Sunday, November 17, 2019

Poverty with a View.

How do I say this without being snide, which is not my intention. This is not so much a, "You should have known better" as a "Let me give you a warning."

There's an article in the Bulletin about 'artist spaces' being priced out of the market. The owners of a gallery said they thought the rents would stay somewhat stable for "nine years." All I can say to that is, the last 30 years of growth should have given them pause.

Anyway, as the article says, this is a constant problem. Artists move into a place, make it cool, and then get priced out. This describes what happened to downtown Bend. There's just a few of us merchants left who moved into the area when rents were low. The rents have steadily risen. I chose to stay in downtown Bend because it felt to me as if the foot-traffic was keeping up. We're in a bit of a sweetspot for Bend--the rent can be covered by the customer count. Barely. Once I figured out that I needed to mainstream the store, it became possible to stay.

As the article says,  "Finding a space that's affordable and provides walk-in retail traffic can be hard for an artist."

It's called Gentrification, and it happens everywhere.

But it happens more often, I believe, in Bend.

"Poverty with a view."  The idea that Bend is so cool that people can charge higher rent; but the returns are not what people think.

The problem is that people are somewhat fooled by the look and feel of Bend. The population numbers don't look too bad, as a standalone number. But what no one seems to see is that it is an isolated population. Past Madras and La Pine it is nothing but sagebrush and pine. We are nowhere near an interstate. Our four year college is at its early stages.

We aren't Portland. We aren't even Eugene, Medford, or Salem, all of whom have roughly double the metro area population. And all are a half an hour away from another metro area.

I had owned my store for a decade before I finally realized that there was a glass ceiling imposed by the population and isolation of Bend.

As far as there being wealthy people in Bend. Well, no one comes into my store and says, "I'm rich and I'm going to spend tons of money." That's not the way it works.

I don't know if there is any way to warn people who choose to open businesses in Bend. I'm probably the only one saying it out loud. But here it is--make sure you have plenty of margin for error.


Helen said...

Spot on!

Anonymous said...

Bend is a great place to work from, using the internet for sales. Or, it’s worked quite well for me. I’m sure my business would not be nearly as robust as it is if I could only rely on local sales to keep me going.