IN THE WORLD of retail, you win some and you lose some. Over the past decade or so, Portland has been doing some extreme winning, propelled by a huge boom in new and ever-more sophisticated establishments. But before Portland was able to achieve such benchmarks as a Steven Alan store of our own, or its proud smattering of small-run production houses, there was basically just one category of apparel boutiques the city really excelled at: vintage. In the past week, though, we've seen two closure announcements, something old and something new: Decades Vintage Company and Jet Clothing.
Decades has been a downtown Portland legend, with owner John Cosgrove curating one of the most impressive selections, especially for men's suits and neckwear, on the West Coast. For more than 17 years the store has had a home in downtown's Oregon Pioneer Building, but now that a California-based development company has plans to convert it into a hotel, Cosgrove says, "Whether there will be a place for Decades after the renovation is doubtful and for now Decades' future remains uncertain, as does mine."
The shop, which also enjoys a popular online presence, has until April 30 to vacate, and will be having a sale in the meantime, with all merchandise at 20-50 percent off until the closure. It is also possible that Cosgrove, who would prefer to stay downtown, could find a new location at some point, but for now, he says he's been unable to find something "suitable... I'm having a hard time finding viable properties and as of now Decades has no place to go."
It's actually the fourth time the building has changed hands during Decades' tenure, according to Cosgrove, who also notes with some pride that the business has managed to survive "the dot-com bust, the post 9/11 economy, and the popping of the housing bubble," in addition to "put food on the tables and pay the rents of more than 25 employees."
Meanwhile, Jet Clothing on N Mississippi is closing both its retail store and neighboring production house, it announced on Friday, March 28, although it will also maintain a presence online and via wholesale accounts. Compared to Decades' run, Jet's four years (plus change) are short ones, but its impact as one of the first small factories for small-batch, sustainably driven apparel manufacturing should not be overlooked. They too are clearing out the space, offering 40 percent off all store merchandise across the board, also through the end of April.
It's sad to say goodbye, but at least these two are evolving, not completely going away—Jet's announcement called the move "a necessary step in the growth trajectory." (But maybe grab a sale item or two just on the off chance.) Then there's that cheesy yet comforting expression: "When one door closes, another one opens." If recent history is any indication, there are still many doors to be opened in this growing city.