Rachel Fowler, an aromatherapist who sells essential oil products at the Portland Saturday Market downtown, said this weekend was a return to normalcy for the market.

Rachel Fowler, an aromatherapist who sells essential oil products at the Portland Saturday Market downtown, said this weekend was a return to normalcy for the market.

Rebecca Ellis/OPB

The Portland mayor’s office says shoppers appeared to take up the city on its call to patronize downtown businesses over the weekend, following political protests the preceding weekend that caused stores to suffer while many a would-be-customer stayed home.

“We only have anecdotal information, but, as of now, business owners have reported very high numbers,” said Jennifer Arguinzoni, the Mayor’s Director of External Affairs.

As part of the mayor’s ‘Shop. Eat. Play’ campaign on Saturday, the city offered free parking in metered spots downtown, as well as in all SmartPark garages. Portland Streetcar and the BIKETOWN bikeshare program offered free rides throughout the day.

Members of the Portland Business Alliance, which helped with the promotion, said they’re still working to track down exactly how successful the freebies were at driving foot traffic downtown.

But the alliance’s director of downtown retail programs Lisa Frisch said, after chatting with retailers on Saturday and Sunday, she believes businesses got a lift — though not one large enough to make them forget about their losses the prior weekend.  

“It’s a small lift over last year’s same-day business,” she said. “But the lift was not enough to overcome the losses from the protest day.”

The business alliance has estimated the Aug. 17 demonstrations cost the city $3 million. 

Rachel Fowler, an aromatherapist who sells essential oil products at the Portland Saturday Market downtown, said the protests devastated many of the stalls she’s surrounded by, with shop-owners each losing out on hundreds of dollars in business. This weekend, she said, was a welcome return to normalcy with the typical bustling crowds.

“I wouldn’t say [the promotion] completely made up for it. Because we lost quite a bit last Saturday,” she said. “I think it went back to what we had this past summer.” 

Catherine Odell, a children’s book illustrator, said she “didn’t feel comfortable” setting up her stall at the Saturday Market while the protests were going on, and so lost out on a day of sales at the height of tourist season. She said most of the people she chats with at the market made the same decision  

Odell says the past weekend’s campaign didn’t make any financial difference. Her stall of illustrations saw the foot traffic she would expect from a Saturday in August. But she says there was a notable “lightness in the air.”

“It was a nice gesture. I know the vendors appreciated it,” she said. “There was a celebratory vibe when we went to the parking lot after work.”