Numerous Port of Hood River tenants have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many local businesses struggled, some closed, some moved, while others were not ill-effected. The Port shares stories of three tenants.
pFriem Family Brewers
As a hospitality and tourism-oriented business, pFriem Family Brewers saw large revenue declines as a result of pandemic dining restrictions. The company’s wholesale business, which relies on purchases of kegs by bars and restaurants, was also impacted.
On top of these issues, at the time COVID-19 Restrictions began, pFriem was involved in a major construction expansion project. “I clearly remember asking our General Contractor to ‘pause’ the project on March 16th last year to better understand the health, economic and statutory outcomes of the pandemic,” shared Rudy Kellner, CEO at pFriem. “We felt like we needed to pause the project to get more organized around COVID-19 response.” The company resumed its expansion project in early July and completed it in the winter to the great relief and satisfaction of their employees.
According to Kellner, the Port was extremely supportive during the pandemic. “The Port was one of the first phone calls we made because we rely so much on our facility, and we needed to understand if the Port could help us while revenue dropped 85% overnight,” he said. With “outstanding collaboration” from everyone at the Port to find creative ways to help the brewery with rent obligations and cash flow, pFriem Family Brewers made it through its most difficult year yet. The Port stayed highly involved in sharing access to information and tools such as other government assistance programs and PPE for all its tenants.
The brewery tightened up scheduling during the pandemic so different teams had no overlap and employees could maintain distance to reduce the risk of an outbreak. Kellner said employees were very supportive of all of the new safety processes and understanding of the changes created by the pandemic.
As we pass the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 in the US, the company expresses gratitude for all of the community support. When pFriem closed its tasting room last March, many customers, friends and family bought gift cards and purchased from its online store to support the business. “We feel very lucky to have great partners and friends, and to live in such a loving community,” Kellner expressed.
pFriem began operations in 2012 and has steadily expanded in the Port’s Halyard building. The company also opened a support facility in Cascade Locks in 2020. According to Kellner, pFriem is currently the third largest independent craft brewery in Oregon, winning the 2018 Great American Beer Festival Mid-Size Brewery of the Year Award.
Columbia Gorge News
In the early days of the pandemic, many businesses struggled to adjust. In recent years, newspaper readership and advertising revenues were already on the decline nationally due to a changing media landscape. When COVID-19 affected the Gorge economy, businesses were forced to shut their doors, people were asked to stay home, and advertising revenues shrank. Three community newspapers in the Gorge: The Hood River News, The Dalles Chronicle and White Salmon Enterprise — all owned by Eagle Newspapers, Inc. — were closed at the end of March, 2020.
Chelsea Marr, publisher of the Hood River News and The Dalles Chronicle, was offered the opportunity to purchase the publications. To continue printing and save costs during the economic downturn, Marr consolidated the three publications into one regional news source, and named the paper the Columbia Gorge News. The newspaper has been printing once a week since April 2020, providing a critical news source in the community and bringing back 12 full and part-time staff.
“First off, we lost our local newspapers and our jobs. The upside, I was able to keep a newspaper going in our communities,” Marr relayed. “The model changed, because of COVID-19, but it provided the opportunity for us to keep going in a new and exciting way.”
The Port of Hood River worked with Marr to find more affordable office space for the Columbia Gorge News, now located next to the DMV at the Marina Park 2 Building. “We learned that communities in the Gorge are much closer than we once realized and the impact of each affects us all in one way or another. We’ve had to work with less as a business but find it has been enough.”
Marr feels if you enjoy what you do, it shows in your work. “I know that all of us at Columbia Gorge News enjoy what we do, and this shows in the work we provide to our communities,” she added. The printed newspaper is a beloved pastime for many Gorge residents and Marr shared that it’s gained a resurgence with the younger generation. In addition to its print edition, the Columbia Gorge News maintains a news website and social media platforms to be a trusted and reliable news source every day.
The three community newspapers were each published in their respective communities for more than 100 years. The magnitude of history, bound volumes, clippings and photographs are now being preserved at local museums in each community. “I am looking forward to continuing to make history for our communities through Columbia Gorge News,” Marr said.
Visit Hood River
Visit Hood River reopens its visitor information center and office on May 1 in a common area space at The History Museum of Hood River County, located at 300 E. Port Marina Drive. The reopening is a significant leap forward for the organization.
Due to the pause in travel and tourism caused by the global pandemic, Visit Hood River endured a year of contraction and reorganization. The economic devastation experienced by many local businesses took a toll on Visit Hood River, causing a closure of its office and visitor center at Port Marina Park after Labor Day 2020, while staff continued to work remotely.
By partnering with the Hood River County Heritage Council in a joint location, both organizations can reduce overhead and expenses, allowing the delivery of respective programs and services more efficiently.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for the nation, our community stakeholders and our organization,” stated Katie Kadlub, Visit Hood River’s new executive director. “As Visit Hood River envisions its role in Hood River County’s recovery, we could not be more optimistic about this opportunity to serve both the community and visitors from our new office and visitor center. We are grateful for this win-win partnership with the Heritage Council, which brings increased visibility, engagement and service to our mutual stakeholders.”
The Hood River County Heritage Council is a 501c3 nonprofit that operates the Hood River County History Museum, a public resource that houses historic artifacts, documents, and photographs of Hood River County while providing exhibits and historic programs and events for residents and tourists.
The Hood River County Chamber of Commerce, doing business as Visit Hood River, is a nonprofit business association serving tourism and business stakeholders. It supports economic and tourism development in Hood River, Cascade Locks, Mosier, Odell, Parkdale, Pine Grove and Mount Hood.
The local Chamber of Commerce has held numerous locations on the Hood River waterfront. It spent two decades in the western portion of the Port Marina Park building prior to moving to the former Hood River Expo Center in 1996. In 2007, the Chamber / Visitor Center returned to Port Marina Park building’s east side and was remodeled in 2012.