ADDRESS: 1200-1218 N Killingsworth St.
YEAR BUILT: 1927
SQUARE FOOTAGE: 5,982
MARKET VALUE: $2.4 million
OWNER: Nansen Properties LLC
HOW LONG IT’S BEEN EMPTY: 2 years
WHY IT’S EMPTY: The owner died.
Mick Shillingford got the ice cream bug in 1997.
Shillingford, then a single father living in Southeast Portland with two young boys after the sudden death of his wife, bought a truck, a loudspeaker, and ice cream, and began a route he would perform every day for nine months of the year.
One of his sons, Brandon Guffey, remembers riding in the truck with his father every day after school beginning when he was 7 years old. Between the months of March and October, he’d peddle ice cream to kids along the route as songs like “Turkey in the Straw,” “Ding Dong” and “Pop Goes the Weasel” emanated from the truck on repeat.
“My dad would pick me up every day from school in the ice cream truck, and it was my job to hand out ice cream bars until we got finished at about 11 o’clock at night,” Guffey says.
Guffey has few fond memories of the years accompanying his dad on the ice cream route. Their relationship remained fractured until Shillingford’s death in the summer of 2021. He was 61.
“Working for my dad was not a good situation,” Guffey says, “and a lot of things about my dad were not very good.”
Shillingford upgraded his business in 2005. He bought an old commercial building along North Killingsworth Street that for years housed a dairy operation, then a dry cleaners, then an auto shop, then a rotating host of small businesses, including a Mexican tienda. He began hiring drivers with trucks and vans to distribute ice cream along particular routes. Over the years he expanded into an ice cream wholesaler, too, and started a popsicle brand.
At the height of the ice cream operation, Guffey estimates, his father had a fleet of about 10 ice cream trucks and vans crawling along city streets every day.
While the ice cream business was the building’s anchor, Shillingford toyed with other storefronts in the building, too. He operated a coffee shop for a short time before it went under. He ran a convenience store for a while, too, but, according to Guffey, the bottle drop exchange and cheap beer upset surrounding neighbors because those offerings attracted homeless campers.
Shillingford managed to run a couple businesses out of the building that lasted more than a decade. He opened the Fish & Chip Shop in the Killingsworth building in 2008, where he served classic British cuisine, including Scotch eggs and shepherd’s pie. (Reviews of the food vary widely.)
Inside the pub was a Doctor Who-themed bar and music venue, the TARDIS Room, where local punk and rock bands came to showcase their songs (the performers included Shillingford himself), and where Shillingford would show episodes of Doctor Who on a modest television mounted on the wall. Its novelty gained media coverage, including by WW, which in 2012 wrote that this was your spot “if you fancy some sci-fi geekery and a chance to get off with some authentic fish and chips.”
Shillingford never appeared to make a steady profit from any of his ventures. In estate documents, Portland Ice Cream Company is valued at $175,000. The pub is valued at $11,890. The property itself is valued at $2.1 million.
“Every couple of years, my dad would think, ‘This would be a great thing to open, I can make a ton of money,’ and then he wouldn’t make any money and close it down,” Guffey says. “Ice cream paid to keep the building open.”
When Shillingford died in 2021, all of his assets went to his wife, accomplished computer scientist and researcher Kathryn Mohror.
Shillingford left nothing to either of his two sons, both of whom had frequent run-ins with the law and one of whom has been homeless on the streets of Portland for years.
Shillingford wrote in his will of his two sons: “While I love them both, I leave nothing to either of them.”
Mohror, his widow, has been trying to sell the building since her husband’s death. She did not return calls or texts from WW, but the real estate broker who’s working with Mohror to sell the building, and who also worked with Shillingford before his death, described the man as a “salty old English bloke.”
Twice in the past year, Mohmor and Jason VanAbrams, the property’s broker, lowered the price of the building. Now it sits at $1.9 million, but VanAbrams is jockeying to lower it again soon. After all, it needs a new roof and the 50-foot-long walk-in freezer that Shillingford proudly installed years ago has actually been a detractor for potential buyers. “We’re waiting for a buyer who wants the whole freezer,” VanAbrams says.
Guffey doesn’t recall his father affectionately. He doesn’t think he was a good businessman, a good boss, or a good father. But he did make some damn good ice cream, Guffey says. “He would find the best tasting ingredients he could get.”
Every week, WW examines one mysteriously vacant property in the city of Portland, explains why it’s empty, and considers what might arrive there next. Send addresses to firstname.lastname@example.org.