During the holiday period, the Southeast Portland industrial workspace of Grovemade is hopping. Over the sound of drills and packing tape, 20 employees hand-make and ship computer stands, watches and iPhone cases made from walnut and wireless phone chargers made from soft natural cork. Grovemade sells practical crafts — to the tune of $2 million in sales, says 39-year-old owner Ken Tomita, a former furniture maker, who started his business in 2009.
Tomita isn’t immune to the problems facing crafts businesses in Portland. His rent is tripling in the next year, and Grovemade will need to relocate to another part of town.
But like Gillis, Tomita doesn’t bemoan the market. “I hear people crying about the changes in Portland, but that’s not our stance,” he says. “We’re just focusing on what we do best, and at the end of the day, one thing will never change—creating great product and great experience, and creating a loyal customer base that way.”