When you picture a real estate developer, you may picture a guy in a slick suit and tie closing deals and jet setting. You probably don’t picture a guy in jeans and a t-shirt rolling up his sleeves busily troubleshooting a broken fan motor on a tanning bed. When I met Opera Block developer, Tim Fuller to learn more about his soon to open Vintage Tanning Salon in downtown Portland that’s exactly what he was doing. That hustle and bustle is not without good reason, as the first business in the Opera Block Properties opens this coming Monday.
According to Fuller, in developing the long vacant properties in downtown Portland, he has been careful to listen to what local citizens want. After Sunkissed Tanning on Bridge Street closed last year, Fuller seized on the opportunity to buy the equipment from the defunct business. Along with some newly acquired equipment, the salon boasts six beds and one stand up tanning booth. While most people are familiar with traditional UV light tanning beds, the new business also has one bed that uses near-infrared light. Fuller says many people swear by it as a cure for acne, rosacea and other skin complaints. In addition to tanning, Vintage Tanning Salon will carry a wide array of skincare products for indoor and outdoor tanning, as well as sunscreens and sunburn treatments.
For those who have lived in Portland long, the location that is now a trendy looking tanning salon bears little resemblance to the series of hometown pharmacies that operated there over the years. It bears even less of a resemblance to the cubicle filled office of PCMI, the educational staffing agency that called it home most recently. In the process of renovating, Fuller says he is always keen to, “pay honor to the history that was here.”
From the restored wooden flooring to the shipping crates bearing the name of a long forgotten pharmacy, the business is full of little touches that give a sense of the history of the place. Some of the walls are paneled with reclaimed wood from shelving found upstairs, some still bearing handwritten signatures of the people who built the shelves in the 1940s. The centerpiece though is a wall sized blow up of a hand drawn map of the Village of Portland that the crew found while renovating the building. Fuller says it was tacked on the back of a door that perpetually stood open so even he didn’t know it was there for more than a year. With the help of Reed Custom Printing here in Portland, the antique map was scanned and converted into a one-of-a-kind wallpaper that welcomes visitors as they enter.
Fuller says that the exterior facade of the building will be restored to its historic appearance along with the rest of the Opera Block facade’s during the Summer of 2019. While one residential unit has been renovated upstairs, several Airbnb units are still in the works along with the much-anticipated restaurant on the main floor. Those walking by on the Grand River boardwalk can see that the addition to the building that once housed a kitchen has been demolished. Fuller says that a new kitchen is being built elsewhere in the building in favor of a two story deck overlooking the river. Fuller is keeping all other details of the restaurant underwraps for now. While Vintage Tanning Salon is opening for business Monday, July 2nd, the public is invited to an open house during and after the July 4th Parade when they will celebrate the grand opening.