The Building Then
In 1922 the Italian Gardeners and Ranchers Association constructed the Italian Gardeners and Ranchers Association Market Building on Martin Luther King Blvd next to the Hawthorne Bridge viaduct.
Now known as the Gardeners and Ranchers Building, the three-story building provided farmers and peddlers with a central location to sell and distribute produce. The association and building were also instrumental in establishing the Central Eastside as a center for produce distribution and industry, and Gardeners and Ranchers served as a gathering place and ad hoc community center for newly arriving immigrants.
This building that once contained a produce market, dairy product section, a specialty Italian import grocer, a pool hall, meeting rooms, and later a clothing manufacturing facility, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Although it is no longer used for wholesale or produce distribution, its current tenants provide an example of how new industrial uses are populating the Central Eastside.
The Building Now
Today the Gardeners and Ranchers Building is home to more than 23 businesses that use every portion of the building, from the basement to the top floor.
Currently, the basement houses tenants like Ruckus Composites, which began repairing carbon fiber bike frames in a windowless 200 sq ft work space in 2008. Needing a place to paint their frames, they reached out to a cabinetmaker on the second floor, who made his paint booth available as needed. A few years in, the folks at Ruckus discovered they were not the only bike manufacturers in the building. They bumped into Oscar Camarena of Simple Bicycles, who shares his small work space loaded with metal fabrication tools with an architect/designer who makes specialty metal furnishings.
Next to Simple Bicycles is Plywerk, a small but growing company that does photo mounting and art panels in addition to constructing bamboo panels on site. Started in the basement of its founder, the company now occupies several hundred square feet of the Gardeners and Ranchers Building, where staff manufacture the frames as well as mount and ship the finished products to customers near and far.
The second (and top) floor of the building — an area likely used as the original meeting rooms and pool hall of the Italian Gardeners and Ranchers Association — now contains space used by Nike SB (skate boarding), Clogmaster (custom shoes), Virtual Native (web design), Plus QA (desktop and mobile applications) and Streetcar Press (publishing), among others.
The Gardeners and Ranchers Building presents an interesting case study of how older industrial buildings in the district can be reused by a mix of businesses, across different sectors. It also demonstrates how different businesses in the district form interdependent and synergistic relationships that help each one prosper.
This is the eighth installment of a blog series aimed at exploring the past, present, and future of the Central Eastside. To learn more about the industrial buildings of the Central Eastside and the planning efforts for the district, read the Central Eastside Reader and visit the SE Quadrant Plan calendar to learn about future events.