By Jean Baker

Mirador Kitchen and Home has closed after nearly 18 years at SE 20th and Division St. In 2016, a perfect storm of problems converged on the owners. Lynn and Steve Hanrahan.

The store experienced a slow but steady drop in sales.  The Hanrahans are close to retirement. Earthquake proofing to Portland code runs into six figures. The owner chose to sell. He priced the building to make renovation and new retail use possible. Lynn and Steve made the difficult decision to close.

Lynn’s parents were storekeepers and Steve also had a retail background. Steve Hanrahan liked to make bread. Wanting to educate people about making bread and self-sufficiency, the couple started Mirador.

To their dismay, not that many people were interested in making bread, but they did have other questions and requests.  The Hanrahans moved to Division St. and expanded their offerings.

Starting with canning and preserving equipment, they added kitchen, bed and bath items, then gift cards, incense, brooms and jewelry.  As much as possible was locally-sourced.

In 2012, sales of their larger items began to drop off. Steve did research and found that online businesses could sell the same items at pennies over wholesale price, counting on volume to provide profit.

Mirador could not compete on price. They adjusted their inventory. They created a community space, answering questions, giving impromptu trainings, and researching sources for their growing and very loyal customer base.

They donated generously to Kitchen Share, a small nonprofit that lends kitchen equipment at a minimal cost. They were active in the community, serving on local boards, assisting neighbors. Had they been younger, they might have adjusted and continued.

Is this the end of small businesses like Mirador? Traditional chains are struggling because of the shift to buying online. In 2016, Amazon earned nearly $1 of every $2 spent online.

By 2021, one-fifth of the U.S.’s $3.6 trillion retail market will be online, and Amazon is estimated to earn two-thirds of that.  Amazon’s amazing success has caused 150 million square feet of retail space to close.

Or is this the blossoming of small, tailored businesses locally- sourced and locally-supported?  Look at the Amazon prediction as a small business should. By 2021, four-fifths of the retail market will remain in brick and mortar stores.  Unlike chain stores, 70% of every dollar spent in local stores, remains in the local economy.

Shopping is most often found in physical retail because it’s the easiest to do with sights and smells. Shopping is the world of adding experiences.

Coffee shops seem to have learned this. It’s the long wait, the drama of the brew. It’s the tea discussions at tea houses, the samples at local ice-cream stores, the fresh baked scent at the bakery, or the theatre of choosing your wine at the neighborhood wine shop.

Portland’s 50 diverse business districts support about half of the city’s jobs, host over 200 public events each year, and work to make their districts family friendly, safe, walkable, and self-sustaining.

Experts believe districts that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character will have the economic advantage. Locally-owned businesses build strong communities, sustain vibrant town centers, link neighbors in a web of economic and social relationships, and contribute to local causes.

Local owners live in the community and feel the impacts of their decisions. Locally-owned businesses create more jobs and help sustain vibrant, compact, walkable neighborhoods which can reduce sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution.

Entrepreneurship has long fueled America’s economic innovation and prosperity, and continues to serve as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class.

A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.

A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based, not on a national sales plan, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.