Relocation is much on my mind,
having recently moved my business to a new location.
For my business, the move was due to a rare opportunity: an owner-carried contract at a reasonable price to purchase a live/work space in north Portland. As a long-term renter in a rapidly expensifying neighborhood, I had for nearly nine years adapted to rent hikes that were increasing in rate and frequency
In 2017, for example, my landlord had raised the rent by 20% at the first of the year, and had projected to raise it by another 25% by the end of 2017. That is a 45% rent increase in one year.
Previously, my rent had been fair and affordable for me as a small business owner. The landlord’s choice to bring fair rent up to market rate was becoming a big obstacle to me, and my time in that space was growing short. At present, the space we had occupied for nearly seven years and built into a recognized and well-cared for business location rents for more than double my last rent there.
Had the rents been this high just nine years ago when I founded my business, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. My shoe repair shop started on a shoestring (literally) with a basic set of equipment and $250 monthly rent for a tiny workshop in a renovated gas station in north Portland.
My questions here on the theme of Relocation are about small business survival.
How do we get into locations we can afford? How are we building our businesses and establishing customer trust within a framework of market rate exorbitant rents? How many small businesses are housed in buildings they own? How can we gain more footing in this area of owning instead of renting? How do we build, serve, and maintain our customer bases amid so much transition? How do Portland small businesses keep up with Portland?
My many questions are open-ended. Daily, my time goes toward fixing the shoes and re-establishing my shop in its new home.
Julie DerekJds Shoe Repair
But I want some things to be different here in this city I claim as my home. I appreciate and respect my monied customers as much as my impoverished customers. We all wear shoes; shoe repair has always seemed to me like a great equalizing trade in that sense. Who do small businesses cater to in order to survive and thrive? I have to be careful in my strategic plans to include my entire base, yet the pressure is high to make money as our city becomes a more and more expensive place to do business.
When I return to my shop’s last neighborhood, my thoughts go from Relocation to Dislocation. I am fortunate to have been able to relocate by choice before having to move because of economic pressures.
This is just one more take on the subject of Portland’s rapid growth and class division. I offer it as a way to think about it from a working class, small business owner’s perspective.