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New association promotes downtown awareness

With banners and maps, group aims to get word out about city's 'amazing' core
by: John Klicker, Pup Scrub owner David Jothen, left, and Cody Clark, owner of Cafe Delirium, stand beneath a new banner in historic downtown Gresham. The pair also are members of the Historic Downtown Gresham Business Association, a new group that formed to bring more visibility to the area.

Since forming in March of this year, the Historic Downtown Gresham Business Association has implemented changes with a modicum of talk and a lot of action.

Just how fast does this association get things done? So fast that sometimes even the association's leaders are surprised by the efficiency.

Here's an example:

Recently, co-president David Jothen, owner of Pup Scrub, mentions that the association is replacing the 100-year-birthday signs in downtown Gresham with 'Historic Downtown' banners.

A few days later, a reporter spies the banners and asks Jothen when they went up. He looks at the street in surprise.

'I didn't know they were up already,' he says.

Jothen pulls his presidential partner, Cody Clark, owner of Café Delirium, over to the table.

'Cody, did you know those were already up?' Jothen says pointing to the banner.

'Whoa! When did that happen?' Clark asks.

This is not to say that the association's leaders don't have it together. In fact, they are nothing if not organized.

In less than five months, these business owners have rallied their neighbors, gathered a coalition of 50 members and produced tangible results -

glossy walking maps, the historic downtown banners, partnerships with the other Gresham groups, a sidewalk sale, even clean-up crews to beautify the downtown core before major events like the Art Walk and the Jazz Festival, to name just a few.

'Cody and I started talking about this a while ago,' Jothen says. 'We got together with some other business owners and started talking about the benefits of having a group, of having businesses work together and pool funds.'

The association stresses cooperation, and Jothen says the group isn't competing with other downtown groups like the Gresham Downtown Development Association.

'Our goal isn't to compete with them, but to work together,' Jothen says.

Groups that impact the downtown area, such as the fund-raising force behind the Center for the Arts, are invited to speak at the association's monthly meetings; and the association works closely with the Greater Gresham Chamber of Commerce and the Gresham Downtown Development Association.

The group's main goals are to bring greater awareness to Gresham's historic downtown and to change the perception of what 'downtown' includes.

'We're trying to break the stereotype that downtown starts on Division and goes to Powell on Main Avenue,' Jothen says. 'The walking maps help with that.'

The group recently printed and distributed 5,000 full-color, glossy walking maps that include information for 147 downtown Gresham businesses.

For people who don't venture off Gresham's Main Avenue, the maps illustrate that the downtown core has expanded - with interesting boutiques and ethnic restaurants three or four blocks off the main drag.

'I was surprised by how many businesses we had on there,' Jothen says of the map. 'It's amazing, the dynamics of this area. Who would have thought that we could have a pet washing business do so well in downtown Gresham? Or a men's hair salon, for that matter? Jeff at the Mob Shop is doing great business. Who would have thought, even a few years ago, that these types of businesses would thrive in downtown Gresham?'

The association wants to make downtown Gresham stand out. Banners are only a small part of this branding effort.

Getting people familiar with downtown Gresham is only one part of the goal. Jothen would like to see street toppers marking Gresham's core as 'historic downtown,' and his group is putting walking maps into Gresham hotels as far away as Rockwood, as well as into Chamber of Commerce offices and tourist stops.

'I think we can learn a lot from what other areas have done - neighborhoods in Portland, for example - and get the word out that we have a really interesting mix of businesses down here … to let people know that downtown Gresham is an amazing area,' Jothen says.