The Portland Mercado has been a long time in the making. The community development organization Hacienda CDC began the project about nine years ago as a way to provide economic development to residents in its affordable housing complex.
The effort started by connecting residents with opportunities to sell goods at farmers markets, but vendors wanted an affordable place to run their businesses year round.
Now, the Mercado is home to 19 Latino businesses including a chorizo vendor, food carts and a party shop selling handmade piñatas. The market also serves as a business incubator offering low-income entrepreneurs micro-loans and business training.
Caitlin Burke runs Hacienda’s Micro-Mercantes entrepreneurship program. She thinks the market will bring something new to the neighborhood.
“This is more of a working-class neighborhood,” Burke said. “There’s not a lot of fresh food available, and especially places to bring your kids that are fun.”
Burke said the market provides economic opportunity for low-income people as neighborhood demographics change.
“As Portland becomes more popular, it’s gentrifying,” Burke said. “Not just housing is becoming more expensive, but also retail space.”
Organizers of the Portland Mercado hope the market will become a center for Latino food and culture in Portland, but they’ve had to turn some small businesses away. A representative for Hacienda CDC said the organization has received about 200 applications from entrepreneurs wanting retail space, and they now have a waiting list.
Erick Caravantes runs Kaah Neighborhood Market at Portland Mercado. The shop features fresh produce and products from Mexico.
Caravantes says he used to work two jobs a day to make ends meet. Now, he’s nervous about starting his first business, but thinks it will pay off.
“I have more opportunity over here than working for Fred Meyer or somebody else,” said Caravantes.
The market is part of the Lents Urban Renewal Area and is partially funded by the Portland Development Commission. Hacienda CDC spent about five years planning and fundraising to raise $3.2 million for the project.
Hacienda CDC is expecting the market to attract nearly 3000 people for its grand opening this weekend. The event will feature music and dance from local artists including performances by Portland-based Cuban salsa from Dina y Los Rumberos and Tango Pupuso dance.
The Portland Mercado is located at 7238 Southeast Foster Road. Normal business hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days per week.