Pitman Restaurant Equipment has been a fixture in the Central Eastside for decades. Owners Dan and Jason Pitman have been “doing kitchens” for 28 years and boast several locations in Southeast Portland. The latest addition to their suite of food-related businesses is the Pitman Building, a new type of industrial building at SE 3rd and Clay, with six commercial kitchens and nine small office spaces above. Because of the industrial zoning, the office spaces must be primarily used by the kitchen tenants or other industrial businesses.
Open since early 2013, the Pitman Building’s kitchen spaces are fully occupied by commercial food production companies with 3 to 10 employees each, including Aybla Mediterranean Grill and Artemis Foods. Based on this success, Dan Pitman has embarked on another project: rehabbing an old warehouse building on SE Water Avenue to accommodate three more commercial kitchens and office space on the second floor.
Pitman says the businesses that rent his kitchens “. . . tend to be start-ups and/or caterers, food carts and wholesale food producers that sell to Whole Foods and New Seasons — places that like to buy local.”
All of these businesses plan to grow, Pitman notes, and to that end he provides some marketing support. Ratagast cat food (fresh frozen cat food), for example, was a tenant and is now a national brand.
He originally located his restaurant supply business in the district because of the central location, and Dick’s Restaurant Supply (now Rose’s) offered “some friendly competition.” They often refer customers to one another. “The area works,” states Pitman “because a lot of the businesses here serve Downtown, and access to the freeway isn’t too bad.”
But freight and parking are issues. Getting the big trucks in and out of the area can be challenging, and Pitman speculates that it will probably get worse. Tenants and employees buy monthly parking permits to free up their parking lot for deliveries and customers, but on-street parking is becoming scarce.
“Ultimately, though, I think the change in the district is positive,” he says. “Change is good.”
This is the fifth 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.