On June 17th, Errol Carlson passed away while staying near his family in Washington State. One year ago, on June 18th, Carlson’s partner Mel Hafsos passed away after a brief illness. Mel Hafsos and Errol Carlson owned Taylor Court Grocery on SE 80th Avenue for 25 years. During that time, the pair lived together in a nearby house and ran their neighborhood store together, rarely taking time off.
Last summer, Mel and Errol’s family recognized the neighborhood’s support and admiration for the pair in a letter to the community. Last summer, pandemic-related concerns restricted communal gatherings to honor Mel Hafsos’ life. Now the family would like to have a joint service for both men. Skyline Memorial Funeral Home will host a memorial for Mel Hafsos and Errol Carlson on Thursday, June 30th, at 11:00 am. Graveside interment will occur at 1:00 pm.
Update: A previous version of this story inaccurately stated they lived next-door to the shop.
Last Thursday, Elizabeth Guerrero and David Doyle finalized their purchase of the historic Taylor Court Grocery property. The pair own the La Osita PDX food cart located on 122nd Avenue near Market street. After renovating their newly acquired storefront at 1135 SE 80th Avenue, they will sell the cart and relocate their Mexican restaurant and coffee house to the Montavilla location.
La Osita PDX opened in a small food cart in January of 2018 after Guerrero and Doyle noticed a lack of a good breakfast location near their home in east Portland. The partners bought the cart from a friend and found space on 122nd in the parking lot of the Plaza 122 building. Combining a shared food service background and recipes inspired by Elizabeth Guerrero’s Mexican heritage, the partners brought Coffee and their unique brunch/lunch menu to an underserved area.
At first, the parking lot space was ill-equipped for carts, and they had to run their operation from a generator secured in a nearby cage. The location received strong community support, and business picked up throughout the year. However, before making their first anniversary, someone stole the generator and shut down the business. Fortunately, the building owners saw the value in the cart’s continued operation and allowed the installation of a dedicated electrical hookup.
Business continued to grow, and they eventually upgraded to a larger cart. Unfortunately, the theft of critical equipment continued, prompting the group to consider a more permanent solution and give up the cart life. “Being a cart in Portland is kind of a bummer. You’re really exposed, and people think nothing of just stealing whatever they can off your cart that’s critical to opening up your store each day,” explained David Doyle.
Doyle expressed that remaining in their current community was a primary goal for the move. “A lot of the businesses on [122nd Avenue] come for lunch, and that’s a big part of the business.” However, searching for a suitable small brick-and-mortar location near the cart proved challenging for Guerrero and Doyle. An expanded search surfaced the Taylor Court Grocery, and they instantly saw the potential in the 100-year-old retail space. Although three miles from the original location, they hope customers will follow them to SE 80th Avenue.
In December, Guerrero and Doyle applied for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan and worked through the challenging process of acquiring the Montavilla property. The deal includes both the storefront and single-family home on a shared lot. To make the finances work, the new owners will need to rent out the house on the property. They are considering many options, including a childcare facility.
The grocery store building will require substantial renovations to transition into a restaurant. It will start with some sizeable deferred maintenance projects. “The storefront, we just wanna get it stable,” said Doyle. “We don’t know the extent of damage, but it looks like the roof needs a repair or replacement.” Once crews repair the outer shell, work will focus on the inside of the building. Contractors will add a commercial kitchen to the back of the building and an ADA-compliant bathroom. The new owners expect a large number of customers will take their meals to go. Consequentially, they will use a counter-service layout for the restaurant with customer seating upfront.
Guerrero and Doyle plan to refresh the street-facing appearance of the storefront but maintain the historic appearance, including the Taylor Ct Grocery sign. “We love that sign. It almost feels like a shame to cover up the Taylor Court grocery part of it, but we’re thinking we’re going to refinish it,” said Doyle. After repairing and weatherizing the sign, they will repaint it with the restaurant’s name but maintain its original shape.
La Osita PDX offers an extensive menu from the cart, and the team does not feel they are missing many options. However, staff will grow the selection slightly after the move while keeping all of the favorite to-go friendly dishes. Guerrero plans to add Aguas Frescas and horchata to the drink offerings, with traditional Mexican pastries to balance out the savory options. Elizabeth Guerrero and her sister Maria Guerrero run the restaurant, with Maria playing a critical component in kitchen operations. They both are thrilled to move out of the cart and into the larger space. With the number of customers they serve and the size of the menu, space was always the constraining factor for La Osita PDX.
Much like the previous owners of Taylor Court Grocery, Mel Hafsos and Errol Carlson, La Osita PDX is a family business wanting to serve the community. Look for construction to begin within the next few months and check for updates on the company’s Instagram page. Until the restaurant opens later this year, Elizabeth Guerrero and David Doyle encourage you to visit the cart on 122nd Avenue to explore the menu.
This summer, Montavilla said goodby to Mel Hafsos, a beloved member of the community. His death profoundly impacted neighbors and the many customers of Taylor Court Grocery. As the pandemic continued to prevent large memorial services, people instead took to decorating his place of business with messages of appreciation for his contributions and support for Mel’s partner Errol Carlson. In recognition of the public’s admiration for Mel, his family wrote a letter to the community and asked Montavilla News to share it below.
Letter to the Community:
On behalf of the family of Mel Hafsos and Errol Carlson I would like to thank this community for the many years of love and support you have shown to Mel and Errol and Taylor Court Grocery.
As Mel’s youngest Sister, I speak for our whole family and Mel and Errol as well. Mel Hafsos and Errol Carlson owned and operated Taylor Court Grocery on SE 80th Avenue for 25 years. During those many years they rarely took days off or time away from the store. The community and neighbors became their family. They took joy in all the births, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, move in days and so many other memorable events the neighborhood celebrated. They loved the children who visited the store for that “after school” treat or the cold soda or ice cream in the summer months.
I often visited and sometimes worked in the store during the years I lived in Beaverton. It was very evident the members of the community were woven in Mel and Errol’s lives. I loved attending the summer Block Party when hundreds turned out for the parade and festivities. The annual Halloween Event was one of a kind.
Mel passed away on June 18, 2021 after a brief illness. Mel grew up in a family of 8 children. We had 4 girls and 4 boys. He was probably the hardest worker of us all. He began at a young age in the orchards of our farming community near Yakima, Wa. Up until the day Mel left us, he had that mental list of one more shelf to stock, product to search for, or customer to take care of. We know now, Mel can check all those items off his “to do” list.
Upon Mel’s death, our family witnessed a huge outpouring of support and love for Mel and Errol. We want to THANK YOU ALL FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS. We understand they were loved by so many…we want you to know they loved everyone back. Thank you for those expressions of support and love during this difficult time of losing our brother. It is appreciated more than we can say.
Errol is still living in the community, just a few blocks from what he knew as home…in the community where he belongs.
Warmest thank you, The family of Mel Hafsos & Errol Carlson—Owner/Operators of Taylor Court Grocery Diane Dufault (Sister to Mel)
The somewhat secret Taylor Court Grocery has existed just blocks away of Montavilla town for nearly 100 years. Located at 1135 SE 80th Ave, this neighbourhood grocery prevailed while almost all others have closed down. Owners Errol and Mel have operated the store since 1996. They are just the most recent operators of the grocery that first opened its doors in 1921. Four months ago the store, and adjoining house, were listed for sale. The combined business and house are listed at $950,000. As of yet, the property has not sold.
Many people have chronicled the history and community contribution of this special store. There is a great public interest in who will buy this property. Finding a buyer who is interested in running the Taylor Court Grocery will be difficult. It is not often that a store can last 100 years in the same location, even more rare for that store to be a low margin business like a grocery. On top of all of that it is not on a main street and best serves pedestrians. It is just as likely to be sold to someone interested in developing the lot for other purposes.
I think everyone hopes that the new owners will see how special the store is and keep it in operation. One way or another, Errol and Mel have done a great job keeping the store going and deserve to pass it along and start their next chapter in life. We will keep an eye on this property, and should the Taylor Court Grocery close it doors, I hope the new owners will let the community save the sign and preserve this part of Montavilla history.
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