By Alyssa Isenstein Krueger, March 1, 2019
By Alyssa Isenstein Krueger, March 1, 2019
Katie is my across the street neighbor, the mama of my older son’s best friend and someone who I feel ridiculously lucky to be able to call her a dear friend. We met nearly 9 years ago when my husband and I were on a walk around our neighborhood, Ladd’s Addition, with our then 2 month old packed tightly into his ergo. Katie was hanging out in her front yard with her rosy cheeked son who at almost 6 months old was sitting up and smiling and playing with dirt and grass, while our son was still a little bean who had just recently started smiling. At the time, Katie lived 2 blocks away from us in a rental house. I liked her from the moment I met her, but at the time, it felt like the age gap and development difference of 4 months between our sons seemed like a distance too far for our young sons to traverse and form a friendship. We waved and said hello as we saw each other from time to time in the neighborhood. About a year after we met her she wound up buying the house across the street from us, and by that time my son and her son had bridged the development gap and started playing together, and have been thick as thieves ever since.
About three years ago Katie combined her impressive business, organization, planning and research talents with her passion for books and comics and opened the much adored Books With Pictures shop on SE Division at 11th. All the while she harbored fantasies of one day being able to buy the triangular shaped Longfellows Book Store building at 1401 SE Division St. and move her shop into that special building. Fast forward a couple of years, and after Katie became a newly single mom, she toyed with the idea of selling her home and moving to a smaller house, but her location in Ladd’s Addition- across the street from our family, a couple of blocks from New Seasons, 6 blocks from her shop and a couple of blocks from the elementary school where all of our kids go to school made the idea of moving away from the neighborhood complicated.
In January of 2018, the longtime owner of Longfellows, the bookstore at 1401 SE Division passed away. The building is only a few blocks from Katie’s home, across the street from Abernethy Elementary where all of our kids go to school, and three blocks east of her current shop location. A few months later the building owner’s son who worked with his dad at the bookshop, closed the shop and put the building on the market. The main floor of the building is retail along Division, and upstairs is a gorgeous 3 bedroom apartment with gorgeous views of the west hills, downtown and the street below. Over the years Katie had developed a friendly bookstore-owner to bookstore-owner friendly relationship with the son, and when he decided to put the building on the market, his vision of the perfect buyer fit the exact description of Katie and her shop.
He let Katie know that he was putting the building on the market, and suddenly all of those fantasies of buying the building, moving her shop into the downstairs retail space and moving her family to the apartment upstairs coalesced into a cohesive plan to purchase the building. The seller wanted to sell to Katie, as he felt she would be the perfect steward to carry on the legacy of the building as a bookstore. So with willing buyer and seller, the next hurdle was financing. Katie wasn’t in a position to be able to get a loan to purchase the building on her own. After examining and thinking and mulling and it over and talking to folks in her vast network, she decided that if she could raise enough money from investors and sell her home, plus work out some creative seller financing strategy, she would be able ti potentially have enough money to purchase building. For 99.9% of people, this would have been where the dream ended, but Katie is a force of nature who occupies the center of a talented social and business network and when she sets her brain to do something, she knows all of the right people to help her get it done.
The current location of Books With Pictures at 1100 SE Division is next to Pine State Biscuits, and a large portion of her first time customers stop by her shop as they are going to or from Pine State. Understanding that the synergy between her shop and a popular dining spot created a steady stream of new customers, she decided that part of the picture would involve creating more spaces for tenants offering food. The unique and iconic triangle shaped building sits at the edge of its lot and has a large asphalt parking area taking up the rest of the lot. Katie figured that if she could turn the parking lot into a food cart pod, she would then be able to collect rent from the food carts, and create a destination for folks to visit who weren’t necessarily planning on stopping by her shop, but since they were there, they might as well go in and buy a comic book. The building’s basement is huge, and she saw potential there for a retail tenant that doesn’t require natural light. By late December, she had a solid business plan, a framework where investors could buy shares in the building, and raised enough money on paper to be able to pull it off, and by Christmas Eve she was in contract to buy the building.
Though I have never done a commercial sale before, Katie put her trust in me and together we embarked on a crazy journey that involved tears, laughter, and in the end, nothing but gratitude for everyone involved in helping her make this happen. As exciting as the part about moving her building into real estate she owns, the equally exciting (and scary) part of what made the purchase of the building so appealing was the upstairs apartment. Not only would this be a giant leap as a business owner, it would also be a dramatic change from living in a house with a big yard in the middle of Ladd’s Addition and solve the problem of not leaving their ideal location. As a broker versed in residential sales, the actual sales process of this commercial transaction wasn’t all that different than what I’ve been doing for more than a decade. We had her inspections, negotiated repairs and credits for future repairs and then spent the next two months moving through the transaction. During this time, Katie juggled the management of at least 4 different aspects of the purchase including setting up the LLC and shares with an attorney, figuring out what needs to be done to the building to get it to the point where she can move both her home and shop into it, navigating the complicated food cart pod permit process and raising money from investors. All the while she is still running her bookshop and parenting 2 elementary age kids. And sometime doing the clean up phase, the seller found an old business card for a business that had been located in the space in the 1970’s. And the name and nature of the business? Serendipity Comics, a woman owned comic book shop.
I am extremely grateful to Katie for putting her trust in me and allowing me the opportunity to help facilitate the transactional side of going from pipe dream to the owner of a full on mixed use commercial building. Just getting to be a small part of the machine has been a highlight of my real estate career, and I could not be more proud and in awe of what my dear friend has accomplished.
Over the next few months Katie is going to be having work done to renovate the apartment upstairs so she can move in with her kids, while simultaneously getting the shop space below and the parking lot readied for her shops big move and for a small 6 cart food pod. She has found a tenant who will be moving his record store down from Seattle into the building, so between her book shop, the record store and the food carts, she is creating a little pie of paradise for the neighbors and beyond. She hopes to have the food carts open by this summer, and we know that this little slice of SE Portland will serve as a neighborhood gathering place for folks who live and work in the area, as well as those who are just driving through. If you want to support Katie and her next phase of the project, keep your eye and ears out for a Kickstarter campaign starting soon. She will be offering gorgeous prints to folks who pitch in financially to help raise funds to build out the new space, and hopefully by next fall, a new and improved Books with Pictures will land in it’s permanent location in the beautiful triangle building at SE 14th and Division.
Alyssa Isenstein Krueger