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NAU is not the time nor place

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

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PORTLAND Nau, a darling of Portland’s green sustainability scene, unexpectedly went bottom up in early May after failing to meet fundraising goals. About 95 people — 60 in its Pearl District headquarters and 35 in its five stores — lost their jobs. Nau’s last store opened in Los Angeles just two weeks before the announcement.

When Oregon Business profiled the nascent clothing company in January 2007, chief executive Chris Van Dyke saw the company — with its emphasis on sustainable retail and consumer shopping practices — as a clarion call of sorts to the rest of the business world. Its ethics, like donating 5% of sales to charities, and its startup roster of execs from Nike, Patagonia and others, attracted the attention of the national media and investors, who put up $35 million last year.

But high standards came with a high price tag: A pair of men’s jeans ran upward of $145.

In a statement released on the company website, Nau officials blamed the current credit and investment climate for its demise: “At this time, investors are loath to invest in anything; especially, it appears, a company like Nau that has the audacity to challenge conventional paradigms of what a business should be.”                                               

ABRAHAM HYATT


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