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Women at helm of new Division retail cluster

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Small, local shops open in burgeoning Southeast district


Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - From left, Fieldwork Flowers Megan Arambul and Annie Sanditen and Nationale art gallerys May Barruel and Gabi Lewton-Leopold talk about opening their new spaces on Southeast Division Street.Have you noticed the flowers at Pok Pok?

Or at Ava Gene’s, the Woodsman Tavern, Stumptown Coffee or the Ace Hotel?

Chances are, you don’t recall the flowers specifically, but they did add to the unique aesthetic of the place, the fresh feel, the design that helped to brand it as — well, Portland.

The floral company that equips many of the Rose City’s high-profile restaurants and events is Fieldwork Flowers, a 4-year-old business that will open its second location this month on Southeast Division Street.

The food-centric heart of Division, between 30th and 34th avenues, “is the absolute most exciting neighborhood in Portland,” says Annie Sanditen, co-owner of Fieldwork, one of four businesses to open in a new LEED platinum building at 33rd and Division.

With the heavy scent of waffle cones and baking bread in the air from Salt & Straw and St. Honoré Boulangerie across the street, right alongside Roman Candle Baking Co. and Ava Gene’s, the spot may be one of the most coveted in the city for any retail space.

Visitors coming for the food also will have somewhere to shop and pass the time while they enjoy their cone or wait for a table to free up.

By coincidence, the three businesses moving into the ground floor of the four-story mixed-use building are women-owned (a fourth will be secured in upcoming weeks). For all three, Division will be their second location.

The others are Nationale art gallery, at 811 E. Burnside St., and Adorn boutique, at 4120 N.E. Fremont St.

The stores will have rolling grand openings this month.

“When I started talking to them, they all knew each other personally or professionally,” says Neeley Wells, community outreach coordinator for Urban Development + Partners, which has three mixed-use developments on Division. “I was able to curate this amazing group. I’m really excited, as a resident of Southeast Portland.”

As neighbors know, this section of Division has come a long way in the past year. Construction crews have been a constant presence, but that’s about to wrap up this fall as each of the new buildings near completion, just in time for the holidays.

Just to the west of the Fieldwork/Adorn/Nationale building, which doesn’t have an official name yet, a Pilates studio called Studio Blue opened Sept. 1 in the ground floor of another UD+P apartment building.

A bamboo-filled courtyard on the ground floor makes for a quiet gathering space away from the foot traffic and street. A residential realty company also will move in.

Years ago, the building was a gas station that evolved into Village Merchants, a resale shop that was torn down and relocated to 40th and Division.

UD+P did some environmental cleanup and built the new site intending to fill it with small, local businesses, Wells says.

“We really lead 15-minute neighborhood lives ourselves,” she says. “We believe in the lifestyle, the business model. We believe our tenants will be best when they’re beholden to the businesses around them.”

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Fieldwork Flowers Megan Arambul chats with Nationales Gabi Lewton-Leopold in the flower shops new spot. Along with Adorn boutique, the three businesses will hold grand openings this month. The third UD+P mixed-use building, two blocks west at 31st and Division, was rehabbed in 2010 and is known as the Reliable Building, since it used to be Reliable Auto Parts. Now it houses Sunshine Tavern and Block + Tackle, as well as other businesses.

The retail scene is growing bit by bit. At 32nd and Division, across from Pok Pok, hair-removal salon Sugar Me Portland and Little Otsu, an independent publisher and paper goods store, are set to move in.

A cluster of women-owned businesses is nothing new in Portland. There’s one on East Burnside, where Nationale is currently located, next to Haunt, Stand Up Comedy, Bombshell Vintage, Summerland, Redux, Adams and Ollman, and the now-closed Sword and Fern.

The shared identity at Division is another layer of consciousness in a city with so many unique neighborhood business offerings, says Nationale owner May Barruel.

Nicole Whitesell, owner of Adorn, says that after six years at a neighborhood-based location, she’s excited to expand with a second shop on Division, for a different clientele.

“We love what we have on (Northeast) Fremont but we also know there’s a benefit to having foot traffic and tourists,” Whitsell says, “and not having to be the destination, but be part of an area that is a destination.”

Whitesell says it’s exhilarating to be part of something that’s still evolving; she’s been able to fund the expansion by being creative with her business and staffing.

Her husband built all of the tables, shelves, counters and racks in the first store as well as the second. They spray-painted Ikea light fixtures, poured their own concrete and made an L-shaped bar in the back of the Division shop that will double as work space for their four e-commerce staff and a bar during special events.

“I feel like we’ve been creative from Day One,” she says. “I think that’s how you afford to do stuff.”

Next month, Nov. 20, shops along Division will join together for a neighborhood party in honor of Beaujolais Nouveau, the French tradition that celebrates the first wine made from the annual Gamay grape harvest.

It’s set for 5 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 on the day, available at the eight locations. Visit www.NouveauPDX.com for more.