Portland jewelry store owner forced to close; blames growing homeless problem


A downtown Portland business owner said she is making the difficult decision to close after an escalation of problems with the homeless population.

Judith Arnell Jewelers is closing its doors, and owner Judith Arnell told FOX 12 panhandling and cleanliness of nearby homeless people, along with concerns over the safety of her employees and clients, factored into the decision.

“It’s very difficult to do business here right now. Our customers are afraid to come in,” she said.

Arnell has been doing business in Portland for more than 20 years. She moved to the Southwest Broadway location from the Pearl District, thinking it would drive more sales.

“I was really excited to move to Broadway. Nordstrom’s just down the block and hotels. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to increase my volume and my customer base,” Arnell said.

Instead, it’s been the opposite. She’s seen a dramatic decrease, and she’s blaming it on the homeless population.

“The biggest problem is that the customers feel unsafe, so I can’t afford to save this,” Arnell said.

Just a few months ago, their surveillance cameras caught a man defecating right in front of their doors, and it’s not the first time.

Another store down the street, Kassab Jewelers, faces the same issues.

“It got to the point where there were people that my jeweler’s actually seen, where they’re going to the bathroom in our doorways and they’re going more than just number one,” Kassab Jewelers manager Penny Kelly said.

Arnell’s decision comes just days after Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle commented on the crisis, saying he is concerned he made a mistake when he opened a headquarters for the company’s Sorel brand downtown.

In an op-ed piece, Boyle said company leaders are fed up with their employees and clients feelings unsafe, adding that he’s now rethinking that move.

FOX 12 reached out to Boyle Thursday and said they had nothing to add.

In a statement sent to FOX 12 Thursday, a representative from Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office said the mayor is “dedicated to improving public safety” in the area.“As we prepare for the holiday shopping season, the Mayor is dedicated to improving public safety in the downtown business district. People from around the region and beyond come Downtown for a great retail, culinary, and cultural experience. We are working with our partners in the business community to provide visitors a great experience this holiday season.”A spokesperson with the Portland Business Alliance noted the group has also been hearing more concerns about safety in the downtown area.“Our surveys of downtown workers and residents show that most people feel safe in downtown Portland, but we are hearing growing concerns about livability issues that impact experiences of many. These must be addressed. We have expressed concern to city leaders and we hope to see a greater police presence and other actions at ensuring downtown Portland is clean and inviting for everyone. There will be tremendous opportunities to enjoy the holidays downtown this season, with great shopping, dining and entertainment experiences available for all ages. We encourage everyone to take advantage of them and enjoy their great downtown.”For some business owners like Arnell, the issues are too much, and she said the city has to find a solution if it wants to stay viable.

“I think our city needs to address the issue, for sure, or we’re going to be a dead city.”

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