Park Avenue Fine Wines closes in downtown Portland

When the owners of Park Avenue Fine Wines announced late last week that they were closing, their fans hoped it was an April Fool’s Day joke. Unfortunately, the news was no joke.

Co-owners Stacey Gibson and Neil Thompson announced plans to close Park Avenue Fine Wines in a social media post last Thursday. The plan is to maintain regular store and wine bar hours until April 30 or until every last bottle and drop is sold, whichever comes first.

Thompson, ex-partner William Oben and two silent investment partners launched Park Avenue Fine Wines in August 2016. Their multi-level space at 626 SW Park Ave. was already well known to Portland wine and food lovers as the former home of Brasserie Montmarte, an iconic Portland bistro. Gibson joined Park Avenue in 2017.

The hard work of Gibson and Thompson has transformed Park Avenue Fine Wines into an urban wine oasis with an international reputation for thoughtful selection and expert staff. The decision to give up everything was not easy to make. It all came down to how quickly Gibson and Thompson thought the city of Portland would need to fully recover from adversity.

Thompson cited the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on Portland businesses as a precipitating factor in his decision to close Park Avenue Fine Wines.

“Closed businesses that closed all around us because of the pandemic never reopened. People are not returning to the city center to work. Tourism is coming back, but it’s down,” Thompson said.

While Thompson and Gibson hope the city will bounce back, they weren’t prepared to wait for that to happen.

“We were looking forward to feeling the life return to downtown Portland. We weathered through the hustle and bustle, but ultimately for us it was a feeling that downtown rejuvenation was much further than just around the corner,” Gibson said.

Katie Leonard is one of many longtime Park Avenue customers who will miss the boutique. She appreciated how wine neophytes felt just as important as experienced collectors.

“Every time my partner and I came to Park Avenue, it felt like we were hanging out with friends,” Leonard said.

In the words of fellow Park Avenue regular Krista Garver, “It was kind of like our ‘Cheers’.”

Thompson and Gibson will most likely appreciate those sentiments.

“I think we were really successful in setting the mood of being a place for good wine that was also inclusive. We like good things, but we want to share them with everyone, rather than doing them for certain people,” Gibson said.

Gibson and Thompson will continue in the wine business after Park Avenue closes later this month. For Gibson, that means focusing on Parallel Food & Drink, the food and wine events company she runs with her husband, Joey Gibson. She would like Park Avenue customers who have enjoyed her various wine subscription programs, especially the Champagne club, to know that these will be transitioning to Parallel.

Thompson and her husband, Hans, move to Hillsboro, where they will open an afternoon tea shop, as well as a wine store and salon. “Stay tuned for more details, it’s all pretty exciting,” Thompson said.

In the meantime, Thompson said he’d like old friends to drop by the store for a final “hooray,” whether that happens in the saleroom or at the wine bar. Gibson said she might even put together “mystery packs” as they get closer to the bittersweet ending.

Don’t get caught watching the paint dry if you want to say goodbye to Park Avenue Fine Wines and the people who made it great. Gibson, Thompson and their staff are going through the bottles so quickly they might have to close the doors well before the end of the month.

Store hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Wine bar hours: 3pm-8pm, Wednesday to Saturday; 626 S.W. Park Avenue, parkavenuewines.com or 503-914-5595.

— Michael Alberty writes about wine for The Oregonian/OregonLive. He can be reached at [email protected]. To learn more about its coverage, go to oregonlive.com/wine.

David H. Henry