Portland City Councilor Andrew Zarro, owner of the Congress Street coffee shop Little Woodfords, said he has received personal threats and threats against his business because of his support for a mask mandate in the city. (Portland Phoenix/Elizabeth Clemente)
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Little Woodfords, a coffee shop owned by Portland City Councilor Andrew Zarro, will close at the end of the month.

Zarro attributed the closure to a thinning margin for error for small businesses emerging from the pandemic. “The expectations stayed the same but there’s so much more of a burden,” he said. Adding citing rising costs like coffee which “has gone up over 100 percent.” 

He called the moment “bittersweet,” adding it was “time to move on.” 

Little Woodfords joins a list of other small, locally owned businesses that have closed in recent months. On New Year’s Eve, Elsmere Barbeque closed their Stevens Avenue location, leaving open their original South Portland spot. Hilltop Coffee, a neighborhood favorite on Munjoy Hill, closed in late 2022, and the Rosemont Market & Wine Bar on Thompson’s Point also closed.

“The hospitality industry is unrecognizable from what it was before the pandemic,” Zarro said, adding his coffee shop could have remained open a bit longer, but it “would have been further and further away from what started.”

Little Woodfords was previously located on Forest Avenue, but moved to Congress Street in summer of 2020. 

Zarro, who has represented Portland’s District 4 on the council since 2020, said the hospitality industry “never rebounded” from the pandemic, adding that while “everyone decided the pandemic was over,” restaurants, coffee shops and bars “had to absorb higher costs.”

Zarro warned that without some kind of policy change, Portland could continue to see corporate or big-money franchises price out smaller companies. He didn’t elaborate on specific policy changes, but said there “was an expectation” that there would be more help for businesses after the pandemic, which didn’t happen. 

“If something doesn’t happen to intervene, we’re only going to have large-scale chains or franchises. (Portland) might end up looking like any other city in America,” Zarro said. “It’s sobering.”

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