(Image via Sam Gehrke/Portland Business Journal)
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Nike told the Soul District Business Association that it planned to be vacating the property, in which the association believes will be “a major economic blow” to the area.
In a statement to The Oregonian/OregonLive, Nike confirmed its departure and said that the company was “reimagining Nike’s retail space … and considering future locations as part of this community’s long term revitalization plan.”
For locals, the closure of the Nike store (located at 2650 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.), is probably seen as a long time coming as the store has been closed to the public for majority of the year. It had been unclear whether the closure was temporary or not, which we now to be permanent.
Executive director of the Soul Business District Association, John Washington, expressed concerns to Nike about the inactive store nearly a month ago when he sent a letter asking about the status of store, which had already been closed by six months at that point in time.
“The store closure was starting to impact the small businesses in the area, who were telling me that they were getting less and less foot traffic and business was not going well,” said Washington. “That prompted me to ask Nike what their intentions were.”
Washington followed up with Nike last week, which prompted the sportswear giant to respond, confirming the closure of the store during a Zoom meeting on Friday, Sept. 8.
Nike cited safety and security issues as the reason for the closure.
Around this time last year, this Nike store had closed its doors for an extended period of time due to a rise in shoplifting, per Portland Business Journal. According to a local analysis of the area, the Nike community store reported 437 shoplifting cases to police since 2019.
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In February, Nike made a request to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and other city officials to arm Nike locations with off-duty police officers, but the city officials denied Nike’s request.
Wheeler said in a statement Friday that he was “very disappointed” about the closure of the store and that his team and city staff “have worked tirelessly and in good faith with Nike for almost a year to offer creative solutions to their safety challenges.”
“Ultimately, the city cannot offer Nike, or any other private business, with dedicated off-duty (Portland Police Bureau) officers due to PPB’s staffing shortage,” said Wheeler.
The closure of this Nike store will greatly affect local Black businesses as the Soul District has historically been a core element for Portland’s Black community since it opened in June 1984.
“Word about the store closing landed like a lead balloon,” said Washington. “Why close down a flagship store that has supported Black Portland for over 40 years? It was an economic driver in this area, and we should be looking at the long-term impact of that closure.”
In the 1980s, Portland civil rights and education advocate Ron Herndon worked with Nike and the Black United Front to establish the brand’s inaugural factory store on what was then Union Avenue, now known as Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Herndon highlighted that this store not only employed individuals from the local neighborhood, but also dedicated all the proceeds from its sales to benefit Portland’s Black community.
“Obviously, I was disappointed to hear that they wasn’t going to be able to reopen the store,” said Herndon. “I think this is a failure of leadership at City Hall … I just believe folks at City Hall don’t have the skill or creativity to address major issues that impact not only the Black community but all of Portland.”
Herndon continued his frustrations saying, “You would’ve thought that city leaders would’ve tried harder to keep the store to stay open because of its impact on other small businesses in the community, but I didn’t see that at all.”
As of now, Nike has not disclosed any plans about opening up a new store in the North or Northeast Portland area. The company said it would “seek the input of local community organizations and leaders to determine the best new location.”
Nike also added that it was offering employees at the Northeast Portland store with “options to continue to be part of the Nike family.”