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What’s It Like Running a Gemstone Shop Next to Portland’s Federal Courthouse? Not That Bad.

Like many businesses that sell material goods rather than experiences, the Fossil Cartel garnered new interest.

In 2020, downtown Portland developed a reputation as a place where small business owners get rocks through their windows. Susan Landa is selling rocks out of hers.

Landa owns and operates the Fossil Cartel, a gemstone shop on the corner of Southwest 3rd Avenue and Taylor Street. That's a block from the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, and the same intersection where "Naked Athena" did yoga poses in front of riot cops.

But here's the twist: Landa saw her sales rise in 2020.

Like many businesses that sell material goods rather than experiences, the Fossil Cartel garnered new interest from customers who saved up money for  bigger purchases while stuck at home. Looters didn't target the store—gemstones are hard to cart around, harder to pawn—and Landa's windows remained intact, despite some close calls at the start of the unrest.

"The first two nights, my husband and I actually slept in the store to protect it," she says. "And then I realized it wasn't going to stop, so we boarded back up again."

With Portland newly free from its label of "anarchist jurisdiction" but national pundits still wringing their hands about the next Pompeii, we asked Landa for a more realistic appraisal. In this interview, she describes how downtown Portland is coping, what surprised her most about running a shop amid civil unrest, and the one stone that's selling like hotcakes thanks to TikTok.