Amazing Neighbors: Keeping up Hillsboro's cultural hub
Jaime Miranda's M&M Marketplace in Hillsboro has been a big part of the city's growing diversity over the past two decades.
First opened in 2000, M&M was envisioned as a space for burgeoning businesses and local artisans to sell their wares and grow their enterprises. To this day, it features dozens of local businesses, including food, clothing items, hair salons and many other kinds of services.
But that's not the only way that M&M functions as a multi-use business. It's also an incubator space for new entrepreneurs, as well as an event hall for cultural showcases.
Miranda says that M&M has essentially been a local business incubator for years, even though he wasn't aware of that term when he opened his business.
"Our concept was how can we help people learn about the needs of registering a business, getting all the information, the insurance and what all it means to start a business," Miranda said, "but also in a way where they don't have to use all of their savings."
Since then, it's become a crucial gathering space for new business owners to get educated on how they can start their businesses. M&M does that through partnerships with local nonprofits and businesses, which also provide economic development in Hillsboro and surrounding communities.
Miranda's market became the middleman for many, connecting locals with organizations like Mercy Corps, Adelante Mujeres and the Hillsboro-based Washington County Chamber of Commerce.
As with many other community gathering places, once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, M&M also transitioned to providing tests and vaccines, as well other information on other public health resources.
Because of these business partnerships, M&M Marketplace has become a center for cultural showcases and exchanges, culminating this year in the first-ever El Sol Festival. Held at M&M, it features new cultural highlights every Saturday.
While the mercado, located on the western flank of Hillsboro's "Latino business district," has primarily been a place for Latino events and businesses, Miranda says he always envisioned having a place for all kinds of cultures to mingle and trade their passions.
"A community is more healthy when we embrace diversity and we're all part of the community, so that's the kind of environment we've been working to create," he said.
The recurring El Sol Festival — so named for the idea that "the sun shines for everyone," as Miranda put it — is just a further solidification of M&M's status as a place that showcases the arts and celebrations that people bring from other cultures.
Past events have featured Andean music from Peru, dancers from India, bagpipe music from Scotland and Ireland, and many more. Future showcases will include Chinese dragon and lion dancers, Miranda said.
He and his family have also long organized back-to-school events, at which they hand out backpacks full of school supplies. Last year, they gave out close to 400, Miranda said.
There's also the annual Father's Day car show that's pretty popular, he noted.
M&M Marketplace is located at 346 S.W. Walnut St. in Hillsboro and is open Friday afternoons through Sunday evenings.
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