Nestled underneath the Burnside Bridgehead and next to a skate park, Pacific Coast Fruit moves 4 million pounds of produce and 100,000 packages a week into and out of the Central Eastside. The company’s 60+ trucks load and unload product 24 hours a day, serving places as far away as Victoria and Vancouver, B.C., and as close as local Fred Meyer stores.
A family-run business since 1977, Pacific Coast Fruit operations include wholesale, grower/shipper and manufacturing functions. Ninety-five percent of their business is in fresh produce, which they get mostly by truck, with some by rail and air.
Pacific Coast Fruit considered moving to a suburban location and even purchased land, but they aren’t going anywhere. They love being in the Central Eastside. Close to the freeway and the airport, the location works for them. They also find the food industry cluster a benefit; they are now doing business with the New Seasons Commissary that opened down the street.But freight movement can be difficult because of traffic in the area — especially getting trucks to I-5 southbound. Maneuvering trucks through the small street grid is difficult so they hire good drivers and hold regular safety meetings. Says company owner Dave Nemarnik, “This location works for us because we’re off the main travel corridor, but I can see why it may not work for others.”
With 310 employees at this location, the company is among the largest employers in the Central Eastside. Jobs include entry-level food production, warehouse workers, drivers, and sales and support staff. The company provides benefits to all employees.
Employees at Pacific Coast Fruit come from all over the region (Camas, Southeast and Northeast Portland, Hillsboro, Beaverton and Tigard), and parking for them is a problem. Although the company has a parking lot and leases some spaces across the street, “We are maxed out and can’t grow anymore at this location,” states Nemarnik, who wants to see more jobs in the district.
“Family wage jobs are important,” he emphasizes. “They create wealth.” Open to different kinds of economic activity in the area (e.g., design, software), Nemarnick cautions that office work shouldn’t replace manufacturing jobs. “We need to build stuff here and think about the education system for the trades. Companies will come here if there are trained employees.”
Regarding the possibility of more housing in the area, Nemarnik says, “I don’t mind residential close by, but a lot of residential would be a problem; it would force out business. And new residents need to be aware it will be urban living here. This is a 24-hour operation.”
This is the fourth installment of a blog series aimed at exploring the past, present, and future of the Central Eastside. To learn more about the 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.