Attracted to the district because of its central location and access to everything he requires for his business, Oscar Camarena moved his metal fabrication business from Yakima, Wash., to the Central Eastside last year. Now on the first floor of the Gardeners and Ranchers Building at SE 3rd and Madison, Oscar creates bike jigs for frame builders and bicycle product developers around the world. He also builds custom bike frames under the name Simple Bicycles for the high-end cycling market.
He can often be found hanging out with his fellow tenant craftsmen and women, sharing industry knowledge and acting as the de facto “mayor” of this unique community of metal-smiths, designers, bike builders and other entrepreneurs. On Fridays they have their own happy hour in the building.
A self-described “foodie,” Oscar likes the Central Eastside location because of its proximity to lots of restaurants as well as all of his suppliers, distributors, services and other frame builders. He can push a shopping cart loaded with jigs to the powder coater, ride his bike to Winks for small parts and tools or drive his truck to pick up larger supplies in Northwest Portland, all within a 20-minute radius.
Oscar says there’s nowhere else in the city that he would rather do business.
It’s easy to look at the Central Eastside and see a collection of individual, albeit diverse, businesses. However, a closer look at these seemingly independent enterprises reveals that most have a symbiotic relationship with other businesses in the area — from the same sector as well as from other sectors — that provide essential goods and services.
Together they form a loose economic ecosystem. Each supports the other in multiple ways, and the removal of one key business, let alone a whole sector, can have a ripple effect that begins to undermine the health and potential survival of many other businesses.
Oscar Camarena of Simple Bicycles provides an example of this kind of industrial “ecosystem.”
This is the ninth installment of a blog series aimed at exploring the past, present, and future of the Central Eastside. To learn more about the industrial businesses 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.