How One Portland C-store Owner Is Fighting Eviction

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How One Portland C-store Owner Is Fighting Eviction

By Danielle Romano, Convenience Store News - 08/14/2017

PORTLAND, Ore. — Peterson's Grocery and Convenience Store is on the brink of losing its lease from a city it's been serving for more than 30 years.

"In a nutshell, Peterson's is in danger of losing its lease because Prosper Portland (formerly Portland Development Commission) is once again using gentrification techniques to decide who gets to stay and who has to go according to their Resolution No. 7240 and their new sub-leasing guidelines," the "Save Peterson's" website reads.

Located in the heart of downtown Portland at 922 Southwest Morrison St., Peterson's is the first of four convenience stores owned by Doug Peterson, all of which run under the same banner. This particular location opened in December 1984 after Peterson put in 24 years with superstore chain Fred Meyer.

"Large retail chains are a young person's game," he told Convenience Store News.

At 2,000 square feet, Peterson's sits along a commuter line and serves nearly 900 customers a day. But after 32 years in business, the Portland mainstay now faces closure. On June 15, Peterson's received an eviction notice for Jan. 14, 2018 from the city after Prosper Portland was tapped and approved to clear the 725 Southwest 10th parking structure — under which Peterson's and four other tenants do business — in order to renovate the retail-level store areas.

"The building is in disrepair and I have no conflict with them fixing it," Peterson said, noting that the parking structure above the store is designed for short-term parking and encourages customers to shop locally, especially at Peterson's.

The Prosper Portland plan will cost more than $25 million without fixing major seismic issues of the nearly 40-year-old structure, Peterson stated in a press release. The plan vacates the building for one year, although the parking and Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) stops will remain open to the public.

"Don't let the name fool you; Prosper Portland is out to gentrify Portland with taxpayer dollars," the press release continues. "They have many new, better locations for the new downtown business plan, but have attacked my store first. Please contact the mayor as soon as possible to ask to save Peterson's. I may survive, but my staff will be gravely damaged. This is not the way to build Portland."

According to Peterson, a majority of the remodeling is being done on all four corners of the block. With Peterson's in the middle of the walk, he doesn't see a problem staying open during the remodeling.

"We can be there to continue selling to customers and sell those [bus and metro] passes," Peterson argued. "Pioneer Square is a major center for downtown Portland and it did a major remodel, and Starbucks stayed open. If Starbucks can stay open, we can, too!"

After receiving the eviction notice, Peterson, his lobbyist and a few employees appeared before the Portland City Council on June 21 to plead its case. The city council holds public meetings once a month, where the public can address and speak on an issue for three minutes. 

Nine days later, two city commissioners sent a letter to Prosper Portland in support of the c-store operator's case and asked for a lease so Peterson's could stay open before and after the remodel. However, Prosper Portland has been unresponsive to these appeals, according to Peterson, who pled before the association during its public meetings in June and July.

To combat Prosper Portland's negligence, Peterson has made saving his store his mission through several efforts. For starters, the c-store operator has made appearances on most local TV stations and has been interviewed by local newspapers. Outside Peterson's, a reader board says: "Help save a locally owned small business to stay open right here."

Inside the store, tables are set up with signage telling Peterson's story, as well as news stories and a petition for customers and the public to sign. So far, the petition has received more than 1,300 signatures. More than half of those who have signed it left comments on how much they love the store, including:

  • "Peterson's is very valuable."
  • "Peterson's is a staple of Portland, has been here for as long as I can remember."
  • "Peterson's is my one-stop shop."
  • "I love this place."
  • "It's a part of the city. It'd be a shame to lose Peterson's."

There's also, a website created by Peterson that tells how his store has served the public, chiefly by "providing nourishment and hydration for hundreds of people a day."

"Construction workers, office workers, local residents and tourists alike are among the many whom we have built relationships with, and have continued in doing so for over 30 years. We are proud to be a part of the downtown Portland community!" the website reads. 

Those visiting the website are encouraged to contact Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to voice their concerns regarding Peterson's eviction.

"The mayor has been hearing from customers, so we're hopeful," Peterson expressed to CSNews.

In the event Peterson's does not receive a lease, Peterson said it will be possible to move the store's inventory and integrate it among his three other stores. However, his most pressing focus is his 28 employees. The employees rotate among the four stores. If Prosper Portland fails to issue a lease agreement with Peterson's, the c-store operator faces laying off an unpredicted number.

Peterson explained that the layoffs would probably only apply to those who haven't been with the company that long, or only part-time employees. Of his 28 employees, a number of them have been with Peterson's upwards of 10 years or more. One in particular has been with the company for a whopping 25 years. Peterson said his hope is to preserve all 28.

"I'm going to do everything I can to hold onto them," he concluded.

Click on the image below to see some of the moves Peterson's has been making to fight eviction.