13
Nov
08

We are in the paper TODAY!

Lower Fremont

raising its profile

by J. David Santen, Special to The Oregonian

Thursday November 13, 2008, 3:00 AM

A sleepy row of nine storefronts on Northeast Fremont Street between 13th and 14th avenues needed some exposure. The shops/eateries are a short distance from better-known hubs such as Alberta, Beaumont Village and Mississippi. A Whole Foods/Starbucks center is just a block away.

So Kjell van Zoen, a self-described “frugal entrepreneur” and co-owner of artists’ shop Splurge, gathered the other owners to hash out low-cost ideas.

They came up with a moniker, Lower Fremont, and van Zoen built a Web site, www.lowerfremont.com. Then they came up with an event: 2nd Friday.

Now the block is among business districts throughout the city β€” from Mississippi to Multnomah Village β€” with a monthly event that offers late hours, street vendors, giveaways and performances. The goal is to draw regular and new customers, and generate buzz.

Such efforts are labor-intensive but generally effective, says Jon Turino, executive director for the Alliance of Portland Neighborhood Business Associations, which provides grants, education and training to 35 associations.

“They provide local products and services that folks can get to without getting in the car,” Turino says. Neighborhood districts also contain the vast majority of the city’s 25,000 to 44,000 small to midsize businesses, he says.

Rachelle Markley, co-coordinator of the Hollywood District’s Third Thursday event that runs spring to fall, has seen crowds increase and new faces become regulars at her Second Glance Books shop.

“The point is not to make money on Third Thursday but to let people know what’s here and then to have them come back,” she says.

On Lower Fremont, business owners launched 2nd Friday in August.

At October’s event, neighbors, families and curious shoppers from Whole Foods chat with vendors and wander in and out of the stores. Diners (and drinkers) pack County Cork, an Irish pub, and La Bodega, a beer and wine shop. New Orleans bistro Acadia also does steady business.

Lower Fremont

December event: An expanded, holiday-themed event will be 4 to 9 p.m. Dec. 12 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 13 with vendors, musicians, Christmas trees, outdoor heat lamps and sales.

Learn more: www.lowerfremont.com; Alliance of Portland Neighborhood Business Associations, www.apnba.com

“I love this neighborhood,” says Pepe Moscoso, 32, who’s one of a dozen or so vendors and is doing solid business with photo collages.

Sofia owner Michaela Hashitani, who opened her clothing shop almost three years ago, says the event has helped connect the owners, many relatively new to the street. And customers get to meet artists behind work at Sofia and Splurge. On this night, jewelry maker Kristin Gross keeps Hashitani company.

“I live two blocks away β€” I never get down here,” says Maina Ptolemy as she walks into Hashitani’s store. Her granddaughter, Paige Nelson, 8, wins a small door prize.

They’re just the customers Lower Fremont caters to: neighbors and families willing to shop locally but who may not be aware of “what’s lurking behind the trees,” says Poppy & Ivy’s Amy Hollands, who moved her home-and-gift boutique from the Alberta area in January. Business owners say they saw an uptick in customers on the days after 2nd Friday, too.

October’s 2nd Friday was the last regular event for the year; it will resume in the spring. Van Zoen, 31, plans a two-day, holiday-themed event in December.

The events take work. Markley, who has helped run Hollywood’s Third Thursday since it began in 2006, says networking, e-mails, phone calls, handing out fliers and other logistics constitute “another part-time job.”

Still, she says the long hours are worthwhile: “It helps keep money in the neighborhood” and strengthens relationships among business owners.

Zoen agrees. “A lot I do as a small-business owner doesn’t come back directly to me.”

J. David Santen Jr.

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