Cully neighbor Eli Spevak of Orange Splot development, who lives with his family at the Cully Grove co-housing community that he co-developed in 2013, has purchased the Roses Ice Cream business and property on Northeast 42nd Ave. from Roses owner Lew Evans.
After completing the property deal, Spevak sold the business to current Roses manager Gina Landtiser and will lease her as much of the building as she’d like to use.
The balance of the space, if any, could be leased to other tenants. The Spevak and Landtiser families met with Evans and his sister at the restaurant on Monday, May 2 to sign the necessary papers.
Landtiser took over day-to-day management of Roses after the abrupt closure of Magoo’s Bar and Grill across the street forced her out of a job last July and Evans offered her the Roses job the very next day.
Landtiser and Evans had an informal agreement that one day Landtiser might have an opportunity to buy the business and Spevak has helped to see that deal through to fruition.
“Although I love ice cream – and old-fashioned ice cream parlors – I have no capacity to actually run an ice cream business,” said Spevak. “Gina, however, has both the skills and desire to do exactly that.”
Spevak is a committed ice cream enthusiast and his Roses story has now come full circle.
After coming to Portland in 1994 as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer, his first paid job was making ice cream at Roses’ former location on Fremont.
“When the original Roses closed in 1997, I bought the old ice cream machine, flavorings, old-fashioned sundae goblets, milkshake and waffle-cone machines and other odd-and-ends,” said Spevak.
“Over the years, I used the equipment to make big batches of ice cream and host increasingly large ice cream socials. Needless to say, I was excited to see Roses re-open in my neighborhood, near a large lot that I had my eye on for a possible future development. Both my kids love Roses!”
“When I learned of Lew’s plans to retire and sell Roses, I met with him periodically over many months to negotiate a purchase agreement for the property and business,” said Spevak.
Spevak plans to fix up the property and hold it as a neighborhood ice cream parlor for now. Spevak and Landtiser have some minor building repairs planned for the coming months – and a more comprehensive renovation of the space on tap for this winter, when the ice cream business tends to slow down.
“In addition to co-hosting the seasonal Cully neighborhood farmer’s markets on the parking lot that surrounds the building, I’d like to explore additional creative uses to activate the rest of the site,” said Spevak. “It will be fun to think through the options, in consultation with neighborhood businesses and community members.”
Spevak has already struck a deal with Cully neighbor Ted Snider, who will open the Cully Farm Store on the southwest corner of the property this month.
“The farm store will carry backyard chicken supplies, organic soil amendments, reconditioned garden tools and vegetable-starts grown by neighborhood farmers,” said Snider. “I love to talk plants and dirt, so come on by and share the excitement of the season with me.”
Landtiser plans to expand the ice cream shop’s hours and will begin offering a breakfast menu on weekends this month, but she intends to keep the basic menu and business model that have earned Roses Ice Cream its reputation – except that the lottery portion of the business is now gone.
“I’m philosophically opposed to the State of Oregon funding itself by conning residents out of their money,” said Spevak. “Although it’s pitched as entertainment, the lottery is a highly regressive tax. It’s unfortunate that we fund essential government functions on the backs of mostly lower-income folks through state-sponsored, legalized gambling.”
The last of the lottery machines were wheeled out of the shop on the afternoon that Spevak, Evans and Landtiser closed the deal.
Spevak intends to redevelop the property at some point, likely as an affordable mixed-use project, but probably not for at least another ten years.
“I’m concerned that our neighborhood has the potential to follow suit with some other Portland commercial corridors where there aren’t affordable options for businesses or residents,” said Spevak.
“I hope that we can chart a different path for Northeast 42nd and, as a property owner, I’ll have a seat at the table along with the other community-minded business owners that are already doing great things here. I’d like to see if Orange Splot could bring the kind of innovation to small commercial that we’re now doing in residential infill. Although I’d like some reasonable level of financial return, I have no need or expectation to max out profits. Mostly, I’m going into this for the community, creativity, fun, learning curve and, of course, the frozen treats.”