Spokane Journal of Business

Small Business Watch


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Cello art boutique opens downtown

Cello LLC, a women’s clothing boutique and art business featuring work by local and independent artists, has opened a store in downtown Spokane. 

Located at 415 W. Main, next door to Madeleine’s Café & Patisserie, the Spokane store is the company’s second outlet, the first being located in Bozeman, Mont. 

Owner Nelda Zilis, of Bozeman, says she was looking to expand and had a sense Spokane would be a good place for this style of shop. 

“I wanted to expand the stores to a larger population area, and Spokane felt like it was ready for something unique and artistic,” Zilis says. 

She adds, “The city has plenty of retail downtown, but much of it is national chains. I wanted this store to reach out to the local artisans and begin to tap into that community.”  

Cello is leasing 1,000 square feet of newly renovated space in what formerly was the Dutch’s Musical Instruments building and currently has three employees working there. Zilis says that depending on the season, the two Cello stores can have between six and eight employees altogether.

Zilis, who holds a master’s degree in architecture from Montana State University, says she designed, fabricated, and installed fixtures for the new space herself. 

“Architecture is kind of a combination of art and science, so I’ve always had an eye for art,” she says. 

Originally from Lithuania, Zilis immigrated to Chicago in 1976. She went on to earn an undergraduate degree in business from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in San Francisco before moving to Bozeman in 1997. She opened her first Cello location there in 2011. 

Cello is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This spring, the store plans to be open Sundays, in addition to staying open later during downtown’s First Friday art events.

—LeAnn Bjerken

Versatile tool maker hits national TV

The inventors of the Spare Me 5-1 Rescue Tool device featured in the Journal last July made a national appearance on the Home Shopping Network’s “American Dream” segment on Jan. 4, as they continue to promote their product.

Co-inventor Dan Klier appeared on the program with host Bob Circosta, making the pitch that every driver in North America should have the $19.95 device in his or her car.

Klier has appeared with the product on local television channels in recent weeks, and HSN has invited Klier back for another appearance.

Dan Klier’s brother, Kevin Klier, of Colbert, Wash., created the Spare Me 5-1 Rescue Tool, which is designed to serve five different functions. 

At slightly more than 18 inches long, the device has a five-inch-wide shovel to help remove debris, snow, and mud from around tires, and the shovel end can then be flipped over and used as an ice scraper on windows during bad weather.

A flat, grooved, metal surface on the reverse side of the shovel is designed to provide traction on slick or deep surfaces by wedging it under a tire, and the tool also can be used for added leverage when changing tires. 

Finally, it’s sturdy enough to serve as a tire lift when replacing a flat tire, Klier says.

Motion Auto Supply stores in both North Idaho and Spokane currently carry the tool. It also can be purchased online at sparemerescuetool.com. The device went on sale for the first time last fall.

“Sales have passed the $15,000 mark, and we’re projecting 50,000 units for 2016 as buyers begin looking for next fall’s and winter’s products,” Klier says.

At the projected volume of units sold, the company’s total annual sales would approach $1 million. 

“We hope this will be a huge stepping stone in getting our product recognized and purchased around the country,” Klier says.


—Kevin Blocker

Click Distributing nearly doubles space

Wine, beer, and hard alcohol distributor Click Distributing East has nearly doubled its square footage after moving to new space in the Spokane Business & Industrial Park, at 3808 N. Sullivan Road in Spokane Valley.

Terry Nichols, Click Distributing co-owner and general manager, says the company moved in September to its 40,000-square-foot space in the industrial park from a 21,000-square foot space in the same complex.

“We were already tight in our old space and just couldn’t take on any more product,” Nichols says.

The distributor now has 4,000 square feet of refrigeration space, compared with its previous 1,200-square-foot cooler.

Click Distributing East, locally owned since 2002, has a total of 31 employees, with 16 full-time sales representatives taking orders from across Eastern Washington and North Idaho, Nichols says.

He says the beverage market in the Pacific Northwest—fueled by dramatic changes in the food market—made it necessary for the company to secure more space.

“Seattle and Portland have the highest craft beer sales in the U.S.,” Nichols contends. “The food and beverage culture has evolved tremendously in our area and that has been a direct result of so many innovators in both industries.”

He adds, “This is a rich climate and a diverse climate agriculturally, and we’re starting to see that really take hold in food and beverage.”

—Kevin Blocker

Wellness Bar opens second juice outlet

Monica Engebretsen and her husband, Tait, have opened their second Wellness Bar juice bar in Kootenai County.

The new outlet occupies 1,600 square feet of space in the Hayden Creek Plaza, at 8110 N. Government Way, in Hayden.

The menu includes fresh-pressed juice and smoothies made with organic fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients. 

The Wellness Bar also serves organic espresso, loose-leaf teas, and acai bowls. An acai bowl is a frozen smoothie made with high-antioxidant acai palm berries and served in a bowl with toppings, Engebretsen says.

The new store, which features a drive-thru, has nine employees and is open seven days a week, she says.

The original store, at 312 N. Fourth in Coeur d’Alene, has four employees and is open Monday through Saturday. The Coeur d’Alene store includes a wellness room that has regularly scheduled yoga and dance classes and toddler activities.


—Mike McLean


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