'A sweet surprise'
You may know Jason Lensch as the guy quietly putting up flower baskets along Southwest Capitol Highway on a dewy weekend morning each spring. Or the guy liking all those Facebook posts by local businesses. You may even know him as the co-owner of Switch Shoes.
But on Aug. 19, he'll take on another role: grand marshal of the Multnomah Days parade.
Lensch has been the president of the Multnomah Village Business Association for the past three years and is also a member of the Multnomah Days planning committee. He said he was "shocked" to be nominated for grand marshal at one of the recent meetings.
"(The committee) said, 'It's going to be one of our own,'" he recalls. "It was a sweet surprise."
Lensch shares management duties at his shop — which offers shoes, clothing and accessories — with three other co-owners: his wife, Jennifer Robinson, and Rina and Moshe Menashe.
"One of our founding philosophies was to make our place a community gathering place," he says of Switch.
Lensch says his work as part of the association has been "wonderful," and that he's been glad to devote more time than he expected to originally. He wasn't sure at first how he would take to the role of president.
"It's not something I thought would have been a match for me, but I like working with the group and collaborating and creating a sense of community," he says.
Lensch and his wife have roots in Multnomah. They moved to the Village in 1999 and started Switch Shoes (7871 S.W. Capitol Highway) in 2006 after Jennifer and Rina got to know each other on their kids' elementary school playground. (Lensch's two boys went through Maplewood Elementary, Jackson and Robert Gray middle schools and Wilson High.)
Four years later, the store expanded to double its size and started selling clothing and accessories as well as its unique shoes.
When asked what sort of preparation he'll be doing for the parade, Lensch says, "I have to work on the wave." Otherwise, he's got the transportation covered: He'll be riding in a 1949 emerald-green Ford truck borrowed from a generous community member.
"I needed somebody with a convertible or something to ride in back of," he says.
Before starting Switch, Lensch owned a dog-walking and daycare business, so it's hardly a surprise that his favorite part of the Multnomah Days parade is the pooch procession. Still, he says he enjoys most everything about the event; the whole day reminds him of the Fourth of July in his hometown of Ashland, which has around the same population as Southwest.
"That sense of community and sense of familiar faces," he says. "It's a very familiar feeling."