After 88 years of making ornate Myrtlewood products, Oregon Connection / The House of Myrtlewood will be closing its factory as of Jan. 1, and closing its shop the following month.
Oregon Connection/The House of Myrtlewood is owned by the organization Star of Hope, which helps people with development disabilities find work and housing in the community.
Star of Hope purchased the Oregon Connection/House of Myrtlewood from Les and Barbara Streeter and Tricia and Joe Benetti in 2006. They’ve been using the facility to provide members of the community with vocational training since.
“We purchased it with the intent of having the folks that we support here to go over there and gain skill they could use to gain community based employment,” executive director at Star of Hope LouAnn Dewater said.
State and federal rules that came about in the past couple years require Star of Hope find job opportunities for its clients out in the community instead of employing them at business owned by Star of Hope.
“The rules are that they need people placed in the community, and not in provider owned businesses,” Dewater said.
Star of Hope has been very successful in integrating its clients from the House of Myrtlewood into the community. They’ve found jobs for 15 of their clients at places like The Mill Casino, McKay’s Market, 7 Devils, 7 Eleven, as well as others.
“When you go from sheltered work, and you have folks that that’s all they’ve known all their lives it can be scary for them. To say now our focus is to get you a job out there at 7 Eleven, and they’re like I’ve been working for star of hope for 15 years. That’s really tough. But actually it’s been a really smooth transition,” Dewater said.
Over the last 12 years Dewater says Star of Hope has helped between 50 and 60 people with disabilities gain skills and outside employment through the House of Myrtlewood.
“A lot of people are going to miss the place. We have a lot of local people that come here that we do custom work for,” production supervisor Ray Martinez said.
Martinez has been the production supervisor for 10 years, and worked at the House of Myrtlewood for 20.
“I’m going to have to find another job. Everybody feels the same way, they have to go find something else. We’ve known it was coming for a few months now,” Martinez said.
Since the rules changed some time ago, no one working at the House of Myrtlewood currently is a Star of Hope client. However, according to Dewater, all the employees at the House of Myrtlewood were offered employment at Star of Hope.
“One person who was over at the House of Myrtlewood will come over and do outreach with us. That’s something that Star of Hope has kind of been missing for a while. Another person is going to come over and do some volunteer coordinator stuff … Some have chosen not to come over, it’s just not a fit for them. I understand that, I respect that, and I will help them find employment,” Dewater said.
The business is for sale through Pacific Properties, so there is a chance that someone could buy the property and keep the factory producing.
“My dream is that somebody will come in and keep it going. It’s just not a good fit for Star of Hope,” Dewater said.
Everything in the House of Myrtlewood store is currently 30 percent off, and likely to be discounted even further as the Feb. 1 closure approaches.