WOE UNTO he who threatens a neighborhood organic farming store in Southeast Portland.
Naomi's Organic Farm Supply has made Sellwood its home for only 18 months, but its customers are rabidly battling plans that would boot the little shop from its one-acre site on SE Tacoma to make way for a Les Schwab tire store parking lot.
Neighbors love their local farm store so much that they rallied more than 2,000 signatures on an online petition to save the place. The outcry was so strong, in fact, that the store was given a reprieve of a few more weeks.
Ex-farmers Naomi Montacre and her husband, Neil, knew their lease was temporary when they opened up their first-ever business in 2009 on the site of a former nursery. When they inked the lease, Les Schwab planned to open a big new tire shop next door—its 13th in Portland. While the entire store would fit on that adjacent property, Les Schwab's plans also called for paving over the nursery property—turning it into a 30-space parking lot.
But in the months since then, the farm store became a beloved Sellwood spot, building up a business selling to small farmers and backyard gardeners alike. It's the kind of cute place that boasts a friendly store chicken named Bumblefina.
"Farming is so isolated," says Montacre. "We love the education and community part of the store."
The farm store was supposed to be off the Les Schwab property by May 31. But as the reckoning day approached, customers at Naomi's went into full-on revolt.
Russ Stoll has relied on Naomi's for the fertilizer and chicken feed he uses on a small backyard farm and is now a leader of the Save Naomi's Action Group.
As Stoll gripes: "There's 10 Les Schwabs within six miles! We don’t need another. I go get tires maybe once a year. I go to my gardening supply store once a week. It’s such a part of the neighborhood, I don’t want to see it go.”
Les Schwab directed its comments to a form letter emailed in response to the deluge of letters from Naomi's customers. It notes that Naomi's knew all along that the store's home was temporary. After a customer volunteered to negotiate with Les Schwab's lawyers, the company extended Naomi's lease through June.
But now it looks like this month will be its last in the neighborhood. While she's actively looking for a new home, Montacre is uncertain whether to keep fighting for her current one.
"We have a lot of dreams for what we'd like to do here on this beautiful piece of land with trees that the sun shines on," says Montacre. "We're passionate about staying here."