by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: BEVERLY CORBELL - Dina DiNucci, owner of Park Place Coffee, recently closed the doors to the cafe.When Dina DiNucci closed the doors of Park Place Coffee on Feb. 15, the Rockwood neighborhood lost more than a business. It lost a place where people met and socialized, a rarity in the spread-out community that was annexed to Gresham back in the 1970s.

When DiNucci moved to the Rockwood neighborhood in 1999, she was a single mom buying her first house, an affordable place to raise her three children. She soon learned that Rockwood had a bad reputation as being crime-ridden along with other negative stereotypes attributed to it.

But DiNucci didn't find that to be true.

Her neighborhood was safe and her neighbors were helpful and friendly. So she decided to do something about Rockwood's negative stereotypes and she went full bore.

First, she wrote letters to the editor of local papers. Then she wrote an editorial about the positive aspects of Rockwood, which led to her co-founding and, for six years, chairing the Rockwood Business Coalition and the Neighborhood Restoration Subcommittee for Rockwood Weed and Seed.

She was vice president of the Centennial Neighborhood Association and managed the campaign for the Rockwood-West Gresham Urban Renewal Plan, adopted in 2003.

In 2008, she received the Golden Note Award from the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce.

So in 2007, DiNucci quit her job and opened Park Place Coffee, which soon became a gathering place for all kinds of folks, from church and youth groups, open mic nights to individuals looking for a place with a sense of community.

As Steve S. from Portland wrote about the shop on, “But what I really like about this place is that instant feeling that you've come home. The back area is perfect for a community or business meeting and yes, they have wifi. The owner is a true owner manager, there most of the hours, chatting away with customers. You can feel her enthusiasm for life and the neighborhood. Not many people would try to have a business in the Rockwood area which often gets a bad rap.”

The coffee shop also became a gathering place for disc golfers from nearby Vance Park, DiNucci said, and she's sad that she had to close. She said she simply can't afford to keep it going.

“It's not just sad for regular customers, it's the people who need the cafe,” she said. “Organizations that met here have no place else to go. It's comfortable and friendly.”

DiNucci has been involved in building her community while trying to keep her coffee and crepe shop going, but she said it didn't have enough support from the community that she was trying to help.

“I have no doubt that Park Place Coffee made a difference, but there has to be community support for business and the neighborhood," she said. "It was more than customers and it was more than a coffee shop.”

Multiple organizations met at Park Place Coffee, DiNucci said, and she would often interrupt their meetings to introduce groups to each other, resulting in “friendships formed and connections made."

Now that the shop is closed, DiNucci worries that there is nothing to take its place, and Rockwood needs a gathering place.

“In downtown Gresham there's a sense of community,” she said. “But Rockwood is not a walking community. It's not a business-next-to-business community. I wanted to have a place in Rockwood, for the community, to show that Rockwood is not a scary place.”

Gresham City Councilor Lori Stegman, a resident of Rockwood, agrees with DiNucci, and said she is sad the shop is closed.

"It will definitely be missed and will leave a void," she said.

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