Neighbors Market, 9061 N.E. Sandy Blvd., isn’t necessarily what immediately comes to mind when one describes a “dream business.” It’s not even that easy to describe the place as “cute.” But it definitely has its charms. Chief among them is the new owner, Seth Harris, and his infectious positivity and vision for the business and the neighborhood. “I came across it online when I was looking for different places that were for sale. I had been looking for a convenience store for about a year,” says Harris. He came from the steel industry and was trying to find a new career and a stake in business ownership.
“When I found this place, it hadn’t been taken care of because the previous owner lived in Seattle,” says Harris. The commute was causing the place to languish and die under a lack of attention and stewardship. The previous owner had apparently purchased the business for his two sons, according to Harris. When they lost interest in running the market, it fell under the eye of their father, who had neither the time nor the logistic capability to run it. This was after a long period of stable ownership of the location, during which it became one of the neighborhood’s favorite local haunts.
Evan Burton is one of the many locals who used to love the market before the lack of attention let it go steeply downhill in the span of just a couple of years. “It’s a little hole-in-the-wall market,” says Burton of the place fondly. But he quickly turns to Harris, of whom he’s a big fan; primarily because the market no longer caters to drug users. “One of the things he [Harris] did was destroy all the meth pipes, which was the first thing you’d see when you walked in there. He got rid of those, because he didn’t want that to be the first thing people see and he didn’t want to promote that.” There used to be a glass case that prominently displayed a broad array of paraphernalia for hard drugs.
Burton also relishes the fresh stock that’s been flowing in and the responsiveness of the new staff. Where once the stock was expiring and poorly tailored to the community’s interests, the store’s overhaul features new products on the shelves. “He’s been on that Nextdoor neighbor site [Nextdoor.com], asking people what they want him to stock,” says Burton of Harris’ gusto for bringing customer satisfaction back to the market. He notes that someone asked for Kettle Chips on the Nextdoor thread, and the next week, there was a big Kettle Chips display at the store.
Harris lives with his wife and children in Milwaukie, and they help out a little with the store, but primarily he staffs the market using a special program through Clackamas County, which aims to pair veterans with willing employers. Clackamas is home to more than 37,000 U.S. veterans, and two of them are employed at Neighbors Market. The positive vibes of the new staff are meant to revive the community feeling that used to permeate the location.
“Everybody loved it. It was their favorite corner market, and they watched it just shrink and shrivel. I saw it and there was plenty of opportunity to rebuild it and bring it back to its former glory,” says Harris.
“They’re real communicative with the neighbors. Whenever I go in there, there’s usually a customer in there or I pass one coming out, which wasn’t the case the last few years,” says Burton, happy to have his neighborhood market back.
Neighbors Market is open daily; hours of operation are Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. extending to midnight in May. Their phone number is 503-253-8645.