PORTLAND, Oregon — New businesses are opening in downtown Portland and others are reopening after more than two-years of pandemic restrictions.
Business owner Annabel Gutierrez is just starting out. Her spot, Caiman Café, opened a month ago, serving Cuban and Mexican food. Gutierrez decided now was the time to pursue her dream of owning a restaurant. The uncertainty from the last couple of years didn't stop her.
“I was not really nervous. If anything is going to happen, it's going to happen, bad situations are everywhere. It doesn't matter where you are," Gutierrez said. "You just have to stay focused on what you want and reach your goals.”
Martin Montgaut operates his food cart, El Pilon, on Southwest Second Avenue near Southwest Pine Street. He has ridden out the impact of the 2020 protests in the downtown area and the two-year-plus pandemic. He believes things are changing for the better.
“I've definitely seen way more foot traffic especially after the [mask] mandate lifted. Way, way more people walking by since the weather's gotten pretty good. Sales have increased quite a bit,” said Montgaut.
Kassab Jewelers, a longtime downtown retailer with a more than 30-year history in Portland, reopened on Friday after closing 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.
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," company president Rana Kassab said. "It feels a lot safer."
People spending time downtown Sunday also expressed a feeling that things are changing.
“Last summer before we moved here it felt like a ghost town with everything boarded up, very few people. It felt a little post-apocalyptic," said one family spending the day downtown on a Sunday. "It definitely feels more revitalized.”