There’s no easy way to say this. Trying to encompass 15 years of food, hospitality, sweat, laughter, community, tears, exchanges of ideas, critiques, awards, mistakes, and flashes of brilliance into a several paragraph synopsis feels a daunting task. I stepped into this space in 2007, raw from recent breakups both personally and in business. I was a young mother who couldn’t see herself taking a desk job, wanting to spend my days and nights cooking. And that I did. We received many awards and accolades, held an untold number of triumphs and defeats. We grew from a 4 person staff at opening, to a staff of 15 by the time Beast was finally laid to rest by the pandemic, 13 years later.
Enter Ripe Cooperative, our “pandemic pivot” housed in the familiar Beast space. She’s been nimble, beginning as an intricate meal-box offering (resplendent with videos and hand-drawn illustrations), then shifting to a marketplace (at first online only, and then also in person) and then most recently into an all-day cafe. The support throughout each step has been nothing short of incredible. I’ve had more joy connecting directly with people on the patio, enjoying their handmade pasta and affogatos, soaking in the light in our beautiful garden-scape, than I ever could have imagined. Creating something more accessible—simple food and drink the way we like to enjoy it ourselves—has nourished my soul during some of the most trying times imaginable in our industry.
The current landscape is making quality foodservice nearly impossible. The past two years have seen the costs of all ingredients soar (many upwards of 2 or 3 times what they were just two years ago), and they aren’t slowing down. At the same time, we’ve been paying staff an unprecedented amount in wages, tips and benefits. Property owners are seeing their own costs increase, and are handing down ever higher costs per square foot. I want to live in a world of small beautiful things, but what I see out there is a big race to the middle, and Ripe is simply not cut out to make the necessary compromises and still be what we want it to be. Like Beast, Ripe is not a restaurant that can be refined to mimic much larger corporations with cost cutting, bottom line profits, and scalability at the forefront of the conversation. When places are able to survive that are truly doing it right, it’s often at some other cost you might not see, like lots of investors and debt, or an owner quietly working her 80 hour weeks with no life outside the business.
It is with a heavy heart, that we announce- we’ve decided it’s time to move on. We aren’t quite sure what’s next, but the equation here will not solve. It has been a GORGEOUS experiment at 5425 NE 30th. We built a team of incredible talent and passion. We came up with some products you’ve surely not seen the last of (I’m looking at you frozen custard), and we helped our community and friends have a place to gather around shared values. Instead of just moving to Europe, where cafe culture is alive and well, and people gather around small tables at all hours with friends and family, we tried bringing that spirit here instead. I think we more than succeeded, even as we retreat. We’ll see you further on down the road, in some shape or form. We cannot thank you enough for your support these last couple of years, this last decade and a half.
This weekend will be our final bow here in the space we’ve lived in for exactly 15 years.
Until we meet again, come say goodbye to all that we’ve done here, and raise a glass to the staff and your fellow Portland food community.