Businesses at heart of 2020 downtown Portland protests struggle to bounce back

Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 6:03 PM PST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - Being in business for 40 years in downtown Portland, Saadi Nikoo got used to a steady stream of customers from all over the country and overseas too. But since COVID-19 and damaging riots in 2020 and 2021, he said those numbers just aren’t the same.

“Breaking windows, damaging people’s property,” he said. “It did a big number as far as people, tourists coming to Portland.”

Much of the early protests and riots were centered near his businesses, Art of Persia and Golden Gift Jewelry, on Southwest Fourth Avenue between Salmon Street and Taylor Street.

“This area was like a war zone during the riots,” Nikoo said.

The block has been slow to recover. While Nikoo’s business reopened, all of the stores across the street have not.

“I’m hoping they build some nice retail stores on the street level,” Nikoo said.

The future is uncertain for the building owned by Standard Insurance. There is still a parking garage and a restaurant that operate on opposite corners of the block but Nikoo wants a more permanent solution.

“(Foot) traffic will be only those people that they have to go by,” he said.

Many who spend time downtown are concerned about the health of this part of downtown.

“The 7-Eleven, sometimes I’d run in for mints or something,” downtown worker Jennifer Evert said. “More businesses like that close, I either don’t get them downtown or I have to walk further.”'

Evert has returned to work in her downtown office but with a decline in other places to shop.

“I love going shopping on my lunch hour so I’m hopeful that the ones that are still here stay, and we get new ones coming in,” she said.

A pop-up coffee shop opened for a few weeks in December, but Nikoo said he didn’t see many customers.

“It didn’t give a very good feeling to us or surrounding people and I never saw anybody go in there,” he said.

After more than 30 years being on Fourth Avenue Nikoo said he’s still optimistic about downtown if the area remains attractive.

“We like tourists,” Nikoo said. “We like people to come visit our town because the revenue is amazing.”

He said the areas empty near him also have the potential to do the same.