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Three decades of wins and losses for Oregon business

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The Internet killed 
the video stores


Hollywood Video was founded in Southeast Portland in 1998 and filed for bankruptcy in 2009. // PHOTO BY KATHARINE KIMBALL

In 1979 there were no video stores in Oregon. By 1982 there were 3,000. The home movie rush brought opportunity for independent shopkeepers and boosted at least two major Oregon companies: Rentrak, which tracked rentals for movie companies, and Hollywood Video, which rented them to consumers. Rentrak has since branched into all manners of data tracking, from on-demand video to cable television to box office receipts. Hollywood Video and its owner Movie Gallery, based in Wilsonville, stuck with the same formula for as long as it could hold, filing for bankruptcy in 2009. It remains to be seen how many video stores will survive the ascendance of Red Box and Netflix, but chances are the number will be closer to zero than 3,000.

A woman’s place

In the early days, it was mostly white guys in suits with

Gert Boyle today and in the July 1984 issue. Boyle, the chairman of the board of Columbia Sportswear, was one of the few women leading a company in the 1980s.

receding hairlines. The first 120 issues of Oregon Business featured just four women on the cover. The first to break through was Ann Person, president of Eugene-based Stretch & Sew, in July 1984. An accompanying story titled “Women in Command” noted that just two of the state’s top 100 private businesses and none of the publicly held companies were run by women.

One famous exception was and is Gertrude Boyle, who grew sales at Columbia Sportswear from $650,000 in 1970 to $14 million in 1983 and $1.3 billion in 2008. Other women who have risen to power in today’s more inclusive culture include former PacifiCorp CEO and current Marylhurst University president Judi Johansen, longtime Qwest executive Judith Peppler, U.S. Bank Oregon president Malia Wasson, winery founded Susan Sokol Blosser, Jill Eiland of Intel, Julia Brim-Edwards of Nike and Schnitzer Steel CEO Tamara Lundgren.

Less well known is the story of Person and her Stretch & Sew franchise. An avid crafter in the days before crafts were cool, she sensed a market opportunity in teaching others to sew with knitted fabrics, especially polyester. By the 1970s she had designed her own line of patterns, written her first book and begun licensing franchises across the country. By the 1980s she had more than 100 franchises under license. For years she had her husband serve as president even though it was her company — based on his belief that banks would not lend to a woman running a company. After she divorced her husband she proved him wrong by borrowing $4 million and repaying it on schedule.

Person, now 85, lives on a ranch in Creswell. Her daughter Mindy Moore is president of Stretch & Sew in Tempe, Ariz. Her granddaughter Cory Pfitzer is vice president.

The latest U.S. Census figures show 29.7% of Oregon companies are owned by women; the national rate is 28.7%.

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