Small Businesses Struggle to Find Affordable Rents in Portland

5 Commercial Street, Portland, Former Site of Rosemont Bakery, That Vacated the Property Mostly Because of High Rent Increase.

Jen Burrell, is a mom and a popular small business owner on the east end of Portland these days. She is among the many who are living in constant dread that her rent may be increased dramatically – so much so that she could be forced to relocate to another venue. Spaces that meet her needs are getting harder and harder to find. Despite the fact that her landlord has a reputation for reasonable rents, Jen is still worried about the future. “Everyone is concerned,” she emphasized just days before Christmas. In fact, her landlord stated to this blogger that he will probably sell the building in the next several years for personal reasons.

Several women said that the owner of a high-end boutique shop at the corner of Commercial Street and the Portland Pier shut down her business late last year because of the excessive rent increase she received. Rosemont Bakery (see above photo) at 5 Commercial Street closed in November because of an alleged doubling of the rent for that space. (The first location is not far from the proposed 200 seat waterfront restaurant by Luke’s Lobster.)

Years ago in its formative years, Exchange Street, one of the shopping centers of the Old Port, was considered an incubator for start-ups and entrepreneurs. As the success of the area has grown, many of those start-ups are priced-out of the Street. More and more national companies or chains are moving into the area. Stores like Fat Face, a British based company and LuLuLemon are several of them.

“I am paranoid about rent increases. A big rent increase could put many out of us out of business in a second.” said one small business owner who preferred to remain anonymous. “It’s harder and harder to start a business in Portland due to how expensive space is here,” he said.