A new vegan grocery store in Gateway is set to open in October thanks to help from the Portland Development Commission. COURTESY CHAD MILLER

A new vegan grocery store in Gateway is set to open in October thanks to help from the Portland Development Commission.

There’s a new grocery and coffee shop coming to the neighborhood.

Food Fight!, a local vegan grocery store, has purchased the old Rose City Urgent Care building at 11155 N.E. Halsey St. It has one confirmed tenant to share the building so far—Jet Black Coffee Company. The owners hope the store will fill the need for a local natural foods store.

It also plans to rent 3,000 square feet of office space in the location at a price below the market rate. Food Fight! is currently in negotiations with a Northwest-based nonprofit to lease much of the space. The grocery hopes to open in October, but the owners state that permitting challenges may delay things. Jet Black is slated to open later this fall.

The Memo sat down for a chat with the owners, Chad Miller and Emiko Badillo. Originally from the South, Miller and Badillo don’t have a background in business, but they found success with Food Fight!. originally opened in 2003 after the couple arrived in Portland in 2002.

The pair didn’t have any collateral to start a business, so they used credit cards rather than business loans. Their gamble paid off as Food Fight! gained a loyal customer base and expanded from its original location on Southeast Division Street to their current one on Southeast 12th Avenue and Stark Street.

The Gateway store will be their second location, utilizing a grant from the Portland Development Commission as part of the Gateway Action Plan to help subsidize some costs.

“We’re not trying to make Gateway the next Division or Mississippi,” said Miller. “Hopefully we’ll be a catalyst in maybe attracting small, thoughtful businesses instead of like, making it [the area] okay for New Seasons.”

The grocery will feature packaged goods with small bulk and produce sections, along with grab-and-go deli items. The couple says that they plan to retool their stock slightly to be affordable for the Gateway neighborhood—“Because it’s food, and food should be affordable,” said Miller.

The pair are optimistic that average, everyday citizens will utilize their grocery. “When we first opened we had a picture that it was gonna be all these dirty punk kids [and] bike messengers, and then you realize a lot of that is fashion and very apolitical,” said Miller. Customers are more typically families and soccer moms.

Badillo and Miller are aware that their store may be a symptom of gentrification. “I think everyone should accept their own part in gentrification,” said Badillo.

“That’s why we are trying to become a part of the small business community and the Gateway community in general. We don’t wanna just come in as these imperialist southeast businesspeople coming into east Portland,” said Badillo.

The couple plans to continue a tradition where they spotlight a selected nonprofit every month and donate a percentage of their profits to the selected organization. Food Fight! averages $2,000 to $3,000 a month in donations, and they take care in selecting small groups so that the money makes a particular difference.

“I feel like Gateway still feels like it’s got that old-school Portland potential that is lost now,” said Miller. Badillo added, “It’ll be like the old days when we first opened, because I miss those days a lot.”