This week, in gentrification:
BROOKS BROTHERS: Too chi-chi to have people buying cigarettes opposite?
Downtown retailer Doug Peterson has owned his store on SW 10th and Morrison for 23 years. “I’m a downtown booster, I always have been,” he says. “I opened that store when the MAX was under construction and there were jackhammers all over the place. I saw the future for downtown Portland, and took advantage of it. “
Now, with the arrival of a Brooks Brothers store directly opposite, it appears Peterson’s welcome with the downtown business community and in turn, the city of Portland, which owns his store’s building, has worn out. He has until August 15th to get out.
Peterson owns three stores in downtown Portland, making $2.87m a year in sales. The Morrison Street store, which is his flagship store, makes annual sales of $1.4m.
“I’m really very upset about this,” he says. “I haven’t really told my employees yet, I’ve been hoping I could do something quietly behind the scenes without attracting too much attention.”
The arrival of the Brooks Brothers store in the Galleria building opposite was greeted with glee by Portland Business Alliance boss Sandra McDonogh when she announced it to City Club in May, 2007. Brooks Brothers would have a “galvanizing and important effect on the West End of Downtown,” she said. Yet that’s not how Peterson sees it, and the city, which has been charging Peterson $2935 a month to rent the space, says the store is now a problem location. Read the full story after the jump.
"Over the years, as you know, we have received, and observed, incidents that are objected to by other businesses in the immediate area, and that are offensive to users of the parking garage, and to passers-by," wrote Diana Lee Holuka, the city of Portland's property acquisition & services manager, in Peterson's eviction letter, dated April 9. "A recent escalation in complaints to us has led to this final decision regarding your tenancy," the letter continued. Download a scan of that letter here.
Peterson says his business is no different from Rite Aid, Nordstrom, or Pioneer Square, and thinks it's unfair that he's being targeted as a result of "gentrification." "It's difficult for me to patrol the sidewalks in front of my business," he continues. "As far as the behavior and appearance of my patrons, there's some civil rights issues there that I'd be stepping on."
Peterson points out that he has signed a good neighbor agreement with the city. "I don't sell cheap alcohol," he says. "No 40ozs or fortified wines, and I don't sell Steel Reserve or Old English 800. We have age restriction equipment on our cash registers and check ID very carefully, we don't have any OLCC programs there."
It's also been rumored at the city's monthly Public Safety Action Committee meetings that Peterson's sells single cigarettes, which is not true. This journalist knows because he was dying for a smoke a few weeks ago and went in on the basis of having heard the rumor.
"I've heard rumors all this is coming from Brooks Brothers," Peterson continues. "But my manager down there indicates that Brooks Brothers' employees are some of my best customers. So it must be coming from higher up."
Peterson has written letters to all the city commissioners, and has been trying to gain the support of Mike Kuykendall of the PBA in his fight against eviction. You can read his letter to Dan Saltzman, and to Kuykendall, by clicking on their names.
But his complaints have fallen on deaf ears.
"Maybe he should have worked with his retail neighbors and cleaned up the neighborhood when he had the opporunity," says Megan Doern, a spokeswoman for the PBA. "It's not the first time he's been contacted about his store."
Doern adds that the forces behind Peterson's eviction are "not just Brooks Brothers," but "the entire downtown retail council," along with the Mayor's office.
"It's not about Brooks Brothers," she continues. "It's about the type of clients he has continued to attract and serve, and not work with the Portland Police Bureau to report the problems, and everything else that happens when there's something wrong with the store."
The mayor's office is yet to return a call for comment. Peterson says he now plans to send out a memo to the nine staff he'll have to fire when the store closes.