PORTLAND, Ore. — Friday brought news yet again about the fortunes of a longtime downtown retailer, but this one went against the grain. Rather than closing down, Kassab Jewelers is opening back up.
The flagship Kassab store on Broadway Street near Alder closed down in the spring of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic took hold — initially going appointment-only in March before transitioning away from in-store business by the beginning of April.
At the end of May 2020, rioters broke into the downtown location and looted it during Black Lives Matter protests ignited by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
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"We, as a small family owned business, have always felt that our stores are a direct extension of our home, and you have always been our honored guests," Kassab posted to Facebook at the time. "Unfortunately, our home was violated, robbed and vandalized. We have never in any way supported violence, hatred, or racism and such act is unjustifiable."
Roughly two years later, the flagship Kassab Jewelers store is back in business.
“2020 was tough … but a diamond can’t be made without immense pressure,” said company president Rana Kassab.
The Kassab family has big hopes that the crowds and customers of the past will return to downtown, and they say they're already seeing a change.
"It feels like it's coming back to where it was prior to 2020," Rana said. "It feels a lot safer."
Kassab has been in business in Portland for more than 30 years.
Regardless, recent weeks have proven that longevity is no guarantee of success. Margulis Jewelers near Pioneer Courthouse Square announced in early March that it would be shutting down after 90 years in business.
Owner David Margulis said his store has faced declining customer traffic during the pandemic, and attempts to bring customers back with a recent major sale didn't pan out.
In a letter to customers, Margulis cited the pandemic, the homeless crisis, vandalism and a "general sense of nighttime lawlessness" as reasons for the struggles of downtown businesses.
"The perception of the people is that there's just a broken downtown, and people don't want to come downtown," he said. "The employees aren't coming to their buildings, the shoppers aren't coming down, and our city has done too little, too late to help downtown and the independent merchants."
On the other end of the downtown spectrum, The Roxy diner also shut its doors at the end of March. Like Margulis Jewelers, the pandemic and a drop in foot traffic hit owner Suzanne Hale's business hard, but the closure also hinged on the City of Portland's determination to overhaul a fire-damaged and aged building.