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Fishels furniture to close after nearly 100 years

Fishels, a Portland furniture mainstay, is closing after 95 years.

Owner Larry Talbott, 65, said the decision to shutter the business at the east end of the Burnside Bridge was not driven by his age or by financial concerns.

"We had a record 2015, and we're on track for another record year," he said of the company's sales. "I just wanted a new chapter in life. I've been in this business for 40 years, and I'm ready to do something else."

For now, that includes spending time with his first granddaughter and visiting his home in Sunriver, he said.

The company was founded as an awning and outdoor furniture store in 1921 by Leonard Fishel, who had immigrated to the U.S. from Russia with his wife, Rose.

Business flourished as soldiers returning from World War II bought homes, and in 1947, after Leonard Fishel's sons joined the business, the company moved to its current home at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and East Burnside.

In the late '60s, Fishels spun off the awning business and added more indoor furnishings, bringing in customers year-round.

Talbott joined the company in 1993, and bought out the Fishel family's interest two years later. Now, Fishels is best known for its patio furniture, though it offers two floors of indoor furnishings.

Talbott said he has a great relationship with the Fishel family, which still owns the building. He said his son, Chris Talbott, who also works at the store, wasn't interested in taking over the business. Though other parties have expressed interest in buying the business over the years, timelines just didn't line up, he said.

Now, the Fishels building stands amid a rash of new construction: The striking 21-story Yard residential building is scheduled to open this summer, with two other projects nearby – the "Fair-Haired Dumbbell" and Block 75 – to follow.

Talbott said he doesn't know what will happen to the Fishels building, and attempts to reach the owners were not immediately successful.

More than anything, Talbott thinks the closure of Fishels will leave a hole in the area's outdoor furniture market. Few specialty stores are left, he said, citing the recent closure of Sparks Home Furnishings in Vancouver.

And while big box stores sell patio furniture, their selection is limited, he said.

Laura Mason, who has sold furniture at Fishels for about 10 years, said she's loved working in the patio furniture business.

"It's fun to live vicariously through our clients, who spend 30- to 40 thousand dollars on their patios," she said.

Mason said her customers were shocked when they heard the news, she said. She said they were offering their condolences, like someone had died.

The news of Fishels' closure comes the same week Gordon's Fireplace Shop in Northeast Portland began its liquidation sale and just months after Shleifer Furniture Co. closed its doors a few blocks away.

People are sick of hearing about closure after closure, and seeing the area change as it's redeveloped can be difficult, Mason said.

"A lot of the general public isn't happy with the change," she said. "Change is hard. I think it will improve the area, but there are always casualties."

Fishels will close after the bulk of the merchandise is sold. A private liquidation sale begins Tuesday, with the sale open to the public on Friday, May 6.







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