By Nancy Tannler
The Hawthorne Street Fair has gone through many incarnations since its inception in 1982. There are people who have worked behind the scenes for years to make events like the street fair possible. One person in particular who has been at the helm for the development and branding of Hawthorne Blvd. is Roger Jones.
In describing the impression of his personality, the old-fashioned term of “hail fellow well met” pops into mind. He personifies the qualities of those early pioneers who saw great opportunity and worked hard to make it so.
Jones is a fifth generation Oregonian and his ancestors came over the Oregon Trail from Kentucky in 1853, before the Civil War, when the northwest was still all the Oregon Territory.
“My great-great grandparents were anti-slavery and decided to find a place where this was not practiced,” Jones said. With ten kids in tow, they made their way to the Willamette Valley close to Salem and by 1901, they had four more kids and cultivated 5,500 acres of tillable land.
Oddly enough his dad, Clay (aka Casey) Jones met his mother, Bea, in Kentucky while serving in the military during World War II connecting them back to the family’s place of origin.
Jones and his brothers Robert “Bob” and Marc “David” were raised in the Portland area until he was in high school. Then the family moved out to Lake Oswego.
He developed a lifelong passion for boating beginning at the age of five when he went for his first boat ride with his dad and uncle. Later they became more adventurous taking their boat from Portland to Astoria and out over the bar salmon fishing.
When Roger Jones was ten, he tried building his own boat out of a kids’ sandbox laying around in their garage in the Laurelhurst neighborhood. A type of cement and roofing tar were used to bond the seams and keep it from leaking.
On launch day, he got his brothers to help him carry it down to Laurelhurst pond where the craft immediately sank.
This did not dampen his spirits though. A few years later he saw an advertisement in Boys Life for a hydroplane boat. He meticulously followed three big pages of instructions to build his own boat successfully. He often raced on the Willamette River and Lake Oswego.
Even in college at the University of Oregon, Jones moored a ski boat at the Fern Ridge Reservoir in Eugene providing hours of fun for his classmates and himself.
After college, he went into real estate, a natural career selection since his father was a carpenter and owned and maintained inner city properties.
One of those is the house he now lives in, built in 1899. The stonework balustrade, that distinguishes the house from all others, was designed by the stone work architect that built the Pittock mansions.
One of Jones’ first business property ventures on Hawthorne Blvd. was his opening of The Sporting House, 2229 SE Hawthorne Blvd., in 1980. It was a dining room/bar and it was here that like-minded individuals gathered to brainstorm about the future of the boulevard and they first dreamed up the Hawthorne Street Fair.
“As I was starting my retail experience on Hawthorne in the early 1980’s, Delmark Goldfarb wrote for the Sunnyside Up Newspaper (now The Southeast Examiner). He will attest that early editions (and editors) were well-powered by Mushball Burgers from The Sporting House,” Jones said.
“At first I attempted to revitalize the Hawthorne Boosters,” Jones said, “and out of that came the formation of the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association (HBBA). Later Jones connected the HBBA with the Jaycees–a non-profit organization that promoted individual development for members through leadership training, community service and social fellowship.
This brought business owners on Hawthorne Blvd. together while connecting them with other professionals throughout the city. It was also during this time that the Portland Development Commission (PDC) was offering low interest loans to help restore inner city properties.
Jones lobbied Mayor Bud Clark to consider Hawthorne Blvd. for the Main Street Program. For thirty+ years communities have used this program to revitalize and strengthen their traditional commercial districts, bring awareness to historic preservation, work with city management, or urban and community planning programs.
Hawthorne Blvd. was awarded the Main Street program that provided thirty-six months of funding. This enabled them to hire Rob DeGraff.
Under DeGraff’s management and with the momentum of the HBBA, Hawthorne underwent a big revival once again providing small businesses a place to prosper and serve.
“There was a synergy that began building in inner southeast Portland in the 80s that is still expanding today,” Jones said. During this time the Belmont Area Business Association (BABA) formed as did the Division Clinton Business Association (DCBA) .
This renaissance of small businesses was taking root throughout the city and Jones was at the heart of the growth. He was a founding member of the non-profit Alliance of Portland Neighborhood Business Associations (APNBA) now Venture Portland.
Since 1986 they have invested in the growth of Portland’s neighborhood business districts through grants, trainings, and technical assistance. Portland’s neighborhood business districts are comprised of approximately 16,000 businesses and nearly 200,000 jobs.
“The obvious boundaries of inner southeast Portland keeps a vibrancy here–one that we are lucky hasn’t been lost to uncontrollable growth and changes,” Jones said.
One of the best changes he has seen is how empowered this community has become. Businesses and residents have become more articulate about areas of growth and quality of life they want to have. Business and neighborhood associations give them the capacity to communicate en masse to the City.
Jones became reacquainted with his wife Candee at a class reunion of Lake Oswego High School five years ago.
They were married on their 38’ Tolly Craft named the “Jolly Craft”. They both continue to be involved with civic activities focused on historic preservation, sustainability and small business advocacy.
Quoting the Jaycee Creed, Jones says, “Service to humanity is the best work of life.”