A lot of its former customers would probably agree with former employee Joshua Stephens' observation that when Limbo - the produce and herb shop next to Trader Joe's, on S.E. Cesar Chavez Boulevard (S.E. 39th) near Holgate - closed, 'it left a huge gap'.
And most may be pleased to learn that a new herb and spice store is now open for business just blocks away, at 3844 S.E. Gladstone Street.
Called 'Stone Cottage Herbs', the shop carries spices, teas, herbs, seaweeds, soap, raw honey, 'Bob's Flour Mill' products, 'Cellar Door Coffee', and fresh pastries and bread from Pearl Bakery.
'I just knew I had to open this store,' smiled Joshua Stephens. 'It was my calling.'
Over the 10 years Stephens had worked for Limbo, he got to know a lot of customers, many of whom bought herbs for alternative medicinal treatments.
'At Limbo I met thousands of people who needed medicinal herbs to survive,' Stephens observed. 'Now, we're offering a larger variety here than Limbo carried.'
While Limbo focused on fresh fruit and vegetables, and sold herbs as a sideline, Stone Cottage Herbs is featuring teas, herbs, and spices as its primary products, though Stephens anticipates eventually also offering fresh produce and artisan cheeses. 'We are working with farmers to get in a small variety of local produce,' he said. 'But only just enough to cater to the neighborhood.'
Running his own retail store has been a lifelong dream of Stephens, who, at age 13, began helping out at his mother's deli in Vermont. Later on, he worked there full time, right up until 2000, when his mother closed the deli. That year, Stephens took a train across country and arrived in Portland.
From the train station he took a bus to the apartment he had rented in advance near S.E. Cesar Chavez Boulevard (39th). When the bus dropped him off at the Long Street stop, Stephens noticed a help-wanted sign nearby in Limbo's window. 'I had my suitcase in my hand and I went in, got hired, and started two hours later,' Stephens recalled.
This summer, after Limbo closed, Stephens did some research and found a Eugene company that sells organic and wild-harvested herbs, called 'Mountain Rose', whose products he now sells, along with those of other specialty businesses, including locally-made Camamu Soap.
Residing in Happy Valley, Stephens knew he wanted to open his shop close to where Limbo had been. So when he saw the for-lease sign in the window of the newly-renovated vintage storefront on the corner of S.E. Gladstone Street, he called the number. Stone Cottage Herbs is now located in that building, between a recently-opened art gallery and record store.
'I have a fantastic landlord,' Stephens exclaimed. 'And, in the last six months, this corner has changed dramatically. The foot traffic is just unbelievable.'
For Stephens, Stone Cottage Herbs is a dream come true. And it could make a lot of other people happy, too.