Downtown businesses thrive under local visionary
Rag and bone clothing store is owned by Eric Bechard, one of McMinnville’s local businessmen, in addition to a few other stores on Third Street.
Eric Bechard also owns Thistle, deemed one of Oregon’s fine-dining restaurants.
Eric Bechard has started more business ventures in the last three years than most people do in an entire career, or could even hope to do.
Bechard not only owns Thistle, one of Oregon’s most acclaimed fine-dining establishments, but also Rag and Bone Clothing and Tacos de los Muertos, his most recent Third Street addition. He has been busy doing what he loves—building community by incubating small businesses.
An entrepreneur extraordinaire, he also helped design and launch The Old Oak, a college-themed bar, and the Community Plate, a downtown lunch venue featuring ingredients from farms within a 50-mile range. With such spinoffs, he hopes to pave the way of others and help promote both new and old
“I am vested in the town of McMinnville,” said Bechard, a classically trained chef whose first love is fine cuisine.
“I want to be a part of building community,” he said. And that is exactly what he has done.
Linfield College senior Andrew Carpenter appreciates that as he sips his favorite beer at The Old Oak, relaxing in the presence of an array of Linfield memorabilia after wrapping up a week of classes.
“The Old Oak has a perfect atmosphere for hanging out with my friends,” he said. “And the way it looks really appeals to the inner hipster in me.”
Carpenter is among a growing number of Wildcats coming to adopt the The Old Oak as a home away from home.
Bechard’s goal was to offer members of the college community a setting, menu and atmosphere keeping them from feeling as if they had to trek to Portland or Salem for night life.
“People should be proud to call McMinnville home,” he said. “For as small as this town is, there is a lot going on.”
Rag and Bone Clothing, one of Bechard’s newest businesses, sells American-made clothing from the ‘50s, ’60s and ’70s. It, too, was designed to fill a niche.
Bechard said his overarching motivation for starting successful businesses in McMinnville is to put
money back into the community.
“People are excited,” he said. “Anything that brings people into a community is great for small businesses.”
One thing that sets Bechard’s ventures apart from many on Third Street is this: He is trying to develop businesses serving the city’s population 12 months out of the year, not businesses aimed primarily at capturing tourist dollars during the summer months and barely getting by the rest of the year.
“If it can only be operational for four months out of the year, it is really tough to be successful,” he said.
Although he has enjoyed running restaurants, bars and clothing stores the last few years, Bechard would like to focus more on the design aspect, and less on the operational aspect, with future ventures.
“That’s what I really love,” he said.
“I did all of the design work for Community Plate, and it turned out great. I want to continue doing that kind of work for other folks who plan on opening businesses.”
For the Review