Weird twist in debt collection case that Idaho helped crack

The Consumerist blog today highlighted a twist in a Federal Trade Commission charge against bogus debt collectors.

The FTC's claims, briefly: People in India placed millions of calls to U.S. consumers, using threats and intimidation to collect more than $5 million from people who didn't owe them a dime.

A few Idahoans were tricked into paying, and Idaho's financial regulators got calls from scared consumers, they said.

Davis Creek Cellars winding down

Davis Creek Cellars in Marsing has closed its tasting room for the rest of the summer and, it sounds like, forever. But the wine won't disappear from the Capital City Public Market on Saturdays — at least, not until further notice.

"After five years of business, I have decided to pursue another line of work," wrote Gina Davis in a June 1 email to fans. "I have enjoyed my time as owner and winemaker of Davis Creek Cellars and will miss seeing everyone."

Krispy Kreme looking at sites for an East Boise store

The doughnut chain already has a drive-through and sit-down shop in Meridian at Fairview and Eagle. Now, the local franchise owner is looking at spots for a second shop in East Boise, according to their brokerage firm Capital Commercial Properties LLC.

Possible homes for the second Krispy Kreme include Vista and Broadway avenues — to the delight of many Boise State students with morning classes, no doubt.

If all goes well, there might be a third Krispy Kreme in the Treasure Valley's future, the firm said.

A big summer project for two Treasure Valley teen entrepreneurs

Clancy Johnston of New Plymouth and Jordan Hepton of Nampa just opened a resale clothing business in Eagle, south of the intersection of Eagle Road and State St.

The young men were more passionate about launching a business than about any particular kind of business. So after ruling out mostly Web-based ideas, they settled on Fashion City Exchange, a resale clothing store.

Fashion City Exchange

"We like the business model, we like the numbers" they predicted for the store, Johnston said. "We're not that into fashion [but] we appreciate it."

Johnston said the store is probably just a summer project, and they're currently the only employees. They're hoping to earn experience and contacts, not a big profit, he said.

What's a lesson they've already learned? Permits and licenses don't come easy, Johnston said.

"Oh boy, let me tell you," he said. "There's a reason why 95 percent of the population doesn't start a business. ... You never truly know what stress means until you open a business."

Unsurprisingly, both teens plan to study business in college. They are founders of Teen Entrepreneurs of Idaho, an organization for teens to get a mentor's help as they start a business.

Free pizza, tunes, discounts at The Record Exchange on Tuesday

Starting this week, the audiophile emporium at 11th and Idaho streets in Downtown Boise makes its "New Release Tuesday" event more appetizing.

The Record Exchange will hold weekly listening parties and offer free pizza starting at 6 p.m.

Local pizzeria Pie Hole will be supplying the grub this Tuesday, June 5, and Joe Walsh will be the featured artist. The store will give away a "super-rare cassette" version of Walsh's newest album.

Boise Bargain Basket closes, Idaho Youth Ranch takes its place

The Boise Bargain Basket grocery store and coffee shop closed a couple months ago at 2141 S. Broadway Ave.

An Idaho Youth Ranch thrift store is planned for the space.

According to permits filed Friday with the city of Boise, it will cost about $20,000 to remodel the building for the Idaho Youth Ranch store.

Five Wives Vodka maker considers a First Amendment lawsuit

The Utah distillery that makes Five Wives Vodka may sue Idaho liquor regulators, who said the vodka won't be sold or poured in Idaho.

Both sides are giving different facts, but here's the gist of where they stand:

Why didn't they appeal?

Jeff Anderson, director of the state's liquor division, said Tuesday that the company, Ogden's Own Distillery, hadn't bothered trying an appeals process before it spread the story that caught fire nationally.

I talked to distillery partner Steve Conlin on Wednesday, and he basically said, "What appeals process?" According to Conlin, the company didn't know it had such an option.

Ogden's Own asked the state twice to let it sell Five Wives here — first in general and then for special orders. The rejection that caused the dust-up was the second one, which said the vodka was offensive to Idahoans.

"When somebody doesn't allow ordering [the liquor at all], I kind of question any type of appeals process," Conlin said. He didn't say if they would try changing the division's mind before going to court.

Is the label offensive to women and Mormons, or a tried-and-true marketing gimmick?

The label shows a row of women lifting their skirts to reveal cats over their crotches. Turns out it's from a photo of the Barrison Sisters, an 1890s vaudeville act.

Anderson said that while news coverage has focused on the LDS-offending part of the state's decision, the label's portrayal of women played a big role.

He asked Tuesday what the distillery was getting at with the illustration. "We think we get it," he said.

"Admittedly, it's a double entendre," Conlin said, then pointed to the Hooters brand. "Putting five supermodels across there would [have been] objectification, too."

The company "did a lot of market research here in Utah. ... People found it funny, but not offensive," he said.

The Five Wives name was a play on polygamy, Conlin said, but it also played off competitor Three Olives Vodka.

Censorship or a business decision?

The company is considering a First Amendment lawsuit, like one brought by Flying Dog Brewery against Michigan liquor regulators who rejected Raging Bitch beer. Flying Dog won that fight.

"We've been contacted by [an] attorney" who defended Raging Bitch, Conlin said.

The case "shows exactly the dangers of one person trying to make the rule for a population at large," he said.

Anderson said the decision wasn't his alone.

The division, whose staff includes Anderson and three deputy directors, has been pitched about 500 products in the past year. It's taken 150. But under what criteria? The packaging, product quality, marketing plan, price, profit margin, competitors on the shelf, and how the company proposes to sell it to bars and other liquor servers, said Anderson.

"It's not uncommon for us to deny" liquors, even for special order, he said. Here's an example of another Idaho-rejected liquor: an alcohol-infused chocolate milk called Adult Chocolate Milk.

"Of the 2,400 items we have in our price book, 150 of them do 80 percent of our sales," he said. That makes the division picky, and it opted against "an average product with a premium price point," he said.

Barbara Barbara gets new home on Bannock Street

Barbara Barbara, the longtime Downtown Boise women's clothing store, has moved out of its old location at 9th and Bannock streets and into a temporary space at 813 W. Bannock St.

Co-owner Barbara Krogh says some shoppers are surprised to learn they didn't close, they just moved down the block. Their permanent location — now in the remodeling phase — will be two doors down, at 807 W. Bannock St., which used to house the Gibson & Lane boutique.

The move from their previous home made room for 10 Barrell Brewing to open this summer.

This prompts a question: Is Downtown Boise retail picking up? What do you think?

(To learn more, Business Insider recently took an in-depth look at Downtown Boise shopping and dining.)

Polygamy-themed vodka? Not in Idaho. Here's more on the ban.

Five Wives Vodka created a stir today, after its Utah maker announced Idaho won't carry it in state-run stores.

The state's liquor regulators determined that Five Wives Vodka — and its label showing a row of women with cats held in their genital area — is "offensive to a prominent segment of our population and will not be carried."

Jeff Anderson, who heads the state's liquor division, told the Statesman that the division gets pitches for upwards of 500 products a year. It takes maybe 150 of them, he said. The vodka in the controversial bottle "doesn't have a unique flavor profile ... it's quite average," Anderson said.

But the label was the tie-breaker, he said.

Anderson said the division found the label and its "strategically placed" cats in the illustration "offensive to women and people of the LDS faith."

The supplier hasn't tried to appeal the decision, Anderson said. "We're being called all kinds of names today, but at the end of the day" it's a business decision, he said.

Ogden's Own Distillery is making hay of the situation. Click here to see t-shirts that simultaneously protest and advertise the ban.

Want to see the vodka label? Click here.

Retail workers in the Treasure Valley

Bummer numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics today. People in the Boise and Nampa metro area made 11 percent lower wages than the national average last May.

The BLS also tracks how jobs in various industries contribute to the state and Treasure Valley economy. I looked up retail jobs, a huge (and many say underpaid) segment of our job market:

  • In Idaho, there are nearly 20,000 people working as retail salespeople. And almost 15,000 cashiers.
  • In the Boise-Nampa metro area, almost 9,000 people have those jobs. And almost 6,000 cashiers.
  • For every retail supervisor, there are four salespeople.
  • According to the BLS, about 700 people in the Boise-Nampa metro work as telemarketers. More than 2,200 do that job statewide. The telemarketers who fall smack in the middle of the income range make about $9.50 an hour.
  • Retail salespeople in the Treasure Valley and in Idaho make a median hourly wage of about $10 an hour. Supervisors make $15. Cashiers make $9.

If you're curious to see the numbers on your own job, check out the BLS lists for the Boise-Nampa area and Idaho.

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