Friday, March 14, 2008

Opal Opening Third Clothing Store for Women 

Posted by James at 3:57 PM ET

By Melissa Allison and Amy Martinez
Seattle Times
Standing inside a downtown Seattle storefront, Shannen Wyman spots a knee-length, animal-print dress and declares it "the cutest thing."

"I might just have to buy it," she exclaims.Actually, she already has. The dress hangs near the entrance of a new women's clothing store called Opal in downtown's Denny Triangle neighborhood. It's the second of three stores Wyman, as owner, will have opened in less than two years.

Next month, the third store opens at Mill Creek Town Center in Snohomish County.

"I have no business opening a third store right now," she says. "The economy is not great. But there are a lot of affluent people in Mill Creek, and no clothes shoping for them."

Wyman, 41, is an Edmonds native and former Seahawks cheerleader whose husband, Dave, played for the Seahawks from 1987 to 1992. She was a stay-at-home mom in 2000 when she started making jewelry "just for fun."

Shannen, Sea Gals

Today, Wyman's Kazia Digo is a $3.5-million-a-year jewelry business that puts on regular sale events for Costco nationwide.

The Wymans live on the Sammamish Plateau with their children, Jake, 14, and Kendall, 12. Dave co-hosts a weekly radio talk show during football season, "Pregame Huddle," and helps in the stores, where he's known as the "handyman with a Stanford degree."

Shannen Wyman started Opal in 2006 after a friend suggested she open a clothing store at the Whole Foods shopping center then going up in Redmond. (She chose the name Opal because it's her birthstone.) Cindy Wooden, whose husband, Terry, also played for the Seahawks, agreed to manage the store.

The Opal customer is a woman of just about any age who likes to be comfortably fashionable while working, running errands or out on a "hot date," Wyman says. Clothes are arranged according to color, so that labels such as Splendid, Vince and Velvet are intermingled among pinks and blacks, reds and blues, oranges and browns.

"We buy cute clothes. Seriously, that's our whole philosophy," Wyman says.

Prices range from $30 to $240 for shirts, $75 to $300 for dresses and $150 to $250 for jeans. Salespeople are paid hourly wages, not commissions and are trained to think of anyone who walks in the stores as a "potential friend."

A year ago, a friend encouraged Wyman to expand into one of Vulcan's mixed-use developments in South Lake Union. Wyman says she's a fan of what Vulcan owner Paul Allen (who also owns the Seahawks) is doing in South Lake Union, and a second Opal store opened in January at the same development as the Pan Pacific Hotel and Whole Foods.

Business there has been "really slow," Wyman says, "but I know in a couple of years it's going to be fantastic."

Undeterred by a tough economic climate, she recently started a collegiate-apparel line after struggling to find something fashionable to wear to a Seahawks playoff game. The line's tank tops and cashmere hoodies are decorated with Swarovski crystals and the logos of 23 schools, including the University of Washington and Washington State.

"I've really expanded too fast," Wyman says, noting that she'll hold off "a little bit" before opening a fourth store. "It's just that the opportunities were there."

Check out the Opal Boutique Blog here.

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