Highlighting Lake Oswego's Black-owned businesses
Editor's note: This is the first in a series of several stories highlighting local Black-owned businesses.
In honor of August being National Black Business Month, Pamplin Media Group decided to highlight Black-owned businesses located in the city of Lake Oswego.
According to the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce, demographic data is limited because the city historically wasn't required to track minority-owned businesses.
"The Lake Oswego / West Linn Business Recovery Center through the Lake Oswego Chamber requested that the city begin tracking minority and women owned businesses due to the number of grants made available addressing Covid-recovery," said the chamber's Executive Director Liz Hartman in an email to Pamplin Media Group. "As of May, new business licenses could check if they are women or minority owned. Eight new businesses in May and June identified as minority owned."
One of those businesses is Monkey's Subs.
Tricia Griffin opened a Lake Oswego Monkey's Subs location in the middle of the pandemic. And it's been a family endeavor to keep the doors open for the last 10 months.
"We truly appreciate all the support they (Lake Oswego) give small businesses and local businesses because sometimes they don't think about the fact that there's a family behind there," Griffin said. "This is just our family. This is it. This is all we got."
Monkey's Subs is a franchise with five locations, including the location Griffin owns in Lake Oswego. The sandwich shop is located at 3 Monroe Parkway and is open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The business serves signature subs, hot subs, salads and more.
Griffin opened the Lake Oswego location in October 2020. She also opened a Cedar Hills location in March 2020, which closed last month. One of the reasons the Cedar Hills location closed was that Griffin applied for and didn't receive a grant that was supposed to target women, veterans and minorities. She said she checked all the boxes and received no funds.
"I was spending more to open than I was (making by) being open," said Griffin, adding that the Lake Oswego location is doing well and paying its own rent.
The first Monkey's Subs opened in Aloha, and Griffin said she raised her sons out there.
"It's always been just a really good sandwich," she said.
Griffin said she jokingly told the owner that if he wanted to open another location to call her. The call came and when she was ready, Griffin took on the challenge with the help of several family members and friends.
"We stand here, we cut the meats in front of you, we cut all of our vegetables fresh," said Griffin, adding that they also bake their own bread and make their own tuna.
And not only is Griffin the owner, she works in the store too.
"The hiring, that is the hardest thing right now," Griffin said. "It's pretty hard to get anybody to work.
She said she has a few great employees and her youngest son works there full time. One of the hurdles she experienced in the early going was understanding the fine print of the rental contract.
"I was really surprised when they needed to know which wall was going to be orange and which was going to be green," said Griffin, adding that it took over a year before the pandemic started to get the shop open. "One of the hardest things for me was making sure we were doing every single thing we were supposed to in the lease without having done a commercial lease like that before."
Outside of Monkey's Subs, Griffin has been doing adult foster care for over 20 years. She's a caregiver for women with developmental and intellectual disabilities and lives with them full time. A typical day might include waking the women up, getting them breakfast and a shower, and then helping out at the store before returning home. Her oldest son also helps with foster care, she added.
"I'm a caregiver — it's what I do," Griffin said.
As a Black business owner in Lake Oswego, Griffin said she has experienced "99.9% positivity." She said she's had many experiences when she is the sole Black woman, especially in past careers like construction.
"This is nothing new for me," she said. "We've had so much positivity. Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce is amazing.
"I've had so much love from the businesses next door and what not. They've been awesome. I'm really happy."
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