The Storefronts of Northeast Alberta

There’s something about the pride of ownership, of hopefulness, of service that comes through in simple portraits of small business owners standing near an open door, their businesses behind them, wares in the window. We loved the recent photo of John Loyd, arms folded, in front of his butcher shop at Killingsworth and NE 15th. We could look at and wonder about pictures like these all day.

Thanks to the City of Portland Archives, we’ve come across a few more—taken on NE Alberta in the early 1930s, between NE 20th and NE 23rd. The photos came to us without any identification—a challenge we love—so we’ve spent some time this week in research mode and revisiting these places trying to piece together the basics of their stories. Each image is worth taking time with. Click in and have a good look around for the details, sense that pride of ownership, look for clues, watch for the reflections in the window. And think about change, which is so clearly evident on ever-changing Alberta.

F.L. Carlo Shoe Shop – 1931

Courtesy of City of Portland Archives, image A2008-001.34

How can you look at this photo and not smile back? The proprietor’s friendly smirk, hand jammed in pocket of pin-striped trousers, carefully organized window tableau of shoe care products, orderly line-up of tools on the wall. I’m bringing my shoes here. This is 749 Alberta, which after Portland’s Great Renumbering became 2215 NE Alberta (north side of the street). While the building is still there, its façade has been reconfigured several times over the years. This is about as close as we think we can come today:

2215 NE Alberta (detail), 2017

Here’s what we learned about our smiling shoe repairman. While the name on the window says Carlo, we believe he is actually Ciarlo, one of a family of Ciarlos who ran shoe repair shops in several Portland neighborhoods during these years. Emilio and Mary Ciarlo and their seven children lived in southwest Portland’s Italian neighborhood. The couple immigrated to the US in 1900 from Serra Pedace, Italy (in the south), and Emilio set up a shoe repair shop downtown near SW 2nd and Madison. Two of his sons (all of the kids were born in Oregon) Giuseppe and Vincent, also had shops in Westmoreland and out on SE Foster.

City directories for the early 1930s list this Alberta address as “Emilio Ciarlo,” but here’s what we think: Emilio helped set up his younger sons here on Alberta as they got their start. We don’t think this is Emilio: in 1930 he was 57 years old, plus his immigration papers indicate he was missing most of his left hand. Our guess is that this is son Louis Ciarlo (age 21 in the 1930 Census), who along with his 19 year-old brother Frank were just starting out in the shoe repair business. Our guess is that “F L Carlo” is likely Frank and Louis Ciarlo. It was not uncommon for immigrants of the day to simplify or “Americanize” their names. In fact, Giuseppe’s shop in Westmoreland was called American Shoe Repair.

The “rest of the story” on this is that their business operated at this address from 1930-1932, but the storefront was vacant after that until the late 1930s. Later city directories show Louis as a driver and Frank as a machinist, though brothers Giuseppe and Vincent stayed with shoe repair throughout their lives.

An unknown in the midst of this and the other two moments in time is the motive and identity of the photographer. Was he walking up the street taking pictures for a small fee? Was he as fascinated as we are in the stories and adventures of the small business owners? Was he thinking about the future? Look carefully in the reflection of the window at Ciarlo’s and you can see the head, cap, white collar and shoulder of our photographer (you can also see a billboard reflected from across the street). Hmm.

 

H.B. Olsen, Watchmaker – 1932

Courtesy of City of Portland Archives, image A2008-001.32

One block west and across the street from Ciarlo’s was H.B. Olsen, Watchmaker at 734, which became 2112 NE Alberta. Built in 1908 when Alberta was still a dirt road, this building still stands though it has seen major modifications and better days. A small residence is located at the rear of the shop and on the second floor. It’s just next door to the east from the American Legion Post 134. Here’s the same view today:

2112 NE Alberta, 2017

Halver B. Olsen and his wife Marie immigrated to the US from Norway in 1902 and lived in Minnesota before moving to the Portland area in 1926. When this picture was taken, Marie had recently died and H.B. had moved from the upstairs apartment attached to this business where the two lived into a rented room in a family house just up the block. He was 52 years old in 1930, no children. H.B. ran his watch and jewelry repair at this address until 1935 and then he disappears from the city directories.

The rest of the story on this building is described by another old photograph fanatical researcher like ourselves like this:

It also served as a “restaurant & deli (1916), shoe repair shop where one of owners died of stroke on premises (1917-1922), “store” (1924), coppersmith’s shop (1924), barber shop (1925-26), “Alberta Food Lockers” (1948), “Bud’s Plumbing Co. (1956), upholstery shop (1983). The property was for sale and vacant for several longish intervals during 1960-64. It had a 2 BR, 2BA apt. upstairs.”

That excerpt, by the way, is taken from comments posted on an outstanding blog we follow and recommend called Vintage Portland, which is run by the City of Portland Archives and Record Center and regularly features old photos drawn from the city’s collection. This one appeared there in November 2013.

 

Irving Market and Grocery – 1932

Courtesy of City of Portland Archives, image A2008-001.31

Of all three photographs here, this building façade is closest to its original shape, at least for the moment. When we dropped by recently, construction was underway. Whenever we see chain link fence out in front of an old building, we get nervous.

2022 NE Alberta, 2017

This original old photo came with little identification, simply the “Red and White Store, 718 Alberta.” We’ve determined it was actually known as the Irving Market and Grocery during its short life, operated by David and May Irving, who we suspect are the couple to the right. His military records—he was a WW I soldier—indicate he was six feet tall. David was born in Canada and May was from England. Did they meet during the war? In the 1920s, they ran several small grocery businesses in Portland. The couple owned a home not too far away in Rose City Park.

We’ll remember from our recent post about Gwaltney’s Red and White Store on Killingsworth that these independently owned stores were everywhere. The Red and White franchise enabled Mom and Pop businesses like the Irvings to set up shop by buying Red and White branded merchandise, marketing materials and even store shelving. In the mid 1930s, there were 6,700 Red and White markets nationally. We had several in the neighborhood.

This building on Alberta was vacant in 1930 before David and May were on the scene, and the Irving Market and Grocery’s life was short: by 1933, the building was vacant again and remained so until 1937 when the Ray-o-Sun Grocery moved in, and David had gone to work for a large wholesale grocery company.

The subject of small neighborhood grocery stores, as AH readers will know, is close to our heart. We’ve taken an interest in understanding the life stories of local Mom and Pop grocery stores in the neighborhood. Understanding the ecosystem of small grocery businesses at the time also points to how shopping trends, the larger economy and day-to-day life in the neighborhood have changed over the years.

In 1930, we count 208 businesses along Alberta between MLK and NE 33rd Avenue. We’ve gone back through city directories of the late 1920s and early 1930s and have found a vacancy rate for any one year between 15-20 percent, highest in the early 1930s.

An analysis like this also turns up some interesting trends. Here’s a listing of the types of businesses on Alberta in the early 1930s, in descending order by type: 15 grocery stores; nine beauty shops or barbers; seven shoe repair shops; seven tailors or sewing shops; four butchers; four bakers; four pharmacies; four filling stations; four variety stores; four sweet shops; three hardware shops; three auto repair garages; three dentists; three furniture stores; two doctors; two theaters (including the Alameda Theater, which we’ve written about here on the blog); two radio shops; two restaurants; one ice delivery station; and a hodge podge of single shop fronts for plumbers, electricians, painters, real estate agents, sign shops, pool halls, watchmakers (our Halver B. Olsen), hat shop and others, including quite a few residences. And a busy streetcar line connected these businesses with local residences and beyond.

There’s some perspective for you. Radio, ice, hardware?

Time travel at 15th and Killingsworth

We came across a great old photo recently of a proud apron-clad businessman standing, arms crossed, in front of his market at the corner of NE 15th and Killingsworth. It’s a photo worth having a look at. We’ve been staring at it for a while to puzzle through some of its riddles.

Photo courtesy of Portland City Archives, image A2008-001.39

First, there is no identification. Who is this proud man? Second, there’s a spelling conflict: is it Loyd’s (as the window suggests) or Lloyd’s (as the shingle suggests), and how did that happen? What did Loyd’s sell? And when you really look at the picture you understand it’s actually two businesses: Gwaltney’s Red and White Market where the watermelons and cigarettes are for sale, and Loyd’s (or Lloyd’s, depending on which sign you read). Can you hear the spring in the screen door when it opens, and the door smacking back into the frame as it closes?

We do know where it is: the southwest corner of Killingsworth and 15th. Loyd’s was 608 and Gwaltney’s was 610. After some research, it became clear to us that the main entrance to Gwaltney’s was off the picture to the left, at the corner. More on that in a moment. These addresses translate to 1478 Killingsworth today. Remember, all of Portland was readdressed in 1931, so we know this photo was taken before that. We’re guessing 1929-1930. Built in 1927, the building still stands. A look back through permit history shows many chapters and changes: market, pharmacy, restaurant, tavern, pool hall, rented rooms upstairs, and now office space.

Here’s a look at that same view today. The portico is gone, the front of the building looks like it has been pushed out a bit, the grass is gone and Killingsworth has been widened, putting the early vantage point almost into the street. See for yourself:

1478 NE Killingsworth, March 2017

Next is the question of who this gentleman is. We believe this is actually Mr. Loyd in front of his store, not Mr. Gwaltney (who would have been posing in front of his own front door somewhere off the picture to the left). With the help of the Polk City Directories, census records and a few other genealogy tools, we believe this man is John F. Loyd (only one “L”). From 1929-1939 he ran a meat market at this address. For some of those years his son Clarence helped out in the shop. Loyd lived on Dupont Street near the Broadway Bridge (now gone under the Portland Public Schools building–Dupont no longer exists) with his wife Alma and children Clarence, Ruby and Lester. He was a WW1 veteran. John and Alma were born in Sweden and immigrated to the US in 1900.

Willis H. Gwaltney was the shopkeeper at the Red and White Store, off to the left. Gwaltney and his wife Martha lived just around the corner on NE 16th. He spent a career in the grocery business, his last assignment being at the Kienows on SE 39th and Lincoln. In the 1930s, Red and White markets were everywhere. Each was independently owned: shopkeepers could buy Red and White branded merchandise, marketing materials and even store shelving. In the mid 1930s, there were 6,700 Red and White markets nationally. We had several in the neighborhood…more on that in a future post. Gwaltney’s shows up in the Polk City Directory at this address from 1929-1933, when Willis moved on, likely a victim of the changing economy.

While out taking pictures of this building, which in 2017 is the home of Portland/East Metro Habitat for Humanity, we decided to knock on the door and share this picture with the current occupants. The very friendly Tim, who was at the front desk there, was welcoming and excited to see Mr. Loyd. Tim wanted to share an old picture of his own and took us into the back room to see a large format framed photo of the building hanging on the wall, shown below. The timeframe for this one is a bit later.

The Oakhurst Pharmacy is listed in city directories from 1940-1948, and if you look at the passerby’s hat, the ads in the window, the style of street sign, that timeframe fits. Gwaltney’s is gone. Lloyds is gone and the “welcome to my front door” sense of entering the building on that side has changed, Mr. Loyd’s proud perch now covered up with an awning and boxes. The street has been widened and grass replaced with concrete. Looks like they must have had a leaky roof too, the valley of that far gable reinforced with flashing. Here it is:

1478 NE Killingsworth, about 1945. Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Portland/East Metro

March 2017

Oakhurst, by the way, is the name of the platted addition just west of the Vernon area between Killingsworth and Ainsworth from 14th to 19th, originally platted in 1892. We’re betting that name has faded away like so many of Portland’s other plats. Have you ever heard someone talking about Oakhurst? We haven’t.

Back then, Lee Witty was proprietor of the Oakhurst Pharmacy and he must have been a resilient person: the pharmacy appears multiple times in The Oregonian during his eight years in stories about several armed robberies, a fire that damaged part of the building, and even a major accident in March 1947. Check it out:

From The Oregonian, March 10, 1947

How much longer will this building last? Good question. It has certainly seen its share of change. Uncovering its story, like all the research we do, is about as close to time travel as we can get.

Memory Map: Inside the Grant Park Market

Recent photos of the Grant Park Market have conjured up memories for AH readers who recall the screen doors, the corner entry, the friendly help behind the counter, the dependable cold Coke when walking home from Grant High School. One of our frequent correspondents and Alameda export Brian Rooney sends us this memory map of the store (click to enlarge), that may bring back a memory or two for readers.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 7.32.01 PM

Other memories or insights to share about the Grant Park Market and Grocery?

We like memory maps. You can find another one here, that touches on the story of Wilshire Park, both the first part and the rest of the story.

Another Look at NE 33rd and Knott

Research can be so satisfying sometimes because often when you are not looking for something, you find something else of interest. That’s kind of the case here, in this other view of the Grant Park Market, slightly different than the last post. Here we’re looking due west up Knott. Check out the cars, houses and all those utility poles (click for a closer look). Taken on January 4, 1932. We’re always hungry for early views in the neighborhood and consider this one a gem. With thanks to the City of Portland Archives and their very cool website called Vintage Portland which you should bookmark.

1932-jan-4_east-33rd-and-knott-st_a2004-001-627

Witness to change: A round-up of our favorite local market buildings

grant-park-grocery-ne-33rd-knott-c1940

The Grant Park Grocery and Market crew in the 1940s. David Lewis Photo.

We like to think about change as our constant companion in life: always right there with us, frequently a silent partner guiding and shaping our habits and pathways. But sometimes not so silent, as when things change suddenly and dramatically.

From a neighborhood history standpoint, one form of sudden change lately has been the rash of tear downs in the neighborhood, where the physical landscape we know shifts, almost overnight.

Sudden change is easy to see. But slower changes can be invisible unless you hold them up and examine them from time to time. We’ve been busily researching several buildings in and around the neighborhood that have made some of these slower changes visible because they’ve left behind some clues: the old buildings. We thought you might be interested.

Consider for a moment how shopping patterns have changed. In 1931—a time when almost all of the homes in our neighborhood were well established and occupied by young Alameda families—Portland’s business directory listed more than 750 individual grocery stores, most of them owned and operated by families. Butcher shops, fish markets, general grocery stores, bakeries, candy stores. It’s where Portland shopped, and also where neighbors met neighbors, information was exchanged, neighborliness happened.

Here in the Alameda Park Addition, commercial development was prohibited. But just beyond our borders, small business was booming. Here’s a round-up of 10 nearby businesses that once served our neighbors. We’ve written about most of these before on the blog, but this post brings them all together into one place. We’re always looking for more information on these or other stores (my short list of other Mom and Pops to look into includes these ghosts: Spellmans at 15th and Fremont; the grocery at 15th and Knott. And these two going concerns: Beaumont Market; Justin’s Market at 42nd and Failing. Others?

There was Alameda Grocery (3433 NE 24th), located on the southwest corner of 24th and Fremont, built in 1922 at the height of homebuilding in Alameda. You could phone in your order and have your needs delivered by bike, even if it was small as a pint of ice cream. Next door was John Rumpakis’s shoe repair, and upstairs was the dentist. Today this is Lucca.

Believe it or not, 24th and Fremont was also home to a full-fledged Safeway Store, located in the building that now houses Alameda Dental and Union Bank (2416 NE Fremont). Built in 1938, this was the site of a major land use battle in 1942 when Safeway wanted to expand to include the entire block (they lost). Later this became Brandel’s Alameda Foods and Deli, which we miss.

There was the Prescott Fountain (2909 NE Prescott, also known as Hunderup’s) at Prescott and 29th where you could run a monthly tab and just drop in for an iced Coke, or maybe get your hair cut or styled at the barber in the back corner of the shop. Built in 1922 for T.W. Crowley. Today it’s still a market: Food King.

Wilshire Market (3707 NE Fremont) at 37th and Fremont—now a restaurant known as Fire and Stone—was known for its friendly service. We’ve spoken with many Alameda families who did all their grocery shopping there. Padrow’s Pharmacy located in the same space added an extra level of convenience. Built in 1923, three years before Beaumont School opened.

Bradford’s Market and Serv-Us Grocery (3133 NE Prescott) at 31st and Prescott is now a clinic, but note the parking area west of the building. Plenty of neighbors would drop in here for grocery items on the go. It looks a bit like a residence, but this building was purpose-built in 1921 as a grocery store.

A couple blocks over was the tiny Thirty Second Street Grocery (4518 NE 32nd), built in 1910 and later known as Smith’s Cash Grocery and simply as Doc’s. This sweet little building is the epitome of the small neighborhood grocery, recently converted into an artist’s studio.

This building was a bright shade of purple for a while but has recently been painted all black when it was converted into an artist’s studio and print restoration business, but the Marble Palace Market and Grocery (3587 NE Prescott) really looks the part of the old neighborhood grocery, built in 1924. Grace and Earl Dickerman were the long-time proprietors here from the 1940s well into the 1960s.

Just to the north was the Alameda Park Grocery (4601 NE 27th), later known by several names including Coulter’s, Rieker’s, Moad’s, Bob’s Quick Stop Market and even the Mt. Zion Church of God in Christ. Built in 1910 as a “men’s furnishings” shop, the building has recently been fully restored and is notable for the connection with its adjacent residence. A perfect example of a “bungalow market.”

Alameda Park Grocery

This shop at NE 27th and Going started out as a men’s furnishings store in 1910 and finished its commercial life as a church in the 1960s. In between it went through five owners. Stay tuned for a more detailed look at its life in a future post.

The Davis Dairy Store is still further north, at the Fox Chase corner of NE 30th and Killingsworth (5513 NE Killingsworth), built in 1926. The Davis family lived in Alameda at 24th and Dunckley, and some of our neighbors undoubtedly shopped there.

Grant Park Grocery and Market (shown at the top of this post) on the southwest corner of 33rd and Knott (2647 NE 33rd), built in 1925. This attractive grocery, now a medical office, had sleek-looking panel vans and a staff of white-aproned help who would deliver your phoned-in order to your door. Here’s a link to another photo taken on the same day, and some further information about the store.

100 years later, our shopping patterns (and the things we’re buying) are quite different. The infrastructure that developed around those earlier patterns has been reconfigured into the convenience stores, restaurants, banks, and artist studios of today.

Which is a good lesson about the importance of being flexible and responding to changing conditions. And also about respecting and understanding the past by bringing some of the original pieces along with us as we build the neighborhood and community we envision for the future.

Davis Dairy Store Remembered

From time to time we like to plumb the depths of memory for stories about neighborhood businesses. This one is reaching a ways back, but we’re looking for a little help with any personal memories about this store, which operated out of the bustling commercial corner of NE 30th and Killingsworth.

The Davis Dairy Store, located at 5513 NE 30th, was operated by three generations of women from the Davis family, who also built and lived in the home at 2427 NE Dunckley here in the Alameda Park addition. A recent visitor to the blog—Teresa Roth—sent us some shards of memory from her mother Lucille, and some photographs to ponder. Here is Lucille’s mother Irene Davis, the matriarch of the store, standing near the open door in 1938, and the same spot today:

Left, Irene Davis at the Davis Dairy Store, 5513 NE 30th Ave., 1938. Right, the same doorway today. Historic photo courtesy of the Davis Family and Teresa Roth.

 

Irene’s daughter Lucille (far left) and cousin Isabel Buckendorf sitting out front in 1938. Note the words “bicycle shop” on the window behind them to the left, and the reflection of the power pole, which hasn’t moved much in 70 years. Historic photo courtesy of the Davis Family and Teresa Roth.

Irene and her husband Ernest built the Dunckley home and likely the business as well, though he was a machinist and she a stenographic secretary. The couple divorced in the mid 1920s. For as long as the couple’s daughter Lucille can remember, the store was just part of the family. Lucille, now in her mid 80s, and her daughter Teresa stroll through the neighborhood from time to time when they are in town together, remembering friends, cousins and happy moments.

After the divorce in the mid 1920s, Irene ran the store, with Lucille’s help during the summer, and likely with the help of her sister Mae, a piano teacher. Irene and Mae’s mother Martha LeFabre lived with them as well in the Dunckley Street house: three generations running the house and the business.

No one around today remembers exactly when the store opened or closed, but we do know it would have been popular with kids. Here’s an advertisement from 1938.

Flyer from Davis Dairy Store, 1938. Courtesy of the Davis Family and Teresa Roth.

The corner of NE 30th and Killingsworth has experienced a recent renaissance that echoes the vitality of the intersection in the 1920s and 1930s. Today, the area is officially known as the Concordia Neighborhood, though in those days it was known to both residents and customers as Irvington Park and many refer to it by its plat name: Foxchase. Just for context, here’s a shot of the overall commercial building today, which features some very tasty restaurants, including DOC, which we recommend.

Any memories to share about the Davis Dairy Store or this bright and busy neighborhood corner?

According to the 1938 Polk City Directory, joining the Davis Dairy Store at 30th and Killingsworth were the following businesses:

5425 NE 30th             Serafino Boitano Shoe Repair

5425 NE 30th             Parrot Cleaners

5430 NE 30th              Jason Frost Grocer | Theo Larson Meats

5433 NE 30th             Anderson’s Food Market

5438 NE 30th              30th Avenue Pharmacy and Post Office

5501 NE 30th             The Ark Beer Parlor

5507 NE 30th             Irvington Park Variety Store (now Blackbird Tatoo)

5509 NE 30th             30th Avenue Bicycle and Hardware

5515-19 NE 30th        Twin Pines Barber and Beauty Shop

%d bloggers like this: