It’s no secret that Portland loves to go local. It’s a part of the Portland “brand,” yet the convenience of buying from big box and online corporations from one’s own home keeps many from staying loyal to the stores just around the block.
In 2008 alone, there were 62,633 businesses with fewer than 100 employees according to the Portland Business Journal.
Ten years later, 98% of Portland’s 19,200 neighborhood businesses have 5 or fewer employees and provide more than 270,000 jobs in total. According to Venture Portland, they contribute more than $100 million in taxes annually, which helps fund essential city services like firefighters and parks.
Drea Johnson, owner of Hidden Opulence Designs, tailors a pair of jeans inside of Artifact Creative Recycle. Photo by Amelia Schley
We’ve come far! But are Portlandians practicing what we’re preaching? Is Portland truly a small business town?
Our President, Deborah, took to the streets to ask other Portland workers and business owners:
Our co-owner and president, Deborah!
“Do you think that Portland is a small business town?”
“Absolutely, I have lived in 12 different cities and Portland is the city that tops the charts in this area. Portland is made up of really creative people who want to create their own livelihood and work for themselves. People find their thing and “geek” on it. There are many examples of this, where the business just focuses on one or two items and find out everything about it!”
Mike Hager — worker at Beneficial State Bank(s).
“Yes, my restaurants are in the inner city neighborhood business districts and everywhere I look I see small businesses like print shops, barber shops, restaurants, clothing boutiques and on and on. But you get outside of Portland and you start to see more and more chain stores. I feel that people really want to support small businesses in this city. And I think the value of being able to walk to shopping and dining is very big with Portlanders!”
Javier — Owner, Cha Cha Cha
“There’s so many layers! It’s hard when you’re struggling to stay in business yourself. Let alone gentrification that makes it hard to just exist.
“I enjoy that [small business] is the culture, but with that I feel like some companies relocated here to feed into small business market without giving back to the community. Sometimes I worry about my own access to support other small businesses. I can’t necessarily always afford supporting only small businesses – I hope it doesn’t stay this way – so I end up having to pick and choose the ways I support them, i.e. buying local self care items, ordering office supplies online or buying second hand clothing instead of purchasing from local designer.
Drea Johnson, owner of Hidden Opulence, helps a happy client bring an older garment back to life. Photo by Amelia Schley
“Yes, because Portland has all the wonderful business districts it promotes supporting the neighborhood businesses which are mostly all small local businesses.”
Mari Trevillyan — Trainer, The Refinery
“Yes, 14 years ago when we opened Green Dog we were amazed how many people came into the store, welcomed us to the neighborhood, and expressed how glad they were that there was a small local pet store. From that day on we have been supported by the people who live in the neighborhood.
I think the size and the makeup of the people make Portland a small business town. Portland feels more like a small town (but it is growing) and people who live here like that feeling of knowing your neighbors and business owners which is one of the reasons people shop locally. Customers are loyal!”
Christine — Co-owner, Green Dog
Do you think Portland lives up to its name as a small business town? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments.