According to Port Manager Ted Fitzgerald, the port recently took over operations at the popular gathering place, located in the retail core of the port off Lower Harbor Road, and plans to establish it as “a profitable enterprise.” He declined to say why the Salty Dog owners have left.
Its new name is the Bell and Whistle, proposed by Carla Gottlieb, one of the former owners of the coffee house. She and her husband, Craig, owned the Salty Dog in 2008-2009 and created a niche that attracted coffee lovers, friends, musicians and artists to a highly energized but mellow shop overlooking the Chetco River.
“We changed the name (from Espresso Gallery), changed the coffee, changed the vibe and the look,” she said. “It’s got a really loyal clientele; it’s pretty cool. Hopefully, it’ll continue to be a comfortable place to spend time, meet friends, and get exceptional coffee like you’d find in Portland.
That’s the motivation for the port keeping it there,” she added. “They realize the value of it. The community needs it. I’m 100 percent behind what they’re doing.”
The port also plans to retrieve from storage and install an antique bell that came from a ship in the mid-1880s. It will place the 3-foot-tall bell on the boardwalk to draw attention to the retail area.
“I love it; it gives the place a ‘place’,” Gottlieb said. “We’re just waiting for it to be unearthed.”
The port has purchased all the equipment in the shop, and currently has four part-time employees operating it. Those numbers will likely increase as summer operations ramp up.
“We’re going to get all the kinks worked out, and at that point look at our options,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re going to make sure the old landmark that it is stays functioning for a while. It’s the most popular hangout in the port.”
One aspect that will help the bottom line is that the port doesn’t have to pay rent on the building.
“We want to get it profitable enough that someone can pay rent,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ll run it as well as it can be run and see what the results are.”
The business will be complemented by other new businesses, as well.
One is a wholesale fish buyer, Bornstein Seafoods, at the south end of the port; and Tidewinds, a fishing boat charter business that has taken over the spot previously occupied by Goblin Shoe Candles.
And Fitzgerald has lined up a processor to occupy the fish market adjacent to the cleaning station opposite the public boat ramp. That business will process skate fish, but also feature a market selling fresh fish caught and purchased from private operations.
Fitzgerald hopes that will be running by this summer and complement the Farmers Market that takes place on weekends along the boardwalk.
Occupancy at the port’s retail area is about 90 percent, with one space — the former Port Store unoccupied, and The Book Dock for sale. Activities, including the Farmers Market, Slam’n Salmon Ocean Derby, the Southern Oregon Kite Festival, Party at the Port and others, are gaining momentum.
“I see this as a great opportunity for the port to gain some confidence in the community,” Gottlieb said. “They’re jumping in and doing something to keep the port alive.”