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Originally published December 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified December 5, 2008 at 9:14 AM

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Retail Report

Retail Report: Shops for lavender-lovers

Pelindaba Lavender cultivates more than 25,000 plants on several fields. About 240 products are handmade on site and sold at four signature stores in the Puget Sound area, as well as online at www.pelindabalavender.com

Seattle Times business reporters

Kathryn Schlechter was walking toward Macy's at Bellevue Square one day this week when a small, purple-colored store caught her eye. "Ooh, we've got to go in here," she told her friend, Laurie Gerlach, entering the newest store by Pelindaba Lavender, a San Juan Island producer of all things lavender.

Schlechter, 49, first discovered Pelindaba while touring San Juan Island several years ago, and developed a fondness for its lavender-scented candles and lavender-flavored cookies. "I love lavender," she said matter-of-factly. "It has such healing properties, and it's so soothing and relaxing."

Pelindaba (which is pronounced pel-in-DAH-ba and is Zulu for "Place of Great Gatherings") was created in 1999 by Stephen Robins, a retired physician originally from South Africa who wanted to slow the pace of residential development on San Juan Island. Robins figured the best way to preserve his island property was to build an economically viable, environmentally sustainable business.

Today, Pelindaba Lavender cultivates more than 25,000 plants on several fields that are certified as organic by the Washington state Department of Agriculture. The plants bloom from July through September, turning the 20-acre farm near Friday Harbor into a popular tourist attraction.

The farm includes landscaped gardens, picnic tables, a commercial bakery and a large distillery where essential oil is extracted to produce everything from lavender lip balm to lavender foot soak.

About 240 products are handmade on site and sold at four signature stores in the Puget Sound area, as well as online at www.pelindabalavender.com. Gift shops, gourmet-food stores, spas and hotels nationwide also sell them. All told, the products generate annual sales of more than $1 million, said Amelia Powell, who oversees the farm's retail operations.

Pelindaba opened the Bellevue Square store in August for the holiday shopping season but is considering staying longer, depending on the strength of its sales, Powell said. The first Pelindaba store opened in 2001 at the farm's entrance and was followed by a second in 2004 in Friday Harbor, then a third in mid-2007 at City Centre in downtown Seattle.

A slide show of the farm plays on a flat-screen TV near the Bellevue store's cash register. Prices range from $1 for a lavender dog biscuit to $495 for a necklace with a lavender-shaped vial made of glass beads. The wide array of prices helps attract customers with various amounts of money to spend — a strong selling point during a recession, Powell said.

"We're in the same position as every other locally owned retailer right now," she said, referring to the economy. "We're watching things very closely."

Even so, she added, Pelindaba is looking past the recession. "The whole point is to preserve that 20 acres beyond all of ourselves," she said.

— Amy Martinez

Tidbits

LTJ Arthur, a French retailer of pricey underwear, pajamas, robes, beach towels and socks, plans to open its first West Coast location next September at The Bravern mixed-use development in downtown Bellevue. LTJ Arthur opened its first U.S. store this year, on Madison Avenue in New York. Prices include $199 for men's PJs and $70 for slippers. AM

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Family Wineries of Washington state is hosting a party tonight to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, from 6-9 p.m. at The Tasting Room/Wines of Washington, 1924 Post Alley in Pike Place Market. Besides being nostalgic, the party is intended to support reforms that would allow, in their words, "our world-class wine industry to succeed economically without the heavy burden of excessive state regulation." — MA

More than 40 locally owned restaurants, bars and shops in downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and South Lake Union are participating in a new promotional event meant to help small businesses this holiday season. Called City Stimulus, it began Thursday and runs through Sunday. Consumers can download a free card entitling them to various discounts and special offers at www.citystimulus.com.

Participating retailers include Snowboard Connection, Jackstraw Filaments, Clutch and Tulip. The event was organized by Shannon Kelly, founder of Seattle business consultancy In Your Head, and Quentin Ertel, owner of social clubs Havana and The Saint. — AM

Caffé Vita and Theo Chocolate have teamed to offer six organic, Fair Trade-certified handmade chocolates. The flavors are café au lait, shot in the dark, cup of joe, eggnog, gingerbread and hazelnut mocha. They're available at Theo's 3400 Phinney Chocolate Factory, Caffé Vita shops and at www.caffevita.com. They also are offering a monthly "coffee and chocolate subscription" that includes 12 ounces of coffee and a bar of chocolate at $66 for three months, $132 for six months and $250 for a year. — MA

Seattle-based Bartell Drugs said it will open a 16,400-square-foot store next fall in Issaquah's Overlake Center at 5700 East Lake Sammamish Parkway. The store, which will include a full-service pharmacy with drive-through service, is Bartell's first Issaquah location. — 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 © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Retail Report
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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