Old meets new: St. Johns likes ‘small town’ feel

Growth providing boost to longtime businesses

The Man's Shop in the St. Johns area of Portland, Sept. 25, 2015 (KOIN)
The Man's Shop in the St. Johns area of Portland, Sept. 25, 2015 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For 75 years, The Man’s Shop has been right in the middle of the St. Johns business area and has seen a lot of change over the decades.

But owners say the one thing that keeps drawing people into the neighborhood is “the small town atmosphere,” said Jerry Leveton, the owner of The Man’s Shop.

It wasn’t hard to see that atmosphere on Friday. When Roosevelt High School’s homecoming parade marched down Lombard, business owners stepped out to wave and watch.

The Man's Shop in the St. Johns area of Portland, Sept. 25, 2015 (KOIN)
The Man’s Shop in the St. Johns area of Portland, Sept. 25, 2015 (KOIN)

“It’s critical that we hold onto that (small town feel), and how you do it is a challenging question,” said Lindsay Jensen, the executive director of St. Johns Main Street.

New development is in the area. An apartment complex is slated to go in, townhomes are coming and more apartments are planned.

With them come concerns about parking, rising rents and rising property taxes.

Jensen said they hear about these struggles from residents “constantly, daily.”

But the growth is also providing a boost to long time businesses like The Man’s Shop.

“The amount of customers new in the last 2 to 3 years is just tremendous,” Leveton told KOIN 6 News. “It’s really helped us keep going.”

At the other end of the spectrum is a new business called Therapy. They’ve only been open for 6 weeks, and it’s the owners’ first store outside the San Francisco Bay Area. They came here because of the neighborhood and the city.

Therapy’s Brittney Nicolulis said they’ve been “getting a lot of good feedback and positivity.”

The change is happening. No need to look far for proof. The question is if the history in St. Johns can coexist with the change.

“It’s a small town community, which is wonderful and a lot of people like to keep it that way,” Leveton said, “which is going to be difficutl to do.”

Jensen said it is a “crucial time for people to just get involved” and advocate for affordable housing because of the concerns about businesses and residents being priced out of the neighborhood.

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