Starbucks remodel to make downtown space roomier

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It's no surprise to customers at Starbucks' downtown location that a remodel is brewing.

The business at First Avenue and Main Street has been reconfigured this week while construction takes place.

But what exactly is happening?

A Starbucks rep was not available to spill details this morning. However, permitting documents filed with the city say the project, valued at $115,000, includes several renovations to the existing setup and replacement of the Seattle-based coffee company's casework, seating and finishes. Minor alterations to some non-load-bearing walls are also expected.

In other words: A new look and some new equipment are in the works.

The contractor working on the project, D B General Contractors, is based out of Kent, Wash.

A rep for the contracting firm told the city the work is on a fast track, presumably for as little disruption as possible to the operation.

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Walla Walla winemaker Virginie Bourgue will be keeping up the "French connection" for Olympic Cellars after the operation's winemaker bids adieu.

According to an announcement from the Western Washington winery, Bourgue will succeed French winemaker Benoit Murat when he returns to France at the end of the month to pursue his wine studies at Ecole National Suprieure Agronomique de Toulouse.

The school is one of five institutions in France that offers an advanced degree in enology, the science of wines and winemaking.

A native of Provence, France, Bourgue is the owner and winemaker at Walla Walla boutique winery Lullaby.

She also provides consulting services in viticulture and winemaking. Murat introduced Bourgue to Olympic Cellars owner Kathy Charlton.

Her winery is located between Port Angeles and Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula.

Bourgue will start taking over for Murat this month while he is available to help with the transition.

Her first task as Olympic Cellars' new winemaker will be to direct a fall "custom crush," at Artifex Wine Company, Walla Walla's dedicated custom crush facility that provides winemaking services from crushing through bottling.

Clients provide their own winemakers, barrels, bottles and other supplies.

The Artifex crew works under the direction of the client's winemaker.

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It's kind of a dubious birthday. But Saturday marks the 75th year of the unemployment-insurance program.

On Aug. 14, 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act, which also created the unemployment program, according to an announcement from the state Employment Security Department. The goal was to "give some measure of protection to the average citizen and his family against the loss of a job" and to "lessen the impact of future depressions," FDR reportedly said at the time.

Those goals continue to be accomplished, said Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee.

Washington state has paid out $28 billion in benefits to more than 11 workers since the unemployment system was created.

"For 75 years, unemployment insurance has helped Americans weather the cyclical nature of our economy," Lee said in a prepared statement.

"From the Great Depression to the Great Recession and all of the economic downturns in between, unemployment benefits have been a lifeline for jobless workers and their families."

The Evergreen State was one of five that passed legislation in 1935 in anticipation of the Social Security Act, the announcement explained.

The others were New York, California, Massachusetts and Utah. Not until 1938 did Washington begin collecting unemployment-insurance taxes from employers. In 1939 -- the first year benefits were paid -- more than $6 million in benefits were distributed to jobless workers in Washington.

The average weekly benefit check was less than $12, and the maximum was about $15.

Last year, more than 470,000 people collected $4 billion in benefits in Washington, compared to nearly 78,000 claimants in 1940. That number for 1939 is not available.

The average check is now about $380, and the maximum for 2010 claims is $570. Each dollar of unemployment benefits currently generates an estimated $1.62 in additional economic activity.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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