The Nike Factory Store in the Eliot neighborhood in Northeast Portland is shuttering its doors for good, according to the Soul District Business Association.
That community rallied to save the store after it closed its doors last November amid rising theft and safety concerns in a neighborhood particularly hard-hit by the aftershocks of the pandemic. But the efforts ultimately failed. The decision by Nike leadership to vacate the flagship store on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will “critically wound an already struggling small business community in the area,” according to the SDBA.
When the store opened in 1984, it was Nike’s first factory store and a major investment in a historically Black neighborhood. It was “one of the first area businesses to stand up and declare Northeast Portland as a viable community to do business in,” said Ron Herndon, who led the Black United Front, in a 2004 Nike press release.
Today, Herndon sounded a different note. “I just believe folks at City Hall don’t have the skill or creativity to address major issues that impact not only the Black community but all of Portland,” he told The Oregonian.
Mayor Ted Wheeler and the Portland Police Bureau have made cracking down on shoplifting a priority. But the mayor’s office rejected Nike’s request for off-duty cops to guard the factory store.
“My team and city staff have worked tirelessly and in good faith with Nike for almost a year to offer creative solutions to their safety challenges,” Wheeler said in a statement. “Ultimately, the City cannot offer Nike, or any other private business, with dedicated off-duty PPB officers due to PPB’s staffing shortage. I remain committed to supporting Nike’s future success in Portland and look forward to their future investments in our community.”
Still, the store was certainly a frequent target for thieves. The Portland Police Bureau received 276 reports of shoplifting at the factory store in 2022 alone, according to police records obtained by WW last October.
Nike sent a statement to WW on Sep 9 following publication of this story, which reads in part: “Nike’s commitment to supporting and uplifting Portland’s North and Northeast community is unwavering. We are reimagining Nike’s retail space, permanently closing our current location at 2650 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and considering future locations as part of this community’s long term revitalization plan.”
“We held out hope that Nike, city officials and community leaders would recalibrate and realign order. But it looks like it’s game over,” says John Washington, the SDBA’s executive director.