Fresh fruit and vegetable market says goodbye to loyal customers
After forty-three years operating as one of Portland’s most popular farm-to-table produce markets, The Barn will close on November 23rd , the day before Thanksgiving.
Generations of families have enjoyed The Barn’s hand-irrigated, hand-harvested fruits and vegetables. Shelia Trapold, co-owner with husband Tom, explains the couple’s upcoming transition to a different lifestyle on the company’s Facebook page. “We’ve decided it’s time for us to down-size some of our commitments and responsibilities; to spend more time together enjoying the outdoors, traveling, our horses, and our friends.”
“This is a lot of work!” says Shelia, whose birthday just happens to fall on The Barn’s last day of business.
The Trapold family started out farming for others in the 1940s, and began acquiring pieces of land along the Columbia River. Passersby would notice family members and their helpers out harvesting in the fields and stop by an old cow barn transitioned to a roadside stand.
In 1973 the family built the original structure—Shelia describes it as a “cigar box”–that over the years evolved into a spacious marketplace at 5211 NE 148th Ave. in Portland. Shelia and Tom married in 1978, and since then she has run the retail side while Tom has concentrated on the farming.
Over the years, summer’s arrival brought the first offerings from the family’s farm acreage. Opening right after Memorial Day, The Barn was stocked with strawberries, rhubarb, and early salad ingredients, along with hanging baskets, annuals, and bedding plants from the company’s own greenhouses. By June the season would be in full swing, with berries, cherries, and a large assortment of fruit and vegetables available on the shelves and in the crates and bins.
Shelia estimates that at any given time 80-90% of the inventory was grown on the Trapold’s owned and leased farmland, which at the time of closing includes 430 acres.
Charitable giving was always part of the company ethic, with donations going to the Oregon Food Bank and the nonprofit Birch Gleaners, which distributes food and clothing to the region’s poor families.
When they began discussing closure five years ago, Tom and Shelia reached out to other farm enterprises in the area to see if anyone wanted to take over the operation. None of the entities they contacted was able to take on the bustling market, so the couple eventually sold to a brewery company that will begin operation in early 2017.
Until the early nineties, The Barn stayed open right up to Christmas. One of Shelia’s fondest memories is how the family would “gather around the woodstove in the back room making wreathes, flocking trees, and creating seasonal centerpieces for holiday tables.” But the Trapold’s often found themselves with no time to celebrate, and so began closing the day before Thanksgiving.
Tom and Shelia have worked to ensure that all employees of the company will find jobs elsewhere. Shelia offers a heartfelt “thank you” to everyone who has worked to make The Barn a special place that has earned the loyalty of local customers and welcomed many Oregon visitors through its doors.
As fate would have it, Shelia’s birthday falls on the same day that The Barn is closing its doors forever. Already one of the busiest food shopping days of the year, November 23rd is likely to be a very busy day for this much-loved business.
“I’m sure there will be lots of hugs all around,” she says, “lots of fond farewells, and more than a few tears.”