Kari Johnson moved to the Whiteaker 20 years ago. A painter, she had no idea about its art scene, landmarks or economy when she arrived, but it didn’t take her long to fall for the neighborhood’s eclectic charm.
Even in the economic downturn Johnson said it is the artistic spirit of the people that keep the neighborhood thriving.
“It [art] always lifts people’s spirits,” she said. “The more depressed we get the more art we’re gonna need for sure.”
It was the attitude and the diversity of people that attracted Paul Buel to the Whiteaker a few months ago. Buel knew he was up against the world when he was trying to find a place to open a business during the recession. After loosing his job at at Autodesk User Group International, Buel was looking to expand his elaborate retro clothing collection into an income. Buel said that he had planned on owning a re-sale clothing shop during his retirement, but was open to realizing his dream sooner rather than later.
I always knew I wanted to be an old guy with a cool vintage clothing shop,” he said.“It just happened a little bit earlier. Now I am just a semi-old guy having a cool vintage clothing shop.”
Buel opened Karma Kloz a three months ago, and despite the state of the economy, he said that the store is generating enough profit to pay most of the bills.
“People are more open to re-sale or recycled items than they have ever been,” he said.
The store adheres to the same buy, sell and trade policy of many of Eugene’s other second hand stores, but Buel said that Karma Kloz is more than a business. The store has pledged to donate 10 percent of their profit to Hosea Youth Services Project and plans to bring in several sewing machines to create a trade school for homeless youth trying to develop a skill.
“We have a purpose other than making money,” he said.
With financial instability on Whiteaker Residents’ minds, Buel understands that it takes more than profits to keep a neighborhood alive.
“I think we are all realizing that it comes down to community. Word of mouth and individuals sharing,” he said.
For Sam Bond’s Garage Art Director Dain Kaldahl living in the Whiteaker has kept him feeling hopeful in a time of uncertainty.
“Everyone is buckled up in this community. But people have their spirits up,” he said. “From a broader array of people, there is a feeling of helping people out.”
Kaldahl gives a lot of credit to the neighborhood’s entertainment scene for keeping people inspired in a rough economic climate.
“People have releases here,” he said. “They have art and music.”
While, Kaldahl said that he isn’t suffering, work in his construction job has been hard to come by. The 31-year-old knows many who are unemployed. He said that many of his friends are not doing as well as they did even just one year ago.
Kaldahl said that he has noticed that higher end businesses in the neighborhood were the first to go, but in time the neighborhood will restore itself.
Kaldahl believes that the stimulus program is slowly beginning to work itself out and that it will revive the neighborhood.
“I am kind of in a wait and see mode,” he said.
Lauren Fox is a student in Suzi Steffen’s Reporting 1 class. She can be reached at email@example.com