Local Business

These Portlanders Have Closed Their Own Shops. But That Isn't All They're Missing.

We asked Toffee Club’s Niki Diamond to tell us about a dearly departed outlet she’s mourning, and then kept the shout-outs going.

By Julia Silverman December 2, 2020

Pete Hoppins and Niki Diamond of the much-missed Toffee Club

By now, everyone knows the drill. You get a text or see on social media that a favorite business has folded thanks to COVID-19, and your stomach knots up. It’s happened to us at Portland Monthly a lot this year, including when we found out that British-inspired soccer pub the Toffee Club was closing its doors. Turns out the owners of our most-loved spots know just how we’re feeling, as they’ve watched some of their favorite places close, too. We’re nosy, so we asked Toffee Club’s Niki Diamond to shout out a dearly departed business she’s mourning, and then kept the shout-outs going.

Unfortunately, right now, there’s no end in sight to this grim chain. But Diamond and others did tell us about where their next chapters will take them—our new favorites, on the horizon.

Niki Diamond

Co-owner of the Toffee Club on SE Hawthorne, which closed in August

On trying to open: “The only way that a business like the Toffee Club is sustainable is by filling the pub multiple times a week to the brim.”

On deciding to close: “We just knew it would get worse. Winter was going to start, and just staffing and managing [the pub] was so challenging.”

What’s next at their adjacent brewery, Away Days: “Our first canning run is happening, and we’re talking to Market of Choice [about shelf space].”   

A place she’s missing: Renata, the nearby Italian restaurant in the Central Eastside on SE Main.

Sandra Arnerich

Co-owner of Renata, which closed to diners in September

On trying to adapt: “Restaurants are really tough businesses on a good day. We knew there was going to be a short window of dining out. We tried to keep our core team on, thinking we would reopen in July at the latest.”

On deciding to close for in-house dining: “The reality is that we were running our business at a 25 percent capacity, and that doesn’t pay the bills. The hardest part is, you’ve shut down, and then what?”

What’s next: “We have been doing frozen pizzas for New Seasons for a few months. We’re looking into getting certified as a production kitchen so we can sell to a bigger market.”

A place she’s missing: Polliwog, the adorable kids’ clothing and toy store on NE 28th.

Phoebe Smith-Buls

Co-owner of Polliwog, which closed for good in April

On closing down right away, and never opening back up: “I was really sad that I couldn’t close on my own terms or pass it on to another person. We survived the retail apocalypse [of 2008 and 2009], we survived Amazon. But I did not prepare for a pandemic.”

What’s next: Other Foods, Smith’s grain-free, gluten-free, paleo-friendly baking mix line. “For my own diet, I can’t have gluten, but I still want bread. We mostly sell online—we’re in Market of Choice, and I am hoping to get into PCC Natural Markets in Seattle.”

A place she’s missing: Love Hive Yoga, the community-centric space for yogis on lower E Burnside and SE Woodstock

Audra Carmine and Jessica Garai

Cofounders of Love Hive Yoga

Carmine, on closing the Burnside studio in June: “To be clear, it wasn’t our choice to close the Burnside [location]. We received a
notice that we were being evicted. Honestly, we didn’t have the financial or internal resource to be able to fight.”

Garai, on closing the Woodstock location: “Now we are in the middle of voluntarily surrendering our Woodstock location. We owe [the landlord] $20,000, because we have not been able to operate since March 16. So, we are going to move out, in the hopes that it will save us an eviction [lawsuit].”

What’s next: They still have a NE Fremont location, which they’ve turned into a studio space for shooting livestream and on-demand yoga classes. “It’s Netflix, but for Love Hive,” says Garai. “My hope is that someday we’ll reach a broader audience than we were ever able to reach in person.”

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