By Jack Rubinger
Matt Froman talks excitedly about the Phoenix Pharmacy restoration story, which makes sense because it’s 100 years of history about to come alive on SE Foster Rd.
Matt is the son of Robert “Buck” Froman, who owns Buck’s Stove Palace just up the street on Foster, where he’s been operating on the street since the 1970’s. Froman bought the building from his dad back in 2018. His dad bought the building 20 years ago with the idea of turning it into a stove museum. Froman considers himself a preservationist.
When Froman bought the building from his father, he said there were 100 years of funk on the walls, on the floor and all over the place, due to the lack of maintenance over the years. But now, there’s lots of light streaming in from restored windows, solid exposed wood beams, high vaulted ceilings and refinished fir floors.
The plan is for the main floor and mezzanine to be the flagship location for Foster Outdoor, which is located just up the block.
An outdoor entrance on SE 67th Ave. has a stairway that leads to the second floor of the building which was restored to include five individual offices — now home to several wellness practitioners. “What you see here is a true labor of love and a four-year process,” said Froman.
The renovation included seismically upgrading the roof and installing new plumbing, new electrical, new HVAC. The whole storefront is made to replicate the original 1920s look. Froman is also in the process of getting the building on the historical registry as well.
The last active tenant was Allen Video, which closed in 1999. “What’s exciting now is we’re almost done with the renovations and we have an awesome tenant, Foster Outdoor,” said Froman.
Everyone in the neighborhood had been dreaming about what they wanted the pharmacy to be after it had been boarded up for 20 years.
Froman’s dream at one time was to do a blues club in the basement, like a speakeasy, but he believes Foster Outdoor will be a great tenant to carry on the legacy of the Phoenix Pharmacy Building.
Someone else hoped it would be an ice cream parlor which would have tied in with the pharmacy.
So how did Foster Outdoor wind up in a 100-year-old former pharmacy? It went down like this: Froman went into Foster Outdoor to purchase a gift for his then fiancée and the owner Mike Turner was checking him out. Froman mentioned that he was renovating the Phoenix Building and was looking for a tenant. He asked if Turner would be interested in the space. Turner replied with one word, “yes.”
Turner was outgrowing his current space three blocks up the street but wanted to stay in the neighborhood. “This building is an anchor of the retail strip and an anchor for the entire neighborhood,” said Turner. His family also lives in the neighborhood and his daughter attends Marysville Elementary School.
Foster Outdoor, which will have a grand opening sometime in June, offers new and consignment inventory which community members can use as a revenue stream. “No one in the city is doing outdoor consignment or cash for gear,” said Turner. “Plus we’re the only outdoor-type store in this part of town. We’ll do both winter gear and gear for water sports — everything a family needs to get out for a three-day weekend. The location is perfect because Foster Rd. is the backdoor to Mt. Hood.”
The new store has around 3,500 square feet and 2,000 square feet in the basement. “With the high vaulted ceiling, it’s nice to be able to stand up paddle boards,” said Turner. He went on to say, “Our original location didn’t have enough room for a proper office. Over the last three years, I would sit in a camp chair on the sales floor to reply to emails and pay bills. I’m excited and grateful to have such a beautiful office space. We have six employees and will be adding more after we get the new location open.”
Meagen Alm-Lunan from mabodywork, one of the wellness practitioners, loves the building with its beautiful, curved facade. She also lives in the area and watched as the whole upstairs was gutted. Now she has a spacious 300 square foot space for her massage business. “This is the best office I’ve ever had,” she said. “It’s perfect for me.” She’s a licensed massage therapist specializing in Chinese massage and injury rehabilitation.
She shares the space with Marta Lange, also a massage therapist, who finds the space welcoming, beautiful and light. Lange said the space is the nicest she’s ever had.
Other tenants include Pillbox Studio, a photography studio, Heart Marrow and Foster Powell Consulting.
What Froman loves about Foster area is the small businesses. One gentleman was so appreciative that he gave Froman and Turner cash money, just to thank them for what they’re doing.
While renovating, Froman found some unusual Phoenix Pharmacy artifacts like old shampoo bottles, retail bags, medicine bottles and a prescription book. To preserve these artifacts, he built a beautiful shadow box.
Froman has a background in marketing and has bought a few houses and restored them over time. This is his first commercial renovation. “It’s not about dollars and cents,” he said. “To me, it’s about how it looks and feels. We’re so delighted with our progress and our pleased to share our space with the community.”
Phoenix Pharmacy interior photo by Jack Rubinger