Multnomah Village loses family-owned Indonesian import store
The closing of a Multnomah Village store in late May will be felt in September, 9,000 miles away in the small village of Apityeh in Bali, Indonesia.
Wayan Suarnawa, who owned and operated the Indonesian-imports shop Deysa at 7868 S.W. Capitol Highway with his wife and business partner Lisa Johnson until very recently, grew up in Apityeh. Since their retail business and Spicy Bambu clothing line have been in business, part of the profits have been shared with school children there.
The day before the store closed, Suarnawa said there were multiple reasons for shuttering the business.
"It was hard for us here," he said. "For a year and a half we have imported from Bali, Indonesia. I work with small families there and directly bought all my handcrafted goods from the artists who made them. I also help the children in my village in Bali, so whatever people buy here, the money ends up in my village in Bali."
Lisa Johnson met her husband in Bali when she was buying clothes for her retail space at Saturday Market. They married, moved to Portland, started a business and have three daughters: Sinta, who attends Jackson Middle School, and Santiana and Sarina, both students at Markham Elementary School.
Johnson says supporting the children in Apityeh was always part of the plan.
"Deysa means 'village' in Indonesian," she said. "We help the children go to school in Wayan's village. Every year we send over $30 per kid, at least 100 of them, so they can have a full uniform, school shoes, supplies, books and backpacks on the first day of school."
The store on the corner of Southwest 36th and Capitol Highway has now closed but the village-to-village connection will continue.
"It's not going to end," Johnson said. "It's about changing things up a little. Getting back to what the mission is: to support the kids in the village. We're just a family with a mission."
Johnson says closing the store was due to a variety of "lessons learned," "hiccups" and the realities of retail.
In early 2018, the couple moved their retail operation from Saturday Market's Newmarket Theater to Multnomah Village.
In September their first year, a shipping container from Bali carrying handmade merchandise was held up in China for two months, which hurt business.
"That was during the start of a lot of transition in the Village," Johnson recalled.
Several other small businesses in Multnomah Village have closed since Deysa opened and that's been a problem.
"When the businesses in the building across the street went out (Jules of Morocco and Jones and Jones Jewelers), people would walk just past the book store and say 'Oh there's nothing down there,'" she said. "In February, when snow hit, we knew we had to shake it up. Then we found out about the Capitol Highway changes."
The day after Deysa closed for good Granite Construction crews tore up and replaced the sidewalk in front of the store as part of the Capitol Highway Repaving Project now underway.
"The last three weeks before we closed were great," said Johnson. "We sold out most of our stuff and had so many well wishers came by that I felt really successful after that."
Handmade Indonesian clothes from Johnson's Spicy Bambu line can be purchased off the rack in front of the Prosperity Pie Shoppe at 7814 S.W. Capitol Highway.
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