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'Last of the old Portland': Cameron's Books closing this weekend after 83 years in business

A former long-time employee raised money for a short-term lease and saved the shop in late 2019. But it wasn't enough.

PORTLAND, Ore. — After 83 years, the final chapter of Portland's oldest used bookstore is ending.

Cameron's Books & Magazines hung on through the pandemic and protests, but the Downtown Portland fixture will close on Saturday.

Outside Cameron's Books on the corner of Southwest 3rd and Harvey Milk, Portlanders didn't hide their disappointment.

"It had beauty, it had art, it had culture," one long-time patron said.

"To me it's almost as catastrophic if Powell's closed down," Dorthea Petersen said. "I always hate to see anything that's been around 80-some years disappear."

Mark Guy came by before the store opened Friday to take pictures and check it out before it was gone.

"I am just really sad to see it go," Guy told KGW. "You just don't know what you've got until it's gone. You don’t get bookstores like this with magazines and periodicals. It's just something completely missing nowadays."

Portlanders reflect fondly on the treasures Cameron's holds inside: rare books, vintage magazines, and archives containing America's rich history.

"It's an unbroken timeline of the American voice going back 200-plus years," owner Crystal Zingsheim said.

"I heard it was closing. I used to come in here 30 years ago. Kind of a bummer," a dad shopping with his daughter said. "I think it’s the last of the old Portland."

Cameron's lost their lease when the building was sold and planned to close in December 2019. 

RELATED: Portland's oldest bookstore Cameron's is set to close

Zingsheim, a former long-time employee who started Cameron's e-business, raised money, negotiated a short-term lease and saved the shop. 

But it wasn't enough. A couple months after Zingsheim took over the shop from the previous owner, who still works for the store, the pandemic hit and money problems grew.

"It's been unrelenting. But a miracle for us to keep going through," Zingsheim said. "For the most part it's been falling through the cracks as far as accessing resources and funding, as well as just constant and unrelenting robberies, assaults, vandalism, more theft than we’ve ever had. Just having difficulty coming to an agreement we could both sit with for the terms of our lease and/or purchasing the building."

RELATED: More city money approved for small businesses in downtown Portland

Cameron's closes Saturday, April 24. They have just a few days to clear everything out.

"Technically, it's not an eviction," Zingsheim said. "There just hasn't been any other way to go forward, I guess."

Though the book will close on Cameron's in this particular space downtown, Zingsheim plans to keep online business going and create a virtual archive. She's looking for a new home for the treasures inside.

"I hope to at least transition into something mobile," she added. "I'm trying to find a way forward on my feet as we speak."

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