Are smashed windows effective protests? Businesses weigh in
When a breakaway group of Black Bloc left the abortion rights demonstration in downtown Portland on May 3, they may have officially opened Portland's summer vandalism season. They broke two windows in the large Starbucks in the PacWest Center behind City Hall, and all the windows in the Porter Hotel's coffee shop, called The Portland Exchange, at Southwest Second Avenue and Jefferson Street.
Most of the graffiti that night related to Justice Samuel Alito's leaked opinion favoring the overturn of Roe v Wade and restricting abortion rights, but glass breaking was less specific. Were the perpetrators trying to smash capitalism, the patriarchy or something else?
Pamplin Media Group talked to some other business owners in that part of town, within a few blocks of the Justice Center, about how it affects business.
Jamey Taylor owns the Great Harvest PDX Bread Co. at Southwest Second Avenue and Yamhill Street.
"I've been very fortunate, like I'm in a little bubble," Taylor said. "I've only had my windows broken twice, and they were both by homeless people."
She says maybe her windows have survived in the riot hot zone because her baker starts after midnight so there is always activity in the store overnight. "People all around me had their windows broken, and I'll be OK."
Taylor didn't repair one large window for six months because it was too costly. Instead, she kept it boarded up, unsure whether to risk it again. She had to pay the deductible on her insurance, which was $2,000.
"Everybody's feeling very alone down here. Until about two months ago, there were a lot of boards up here. They started pulling them down when the mask mandate (ended)."
Asked what she can do if her bakery windows get hit, Taylor replied, "What can you do? It's very costly to board up. They charged me $800 for the board for the one window." As for preemptively boarding the whole store, Taylor said, "I wouldn't even bother, because I'm just a small, small business."
Peter Banks has been an employee for four years of the branch of Kure Juice Bar at 518 S.W. Taylor St. It's a hole-in-the wall between big hotels and parking structures downtown and relies on office workers and tourists for business. "We've noticed all the destruction or vandalism to all the other businesses around here, but luckily, I don't know what it is, but for some reason we just weren't ever hit. That's been helpful with money. We've just been lucky."
Banks wasn't aware of the recent smashed windows at Starbucks and the Portland Exchange, nor of a plan by management in case it happens to them.
"All of our shops have been pretty much spared from that. So, we were lucky." This Kure closes at 5 o'clock and has a sign saying the store is totally cashless. "Nobody's really stealing, you know, peanuts or granola or anything," Banks said.
In the strip along Second Avenue where riots have been for centered for years, with dumpsters and newspaper boxes often set on fire and corporate stores attacked, some new businesses are still moving in. Named for a pun on J.R.R. Tolkien's tree-giant character in "The Lord of the Rings", Treebeerd's Taphouse is a family-run business that started in Corvallis and just opened its second branch at 822 S.W. Second Ave. It opened in April and is co-owned and run by Hanna Reidel.
"We are new to the area, and our landlord is really involved in the city," Reidel said referring to building management company Melvin Mark.
"They're really good about giving us that heads-up if they have any inkling of activity in the area," Reidel said. "If I ever know of anything planning to go down, we just plan to be closed and keep all of our employees and our guests safe." She added that the fear is minor. "We're not necessarily worried about any of these things, because we're excited to be here. And we feel the revitalization happening; life is coming back into downtown."
Week by week, Reidel says the streets are getting busier as office workers return and tourism inches up. But there's no doubt that evenings are still dead downtown compared to prepandemic.
The pub is more for a happy hour crowd right now and closes at 9 p.m. which she says may mean it misses some of the late-night fights.
"Obviously, things have happened on our block within the last year, with Prada, Bank of America or Nordstrom Rack. I think of us being a family business, we're not a target to most people. They're looking for those kinds of more corporate chain places. I've never felt unsafe."
Reidel takes comfort in the fact that neighbors, such as Fuel Yoga Workouts and 40 Lbs. Coffee, are still there. "We're in a building full of other family businesses who have been here for quite awhile, and they've survived through the last several crazy years. And that gives us a lot of confidence to feel taken care of and feel safer."
Reidel added, "Being a small business, it would be pretty devastating to have something like this (window breaking) happen, but we just have to hope for the best and support our community as much as we can, so that we can kind of move past all of this."
The print shop Minuteman Press is across the street from the PDX Exchange, which got hit the hardest. Owner Josh Gardner said he bought the business in June 2021 and is turning it around, but fears a sudden expense like window replacement. He didn't find out about last week's attack at the Porter Hotel until the next day when he saw the plywood.
Preventive boarding up isn't possible because of the price and because Gardner needs the light. "Plywood is super expensive, probably 80 bucks a sheet. Maybe I'd need four or five, six sheets. And then I'd have to get somebody put it up."
If Minuteman Press got a window broken, Gardner said, "Unfortunately, I would have to pay for that. If it was high enough, then I would just pay the deductible for my insurance to pay for it." He estimates the deductible is "a couple of thousand dollars. But then my rates would go up. So, either way it would take a lot out of my pocket."
Gardner said it affects the mood downtown.
"We thought a lot of this stuff was behind us. People are coming back downtown, and the mood's been changing, like maybe Portland isn't such a crazy place after all? But now I see some fresh graffiti, and it doesn't paint a great picture for the city, which is a great city. I love it, I was born here. It's just a bummer; these guys come in, smash things and put graffiti all over the place. I don't think it helps anyone. I don't think it helps them either."
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