|Photo: New School|
It was hot outside, and the bus, which was headed downtown, offered refuge from the arid intersection where they had been waiting: Ninety-second and Foster, where a junk-filled antique store with “Closing Down” signs in its windows faced off against the New Copper Penny, an establishment that offered ladies’ nights, and was considerably more tarnished than its name suggested....
Lents, which was originally a farming community that was annexed to Portland in 1912, was until the early seventies a blue-collar neighborhood of single-family homes, with its own commercial center and a distinct, small-town character. Things started to change in 1975, with the construction of Interstate 205: the freeway sliced the neighborhood in two, requiring the demolition of five hundred houses, and seeding strip joints and bars along Foster Avenue. As the boys grew older, Lents declined. There were drugs and gangs, including the Gypsy Jokers bikers, who had a clubhouse a couple of blocks from the Dickmans’ home. Asian immigrants began moving into the area in the nineties, and there was a concurrent rise in the skinhead population.
Lents, pockmarked by crime and poverty, has been one of the most intractable problems for the city. Anything beyond 82nd Avenue might as well be in a different county, and Lents has the additional dislocation of being not just east well south of the city. For two decades, the city has been making gestures toward rehabilitating Lents, but it was too remote to move onto the front burner. A few years back, though, Portland finally started making good on some of the plans. They have been looking for anchor businesses to replace the blighted ones that have made the place home, and the Portland Development Commission helped the Ararat Bakery to move into the neighborhood in 2008. The building they invested in was formerly a nightclub (with, apparently, an illegal brothel upstairs) and it seemed like a great exchange--except that 2008 was the start of the worst depression in a century. Ararat went bankrupt in 2011, and the building sat idle.
|Panorama of Lents by Twelvizm|
All of this very long preamble is to critical to understanding the business that took over the building in 2015--Zoiglhaus Brewing. It is an ambitious project made all the more interesting by its bet on this under-served neighborhood, a good six miles as the Schwinn pedals from the rich vein of breweries nearer to town. The founder and inspiration is Alan Taylor, a Berlin-trained Oregonian who spent five years planning Zoiglhaus, and investigating locations everywhere from Beaverton to the west of Portland to the eastern suburbs. Settling on Lents makes the whole venture more intriguing--though in an interesting way, is exactly in harmony with the region that gives the brewery its name.