Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



Chamber of Commerce covers the rent for pop up stores in otherwise empty stores downtown

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Grate Co, sells flowers and candles downtown in a former Beneficial Bank, as one of seven of this year's PDX Pop-Up Shops, subsidized by the Portland Business Alliance.

PDX Pop-Up Shops has being going for 12 years, but this year it feels different.

It might be too late to order a pile of off-brand stuff on Wish and AliExpress for this coming Christmas. This stuff takes months to arrive from China, and when you add in shipping and supply chain problems, it might not be worth it. Even Apple and Amazon are not immune and have been pushing delivery dates back.

No one knows how Portland's holiday retail scene will shake out in 2021. Although most shoppers do a blend of online and in-person shopping, downtown Portland is at a particular disadvantage having so many empty downtown stores. With this in mind, the Portland Business Alliance is trying to prime the pump this year, offering rent-free store space downtown to seven new retailers. They are all local, mostly minority-owned companies which have been doing well online but might benefit from some high traffic real estate.

The program is run in conjunction with Downtown Portland Clean & Safe, the group that helps tourists, cleans up sidewalks and reports petty crime.

The seven shops opened Nov. 16 and will continue until at least Dec. 31. This year's PDX Pop-Up Shops are: Indigenous Come-Up (clothes and crafts made by native Americans and Africans); Grate Co. (flowers, candles and housewares); Makers Outlet (a maker outlet store clothing and local crafts); R&Arie (BIPOC beauty products); Tabbisocks (fun socks); The Pickle Jar (merch for baseball team the Portland Pickles); and Ceramic NW (crafts from the Oregon Potters Association).

Previous pop-ups which have survived the recession and reopened include Amity Goods and Crafty Wonderland.

"It is an important indicator of downtown Portland's desirability for small businesses that we had more applications this year than we were able to place in the downtown area," said Sydney Mead, Director, Downtown Programs for the Portland Business Alliance and Downtown Portland Clean & Safe. "Our selection committee honed in on these seven businesses as being ready for the next step in their business development, and we are honored to be working with them."

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Indigenous Come Up at 719 SW Morrison Street. Lluvia Magali Merello, born in the sacred valley of the Incas, a proud Quechua, Andean/Inca (indigenous to Peru) and owner of Indigenous Come Up, where she makes and designs everything from stress balls to jewelry. She worked as a baker and cook in restaurants and bakeries. Now she is Executive Director of a non-profit that she founded Portland Indigenous Marketplaces.

Indigenous Come-Up owner Lluvia Merello, a Quechua, Andean/Inca who grew up going to craft markets with her jeweler parents in Peru and then the USA, where she moved at age 3, designs clothes and curates other makers in her store.

"I am proven indigenous to Peru and that's the majority of the products I sell," Merello told the Tribune. "So that authenticity of actually being part of the community doesn't actually happen very often."

Her work includes double jingle-style jewelry, which is based on native American dancer dresses with jingling cones made from flattened Copenhagen tobacco tins.

"We have all kinds of indigenous wares, jewelry, things like coffee cups and water bottles and clothing like T-shirts, hats, masks, jackets -- and then some cards and art."

Merello said the program pays the store rent and utilities and does not take a cut of profits. "I think they're doing some marketing for all the po-ups. I'm not totally aware of the specifics, and then they gave us a small stipend to help buy furniture and different things for setting up the store."

The store's last tenant sold high-end men's shaving supplies. Merello likes the location on Southwest Morrison Street near Nordstrom. "So far, it's been really great. I've actually really enjoyed getting to know some of the businesses and workers close by. I definitely need more signs to stand out a little bit. This space is so beautiful as all this wood and glass and metal is built-in shelves."

She concluded, "This is very temporary and we don't know that we will ever have this opportunity again. So I hope Portland can come down and check it out. I think we have something for the children, the women, the men, everybody."

COURTSEY PHOTO: GRATE COMPANY - Greg Khng Soliven (left) owner and creative director, Grate Company and his husband Nate, are running a Grate retail outlet in a former Beneficial Bank downtown at 1101 SW Washington Street, selling floral arrangements, candles and other housewares.

Candles and flowers

Greg Khng Soliven, owner and creative director of Grate Company, and his husband Nate are running a Grate retail outlet in a former Beneficial Bank downtown at 1101 S.W. Washington St., selling floral arrangements, candles and other housewares. "Grate" comes from their combined names. Greg is also the event manager for the Society Hotel.

"We started online and some of our what we provide is more service-based, so wedding planning and stuff like that. We've done other small pop-ups before, but the location downtown is just really helpful. It helps us get the word out a little bit. This one's a little bit more substantial because we're here pretty much every day, whereas our other would just be like four hours on Sunday."

He said they did invest "a few thousand dollars" in building out the shop. But it's worth it, being near some restaurants and getting a lot of walk-ins. They make floral arrangements to order and go to the flower market on Swan Island. Eucalyptus is popular.

"We will be doing floral arranging and more fun, in-person activities like a wreath-making class."

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - R&Arie owner Reeba Daniel has a big vision for her first ever retail space for self-care and beauty products at 215 SW 1st Avenue. It is one of seven of this year's PDX Pop-Up Shops, subsidized by the Portland Business Alliance.

CBD in the Central Business District

R&Arie owner Reeba Daniel has a big vision for her first ever retail space for self-care and beauty products.

"Essentially, it's a self-care sanctuary, where we have a collaborative of small businesses. We have a small marketplace in the front that's growing, and we will also have workshops in self-care and how to build collaboratives and businesses ultimately," Daniel said.

The R&Arie store on Southwest First Avenue, alongside the MAX tracks, has two rooms behind the well-appointed showroom.

"One will be utilized as a holdover place where folks can sit and be socially distanced, read a book. There's a little child corner, as well. And then on the other side, there is a massage room, and someone will be doing lashes and so you can make it a night, really. Have a couple of your friends come out and get some services, buy some self-care products and support small businesses and networking. You never know who you can meet here."

Until now Daniel was solely an online retailer. "I make all of my products, even down to the labels. They are made in small batches, and I do not use any preservatives in my products. I'm also very much a cannabis advocate. And so I do have CBD isolate in many of my shea butter-infused products."

She has worked in retail management before, in a mall. "And I think what will ultimately be my success is that … I only have my products in there. But I've also collaborated with other businesses. We will have 'meet the maker' days where you can also be a part of art or create art." She sees shopping this year as good for mental health. "The holidays are also super special, but also we need a time of connecting, at a time when I feel we really need it the most."

She also sells chocolate, juices and locally-pressed oils with CBD in them. "It's really just like self-care."

Her goal is to make $1,000 a week. "I am a smaller business and going into my second year Dec. 2. And so I'm really looking for community to be involved in and rally around this space."

"We'll have a workshop, 'How do you get into retail?' All of those things that I struggled so hard to find the answers to, watching hours of YouTube or 60 hours of a week of networking, just to try to get the knowledge."

Daniel started her business the end of 2019. "I would say there were a few blessings that came out of the pandemic time, and one of them was the fact that people were more accessible. The folks that do have that knowledge or those connections, being willing to help small businesses so that they can be able to survive."

She says the move-out date is Jan. 5. "At that point I can negotiate for another retail space, which could very well be an option. There are a lot of us in the collaborative saying we are ready for a retail spot."

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Tabbisocks at  875 SW Yamhill Street (Park Avenue west tower) one of seven of this year's PDX Pop-Up Shops, subsidized by the Portland Business Alliance.

Joseph Gallivan
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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