Sponsored by Lane Powell

Sam Naito works full time at age 90

| Print |  Email
Articles - January 2011
Thursday, December 16, 2010

 

0111_ATS17
Sam Naito, along with brother Bill, founded the retail shop Made in Oregon 35 years ago. It now sells 2,000 Oregon-made products from 10 stores. // PHOTO BY TERESA MEIER

From his small, modest office on Northeast Airport Way in Portland, Sam Naito works five days a week at Made in Oregon, the iconic company he started 35 years ago. That a legend of Oregon business still puts in a full week as he is about to turn 90 would surprise no one who knows the Naito family.

The Naito family opened an importing business in Portland in 1921, and faced with discrimination when World War II began, moved to Salt Lake City. They eventually moved back to Oregon and Sam and his brother, Bill, went on to drive the revitalization of Portland’s Skidmore-Old Town area along with many other redevelopment projects. In 1975, the Naito brothers started Made in Oregon, which was dedicated to “products made, caught or grown in Oregon.”

Back then, “People thought the only thing made in Oregon was lumber and potatoes,” says Naito. Now the company sells goods from more than 2,000 Oregon manufacturers and artists and the little store that started at Portland International Airport now has 10 locations and about 50-60 full-time workers, along with a mail-order catalog and e-commerce website.

While his son, Vern, runs the real estate side of the family business (Bill died in 1996), Naito focuses on Made in Oregon. “I was trying to get down to four days a week, but couldn’t do it,” he says. And retirement isn’t an option. “I just don’t have any outside hobbies,” says Naito.

So he keeps looking for new products, and new locations. His passion to promote Oregon (“Oregon is always taking the back seat”) seems limitless, and his love for the beauty of the state is also how he markets it. “Oregon’s brand is green, fresh, eco-friendly,” he says.

From his perch of a long life dedicated to Oregon, he says the thing Oregon needs most right now is more salesmanship. “We are not strong on promotion,” and the courtly, reserved Naito leaves further comment on leadership in the state at that.

And like many people who have achieved a great deal, Naito will give the past only a quick glance. “I’m not that successful,” says the man who helped build Portland. “I’m just lucky.”

ROBIN DOUSSARD
 

More Articles

Ski traffic

Linda Baker
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
0121-skiway-thumbBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

A place-based multimodal transportation plan for Mt. Hood is long overdue.


Read more...

Which Way to Chinatown?

February 2015
Monday, January 26, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

The Jade International District, already Portland's center of Asian life, is poised for rejuvenation. Where does that leave the westside's historic Chinatown?


Read more...

2015 100 Best companies announced

The Latest
Friday, February 27, 2015
IMG 0022cneditBY OB STAFF

The 100 Best list recognizes large, medium and small companies for excellence in work environment, management and communications, decision-making and trust, career development and learning, and benefits and compensation.


Read more...

The city as startup

Guest Blog
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
011415 citystartup-thumbBY NISHANT BHAJARIA | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Startups in the growth phase are associated with a fresh infusion of capital — human and financial — a curiosity factor and products to disrupt the market and drive demand. Portland’s economy gives off the same aroma.


Read more...

Imperial Palate

February 2015
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Power Lunch at the Imperial.


Read more...

Will Medford Ever Be Cool?

February 2015
Friday, January 23, 2015
BY DAN COOK | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

A real-estate developer and a Lithia Motors executive aim to revamp the city's forlorn downtown.


Read more...

A legislative preview — and celebration

Linda Baker
Friday, January 23, 2015
012315-speaker-thumbBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

The Northwest Environmental Business Council previews the 2015 legislative agenda as Hatch Oregon celebrates Oregon's new community crowdfunding rules.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS