MA

Sur La Table, a Seattle-based retailer of kitchen products, has promoted Jack Schwefel to CEO. He replaces Kathy Tierney, who was named vice chairman of the board.

Tierney, who joined the retailer in 2004 and oversaw its growth from 39 to 67 stores, said in a statement that her replacement was planned after she decided to return to California to be with her family. Schwefel joined Sur La Table in 2006 as vice president of retail stores and became president in 2007. -- AM

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

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 or

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