By Jack Rubinger

I’ve lived near the corner of 30th and Gladstone for more than 10 years. New business development has been slow, thankfully, unlike the congested mess that is SE Division. 

While I’ve had fun at open mic night at the old Pub At The End of The Universe, gotten my hair cut at Barber Dan near Cesar E. Chavez Blvd., had sushi at Yoko’s and drinks at Ship Ahoy and C-Bar, there’s never really been new stores or restaurants with a real neighborhood feel, or one that might drive me back for more.  

That’s changed with the addition of Best Friend (smoothies, elixirs, fresh juices, coffee),  Unicorn Bake Shop (sweets, cupcakes, bars) and Kitsune Salon. They’re all part of a new mixed use development called Jolene’s First Cousin, the brainchild of Guerrilla Development at SE Gladstone and 28th Pl. 

The development hopes to ease homelessness and offer traditional apartment-style living in this SE neighborhood.

Jolene’s First Cousin (a private joke, but a real person) consists of two, two-story buildings on a single lot in the heart of the Creston-Kennilworth neighborhood. There’s a total of six units: three retail spaces, two market rate lofts and one containing 11 rooms in a Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) arrangement. 

The 100 square foot SRO rooms share amenities: a fully-outfitted kitchen, living and dining room, private landscaped courtyard, showers and toilets, and laundry facilities. Each room has its own bed, closet and sink. SRO renters will secure their spot in Jolene’s First Cousin for $425/mo. 

Half of the rooms will be put out to the general market via Craigslist. The other five will be filled with working, houseless people in collaboration with Guerilla’s partner, Street Roots. The SRO residents will self-govern, establishing ground rules and operational systems.

“This is our first foray into homeless housing. Having competitive market rate units allows us to provide housing for the homeless,” said Anna Mackay the Director of Development for Guerrilla Development. 

“There has been an incredible outpouring of support from the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood association,” she added.

One of the first tenants is Lis Rourke, who also works for Guerrilla Development. She’s moving into one of the market-rate apartments. Originally from the Chicago suburbs, Rourke lived in the Pearl with her software engineer husband for eight months, but she missed a neighborhood vibe with trees, dogs and families, so she started looking in SE Portland.

Jolene’s First Cousin met her criteria. “It’s a great building with a nice layout and plenty of room for me, my husband and our Wheaten terrier. We love the idea that we’re helping the homeless,” said Rourke. She’s already gotten to know the neighborhood and enjoyed the jam-packed opening of Best Friend.

Margaux Muller, Best Friend

Best Friend

Chan Wong and Margaux Muller run Best Friend. Muller has a degree in International Baking and Pastry Arts. She’s worked in cupcake shops and small businesses since she was 15.

It was her dream to come to Oregon and focus on vegan/gluten free, refined-sugar-free pastries. Her passion for an alternative path to health-conscious eating began at an early age. Her lifelong goal has been to inspire others to make the connection between the food they eat and its effect on their body, the environment and the world.

Wong has a degree in Psychology/Communication. He got started with coffee after college and he was inspired by Comet Coffee in Ann Arbor, MI. He’s been working in coffee-making for 10 years. 

Their energy, resourcefulness, work ethic, sense of humor and wisdom are impressive. They thoroughly researched this corner spot in the building and realized there was no other business offering what they had. 

They opened February 14, just in time for Valentine’s Day. “We wanted to honor all the best friends we’ve known and have supported us along the way,” said Muller.

“We were looking for a feeling of innocence, of nostalgia,” said Wong. “We’re hoping old friends find themselves at our store and bring some light to this corner.” 

Schooled in the Buddhist tradition, Wong believes in serving the community. The pair also run a food cart near The BeerMongers on SE 11th and Division St. and will continue that venture. “We want to make health accessible and super simple,” said Muller.

Roxanne Ranel, Kitsune Salon

Kitsune Salon

Light, airy and friendly, Kitsune Salon opened December 11. Owned by Roxanne Ranel, the 760 square foot Kitsune is staffed by four independent contractors who all have strong followings. Ranel, who lives in the neighborhood, provides full-service hair cutting and coloring.

Located across the street from Cowlick, a traditional men’s barbershop, the name Kitsune was inspired by foxes who are a part of Japanese folklore, reflecting the ability to transform or change shape or form, like changing hair.

“I’d been looking for a location for a few months,” said Ranel. “I enjoyed working with the folks from Guerrilla Development.”

Unicorn Bake Shop

Unicorn Bake Shop

Carrie Padian is the owner of the new Unicorn Bake Shop, her first true brick and mortar venture, though she has run a home kitchen since 2016.

“Sweets make people happy,” she said. The bake shop features both gluten-free and vegan offerings as well as custom cakes, unicorn bars and rainbow cinnamon rolls. 

“It’s all about taking the average dessert and making it more fun,” she said.

Padian quit her day job as a software developer to focus on the bake shop and things are fully past the half-baked stage right now, she joked.

At less than 800 square feet with seating for a dozen, the bake shop offers a small, intimate setting in a neighborhood that has never seen anything like this.

“Kenilworth needed a sweet shop,” she said. “This felt like the right place.” Unicorn opened February 29.

While it’s too soon to gauge the total success of this experimental new community development, this writer will continue to partake the new food and beverage offerings now available here and examine the impact of the new tenants on the neighborhood.  

Photos by Jack Rubinger