Forest Grove businesses adapting and overcoming
Despite difficulties stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, all is not lost as Forest Grove businesses continue to adapt and overcome.
No one said it was going to be easy. Limited occupancy, strict protocols, closures in some cases, and numerous other complications have put local area businesses in tough positions for the better part of 2020. But while in some ways playing against a stacked deck, there's no quit in this local business community.
Existing businesses have moved, others have or are starting from scratch, but all are fighting — and that says a lot.
Among those who've moved is Urban Decanter. The wine bar and wood-fired oven bistro has been serving Forest Grove since 2007, but until recently did so in a smaller, less functional location.
In early September, the Main Street mainstay moved a stone's throw away, to the corner of Main Street and Pacific Avenue. Urban Decanter owner Jill Craig said they did so to better serve their customers by providing a more expansive atmosphere, along with a more extensive menu including woodfired pizza thanks to a full-service kitchen — something they didn't have at the previous location.
"We were pretty limited, with only a convection oven and Panini grill, so we didn't have access to the degree of food that we can do now" Craig said. "I think adding the woodfired oven intrigues a lot of people, and in turn that's made our food options grow."
The eatery's new menu goes far beyond Paninis and simple appetizers, offering — in addition to woodfired pizza — spaghetti, caponata, homemade soups and salads, and Piadinas, rustic Italian flatbread sandwiches which Craig said offer a thin crust, "super fresh ingredients," Italian prosciutto, and Italian meats with fresh mozzarella.
"It's something nice and something different," she added. "There are so many Paninis around, this is just a little bit of a different take."
Craig said the new location and menu coupled with their extensive offering of wines, craft beers and cocktails, has continued to please their loyal following, while opening the door to new customers who weren't privy to what the local eatery did prior and now has to offer.
"People are really happy," Craig said. "We've always had our loyal customers, but with this new location and expanded menu, we have a little bit more exposure and people are curious to come in. And they are."
Coincidently, directly across Main Street from the Urban Decanter is another recently transplanted business, Guidetti's Kitchen.
Owner and operator, MJ Guidetti-Clapshaw, started her business roughly two years ago. Guidetti's Kitchen initially offered cooking and pasta making classes, but has since built the business around both in-store and online sales of various kitchen supplies consisting of aprons, oven mitts, dish towels, napkins, place mats, etc. In addition, cooking supplies and Italian imported foods, balsamic vinegars, pastas, pesto's, olive oils, and more, all of which can be packaged in a nice wooden box and shipped as a gift or purchased in the store.
Guidetti-Clapshaw said the pivot was necessary with the onset of COVID to combat the concerns as a result of the pandemic. While cooking is where her heart was and still remains, she said she's come to appreciate the nuances of the new aspects of the business.
"I like the creativity of it," she said regarding the gift boxes. "You can order the gift boxes that are already set to go, but you can also come in and you can make the gift box yourself, or we can help you with it."
That's not to say she doesn't miss the cooking. Growing up in and around a big family (she was the youngest of six kids) Guidetti-Clapshaw grew up around food, with big gardens, and learning to cook from a family that did a lot of it. Before the pandemic, she'd built relationships with different wineries and had classes lined up through the summer, but with times forcing her in another direction, she's come to appreciate what she gained opposed to what she may have lost.
"It's not great, but you have to just try to move forward."
Forward in this case was a few blocks west from its previous location, and now in her new spot, with her evolving business, she's making the most of Guidetti's Kitchen's new home.
"I'm really happy to be in this area with other businesses," Guidetti-Clapshaw said. "It's nice to have other businesses around and hopefully we can just all encourage each other."
Unlike Urban Decanter and Guidetti's Kitchen, Zesti Food Carts is putting up shop outside the downtown area, located on Yew Street north of Highway 8 and behind Sunset Auto Parts.
Zesti is not just another food cart station, but rather a place designed to accommodate food lovers, space for family, adults, and even your pets. Sitting on a 1.5 acre lot, the expansive park-like environment will offer a 6,700 square foot covered dining area, a handful of tents, along with a nicely landscaped setting for people to fully enjoy their eating experience.
Owner, Kourosh Pournaderi, who also owns and operates Garden Frog Nursery in Hillsboro, envisioned Zesti Food Carts as a place not only to purchase quality food, but also enjoy that food in a friendly and tranquil environment.
"I thought, why not create a place that would be a fun, park-like setting that people like to hangout and have good food," Pournaderi said.
Zesti, while still under construction, currently has two carts operating from the grounds, but upon completion Pournaderi expects eight carts in total. He said they'll offer foods including but not limited to Greek, Philly Cheesesteaks, Turkish, Thai, Korean, bubble tea, and of course good ol' fashioned burgers.
Pournaderi said many of the carts will be in place towards the end of November, but most to all by Dec. 1, mostly dependent on the cart completion and/or meeting the necessary standards.
"Most of these are brand new carts and they're still being built," he said. "So it all depends on the builder and the Washington County inspection to give us a thumbs up."
Zesti Food Carts will be open seven days a week, and times will range from 7:30 a.m. to roughly 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. dependent on the day. Pournaderi said they'll be specific areas for children, adult-only spots, and even a place for pets if patrons are so inclined. He's excited for the site's completion and hopes to provide the people of the Forest Grove area a quality and peaceful dining option for years to come.
"That's the whole idea," Pournaderi said. "I want this to be a beautifully landscaped area with different, but all very nice sitting and eating options. I think it's going to be pretty exciting."
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