The Makers District started with a logo, five members and high hopes.
Its founders hope their east-side business district becomes a destination, like downtown or the Old Mill, in the geography of Bend business.
“A lot of people walk in my door and don’t know that Bend Velo makes really great bikes,” said member Mike Ross, owner of Natural Edge Furniture, on Northeast Norton Avenue.
“They don’t know Kombucha Mama moved over here and has a tasting room.”
The organization is loose and growing, but its founders express a common goal: a gentrified destination in Bend where trendy businesses operate in a semi-industrial but accessible city neighborhood. The district is loosely bounded by Greenwood and Olney avenues and embraces Northeast First and Second streets.
A newcomer to the ranks, Sara Wiener, owner of Sara Bella Upcycled, said she’s moving her store from NorthWest Crossing to Northeast First Street by June 20.
“I really think that gentrification is happening over there,” she said Thursday. “We’re going to make it a destination for people who like locally made or locally grown products … and I will be making a very strong effort to bring our following down to First Street.”
The spot she plans to lease, 1234 N.E. First St., was previously home to two bakeries and a coffee shop, and live jazz was played there, Wiener said. Central Oregon Locavore, where locally grown meats, vegetables and other products are sold, is right next door.
“I think it’s the perfect match,” Wiener said.
Eric Power, owner of Bend Velo, said he’s considered forming a business association since moving to his shop at 1212 N.E. First St. about two years ago. Power, maker of custom-built bicycles from recycled frames, sees a tie between shops like Ross’ Natural Edge, which makes furniture from salvaged trees, and Rack ’n’ Roll, which sells auto racks and cargo containers for bicycles, skis and other gear.
“We want to let people know that ... there are proprietors, inventors, shops and things going on in this fairly small area,” Power said Wednesday.
The association, too, is small and the district in which its members work is an asphalt reality, more chain link than cedar shake. A few big, utilitarian enterprises dominate a landscape filled in by smaller shops — auto repair, a dry cleaner and a plumbing and electric supply store, for example. Miller Lumber is there, along with North Coast Electric, Mission Linen Supply, FedEx and Floyd A. Boyd John Deere.
But a growing number of smaller enterprises based on custom work and creativity have found their niche, too: Tricia’s True Confections (inside Second Street Eats), Crazy Dave’s Organic Sodaworks and Made to Order Woodworks, among others. A handful of small homes also line First Street.
“It’s kinda across the board, a little bit of everything,” said Nate Holt, owner of Gateway Cycles, a motorcycle repair and customizing shop on Northeast Second Street. But, “it’s got potential for people to just work together.”
Power described a future network of allied businesses that patrons can walk to via the neighborhood alleys. Scott Wilcox, with Rack ’n’ Roll, talks of luring a food cart to the area and one day seeing another coffee shop nearby.
“We want people to think of us as a destination. We want a good relationship with each other and we want to pull the neighborhood up and do it without asking the city to do a thing,” he said.
Wilcox envisions taking part in First Friday, the open house/art walk every month in downtown Bend, or creating a similar event for the Greenwood-Olney area. The first steps by the informal association include printing a brochure with a map and information on local businesses and a social media campaign to heighten consumer awareness of the area. Members of the core group fanned out recently to contact their neighbors and solicit their support.
Jamie Israel, owner of James Michelle Jewelry on First Street, a custom jewelry maker, said she’s behind the idea. The district lacks the downtown style and the Old Mill pedestrian ease. Sidewalks are few, and on Norton Avenue, for one, potholes are notorious. Israel, who relocated there 45 days ago, thinks the area has its own appeal.
“I always drove by there and always thought, ‘I kinda like the whole industrial, hole-in-the-wall-type place,’ and think this is really cool,” she said.
— Reporter: 541-617-7815, email@example.com