St. Johns is getting lot’s of new restaurants to discover these days and a wonderful addition to our community is Pizza Nostra. Located on the corner of Philadelphia and Lombard in the Marvel 29 building, it’s hard to miss when coming or going over the bridge.
It’s always great to find out what makes a business special and I was able to sit down recently with Abdul Ahoti, the owner of Pizza Nostra. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation.
Q: Tell me about Pizza Nostra.
A: We started Pizza Nostra in Northeast Portland in 2011, specifically the Beaumont area for its feel and that its family oriented. There are a lot of family businesses there that provide jobs and that’s why I chose to be in my first location. After five years, we decided to open another location and we had St Johns as the main destination. Thankfully we got this great location by the beautiful St. Johns Bridge and we’re doing great here.
Q: What has your journey looked like?
A: I was working at a pizza shop in 2007, the same year I started going to Portland State. I started entry-level, just doing dishes. A few years after that I was a manager, then a general manager at a new location they opened. I worked in that pizza place for five years until I found a great space in Northeast and decided to go on my own and open my own restaurant.
Q: What things did you encounter along the way?
A: I started the business in 2011. That was my senior year in college, so of course it takes a lot of time to start a new business. I was working 70 to 80 hours a week and took a lot of effort. I worked with my fiancé at the time, my wife now, spending as much as we could financially and in time and effort.
Q: How did you come up with your name?
A: I was just brainstorming, thinking “what’s name I’m going to start with”? I wanted to do something that sounded Italian, but also told our story. I was talking to my mother and she said “why don’t you call it “Our Pizza” and that’s what’s Pizza Nostra literally means!
Q: Why did you choose St. Johns?
A: Great question. St. Johns has a local feeling and restaurants here are small and emerging. It’s a familiar feeling I had when I started my first business. There are quite a few cafes here too. I’ve seen that St. Johns residents love the feel of their restaurants, so I wanted to be part of that. I’ve also been hearing for years that St. Johns is an up-and-coming neighborhood in Portland, so that’s another reason why I wanted the opportunity be here.
Q: How did you design and create your interior space?
A: We like it and wish it was a little bit bigger, but we’re happy to have this space. I wanted to keep the theme of the red and white colors with some stainless steel and add a little bit of wood. I thought that’s good combination of color and kind of the identity of our pizza.
Q: What’s great on your menu?
A: We have a variety of items on our menu and wanted to include everyone. We have traditional pizzas and vegan options as well. We have thick crust, New York-style crust and a gluten free crust. Also one of our specialties is a 26-inch Giant Pizza that barely fits through most doors but, that’s kind of a novelty thing that we just want people to remember us by.
Q: Any advice for a new entrepreneur?
A: I think number one is don’t be afraid to take chances. I took a chance on myself by opening a new location and leaving a job in my senior year, but it’s paid off. Work hard. Never stop learning and surround yourself with a good crew and good people. I think that’s the most important thing about any successful business.
Q: Why do you think people support small, local businesses?
A: Well that’s what Portland is about and that’s what I love about Portland. We love to support local businesses! I like to see small businesses drive a local area and complement each other. Look at the business next door to ours, Hoplandia. We have a great relationship with them. They don’t serve food and we don’t serve beer, but we have excellent relationship together. I’m proud to be in a place that supports local businesses and where people can order a lot of different foods.
Q: Why do people like pizza so much?
A: I believe the pizza is fun! Adults like it and children like it. It’s an affordable meal a family of four can have. When you order a pizza, everyone shares together! People love pizza and if it’s good quality and delivered to their door, then they’ll probably love it even more.
The popularity of Night on the Town, a home-grown St. Johns event, continues to grow. This year the event includes an additional day, 75 local participating businesses, and hundreds of dollars in prizes and gift certificates.
Join in the fun both Friday and Saturday, November 18th and 19th. Friday businesses are open until 8:00 pm and Saturday the event runs all day!
Stop by any participating business with balloons on their door and pick up a St. Johns Night on the Town + 1 passport. Ask for the passport to be stamped at each business you enter — it will list additional participating St. Johns businesses.
If you travel outside of the three-block radius of the downtown square — across Ivanhoe or down Lombard to Ida — each participating business will stamp your passport twice!
Once you have all eight squares stamped, turn it into the shopkeeper and ask for a new passport. Each completed passport will give you a chance to win a basket of local merchandise and gift certificates with a value of $200. There will be eight or more baskets this year.
While you are shopping, remember that for every $100 you spend at independent local businesses $70 stays in our local economy. Compare that to shopping online where less than $1 stays in the local economy, and that is assuming the delivery driver is local.
Look around while visiting the businesses. You might just get some fabulous holiday gifts, yummy food, and good cheer. Get out enjoy and discover all that St. Johns has to offer!!
Each year the St Johns holiday lights on our street trees brighten, beautify and improve safety along our main street. This is an important tradition because it dresses up our downtown, making it a nice place for people to hangout in the evening hours. It helps our many small and family-owned business stay afloat by keeping customers coming in during the winter months. By lighting our street trees we make the area more welcoming to shoppers.
Costs of Holiday Lights
It costs $250 per tree to install lights. We are permitted by the City of Portland to keep these lights going all year to keep our downtown safe and bright. We currently have 38 trees lit and have designated an additional 75 trees to light in the coming years. Trees also need to be maintained annually, replacing strands that may have burned out and adjusting the horticultural tape that is used to secure the lights to the trees.
We need the funds by November 25th in order to maintain the trees that are currently lit and, hopefully, expand to include more street trees.
Ways to Donate
Donate in the cans set out at local businesses. They are picked up weekly. Or donate online using one of two options:
[button link=”https://stjohnsboosters.org/about-the-boosters/support-us/”]PayPal button on our website[/button] [button link=”https://www.gofundme.com/makestjohnsshine”]GoFundMe[/button]
Our entire neighborhood will appreciate your support. Come visit us in St. Johns and enjoy a delightful holiday shopping experience, restaurants and our holiday lights!
“Better together,” could be the unofficial slogan for Salty Teacup. What started as two stores on separate side streets has evolved, with the combined strengths of owners Emily Stanfield and Karen Urban, into a St. Johns’ favorite.
On May 14th at the St. Johns Bizarre, the Boosters conducted a survey to find what the public believes are the favorite shops, restaurants and service professionals in our business district. Salty Teacup came away with the most votes and the win in the Shop category.
Salty Teacup’s official slogan, “Provisions for the modern life.”, is a curated mix of clothing, jewelry, gifts, cards, and art.
Karen and Emily, in their own words
Our shop is designed to create a fun laid back, treasure-filled experience, like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice’s Wonderland. We are a bit of an escape from the everyday where modern meets eclectic and things are continually changing.
Our success is due to the loyal support of our amazing customers. We continually work to evolve our space and our product mix to meet our customer’s needs, and be responsive to changing trends and what customers are not finding at other boutiques.
This includes clothing in size ranges that are typically not well served by boutiques as well as jewelry, accessories and other objects created in house.
We love to include local artists and designers, even some that live in St Johns. Michael Barley, Francesca Bernini of Unusual Cards, The Portland Tarot, Wynn Gunter, Singing Blackbird, and Rebecca Russelle all live and create in St. Johns.
Other local Portland and Oregon based designers include:
Forge + Fire
New Refined Basics
Bridge Nine Candle Co.
Trixie & Milo
House of Six Cats
Canvas mounted prints by Deanna Cantrell, also the official photographer for the St. Johns Boosters, grace the shop walls.
Still, product is not enough. No shop can be a “favorite” without excellent customer service. Meet, Tracy Weber, Sales Associate Extraordinaire.
Tracy’s kind and bubbly attitude is part of Salty Teacup’s success. She knows how to direct a customer to that perfect piece to complete an outfit or the “just right” gift for a friend. With so many products in this delightful shop, having a sales associate who knows where everything is and how to make a customer feel special is important.
We would be no where near as successful without Tracy. We definitely miss her when she is off.
Salty Teacup owner
The best idea
When asked what generated the idea of joining forces into one shop, Karen and Emily mentioned that being located on side streets made it harder for customers to find them. The opportunity to team up in one bigger space was too good to pass up.
Salty Teacup, at 8416 North Lombard, is easy to find.
One more reason Emily and Karen are better together:
We each have different strengths that together form a strong team dynamic. That, along with our amazing staff, keeps us relevant in an ever changing retail economy.
Salty Teacup owner
Stop by Salty Teacup and see all it has to offer. This shop, along with the many other retailers, restaurants, coffee shops, and service professionals in our business district, is part of what makes St. Johns a thriving community.
St. Johns is full of favorites … favorite restaurants, shops, and events.
The St Johns Bizarre is another addition to our list of favorites. Held each year on the same day as the St. Johns Parade, the Bizarre attracts visitors from across the City of Portland who come to enjoy the St. Johns’ vibe, our local artists and musicians, shops and restaurants.
This year the Parade and Bizarre will be Saturday, May 14th. Lombard street through the St. Johns downtown will be closed to vehicle traffic in order to accommodate the booths and vendors, the bands and the beer garden. Come out and enjoy!
We need your vote
While you are here, please stop by the Boosters’ booth at the St. Johns Bizarre. We will be in the US Bank parking lot on the Lombard side. We need your votes for favorite service professional, shop, restaurant, or bar. The businesses with the most votes will get a little extra publicity on our website and accolades in the press. They will appreciate your support.
Speaking of favorites, at the January volunteer appreciation event in St. Johns, the Boosters ran a poll with the question, “What is your favorite shop, restaurant, or service professional in St. Johns? While the voting was close, the winner is The Man’s Shop.
Ben and Jean Leveton opened The Man’s Shop in 1940 with the commitment to carry quality men’s clothing. Seventy-five years later the shop is still going strong. Learn more about The Man’s Shop here: Link to Webpage.
Every year since 1963 the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week to recognize the contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.
More than half of all Americans work for a small business, and small businesses create two out of three new jobs in the U.S. each year.
National Small Business Week May 1 – 7
We are right in the middle of 2016’s small business week and taking the opportunity to support and promote the many small business that make St. Johns a great place to live, shop, and play! All week we are sharing photos of our business owners on the St. Johns Boosters Instagram account along with some of the many reasons to shop the small businesses in St. Johns.
Reasons to Shop St. Johns
Small businesses donate to local causes two-times more than national chains.
70% of every dollar you spend at a small business stays in the local economy.
97% of Oregon’s employers are small businesses.
In the St. Johns business district there are over 200 small businesses that support our economy, employee our residents, and make our neighborhood a better place to live, shop, and play.
St. Johns Celebrates Small
Enjoy these images of some of our many small business owners, then get out there and join us in celebrating National Small Business Week.
The Oregonian has spoken … well posted, actually, their 10 Favorite Shops in St. Johns. Leading all the rest is The Olive & Vine, our very own gourmet specialty store.
If you haven’t visited, you should. Owner Kim Shaw is delightful and knowledgable. She sources organic olive oils, aged vinegars, sea salts, herbs, spices and fine teas for the shop as well as for her home kitchen. She is brimming with ideas that will liven your table with deliciousness.
The Olive & Vine is more than a job for us. Food has always meant family, friends and love in our home. The shop is really an extension of our home. It’s a look into our pantry and our lives. We use these products and enjoy sourcing new items and sharing them with our customers.