When the Old Port was younger

I found the May “Before Mr. Bagel” article to be amusing, and a trip down Memory Lane. I moved to Portland in 1975 and, after six months as a hippie carpenter/house painter, I opened the Port Bakehouse.

Living in a third-floor Congress Street apartment at the base of Munjoy Hill, I could look over the Eastern Cemetery to the harbor. I walked past Levinsky’s every day, and bought my clothing there, picking my Levi’s from the rows of bins located a few steps up from the main floor. I got to know Phil pretty well, and he became a regular customer at the bakery.

I built the Bakehouse in what had been an old produce warehouse, and stopped into Sukowitch’s on a daily basis for nails and electrical and plumbing supplies from their antique stocks. Sam Cinamon’s was where I stopped to buy, first a frying pan, then many of the furnishings for my apartment. Sam was a supporter of classical music in town.

I didn’t frequent Zeitman’s, but Saul at Model Market bought my breads for years for his deli business, paying cash out of the leather apron he always wore.

The Port Bakehouse was located at 434 Fore Street, so I spent a lot of time talking with Klaman while he sawed up old pallets for the woodstove he used to heat a bit of the building. The building itself was a bonfire waiting to happen, jammed with wood, paper — even thousands of plastic milk jugs. He sure didn’t like the tourists or the bottle collectors, and wasn’t always willing to sell them what they wanted.

I would have to say that, before the “proto-yuppie” businesses like mine came along, the Jewish merchants were what kept the soon-to-be-trendy Old Port going. As those long-time merchants closed their doors, one by one, the area became hugely less interesting, more tourist-oriented and less of a real neighborhood. I miss them all.

— Nick Burnett, Portland


Less than wonderful

Thank God for Chris Busby’s spot-on review of the mishmash of work in this year’s Biennial [“Trash Talking,” May 2011]. I thought I was crazy when I viewed the exhibition, wondering if I alone thought the Emperor had no clothes. Good to know that another soul felt the same way.

As an artist myself, and former art gallery owner in Freeport (The Wonderful Gallery), I did not bother applying since, having seen the last Biennial, I figured my work was too good to be chosen for inclusion.

— Andrea Rouda, Freeport