By Rick Seifert
[Posted June 18, 2021]
On May 25, Ardys Braidwood, who for the last 54 years quietly but firmly shaped commercial life in Hillsdale, died at age 85.
For “Ardy,” as she was known, Hillsdale was her lifelong home.
She and her four siblings were the third generation of the pioneer Wardin family to live here. Her parents, Anna and Albert Wardin, owned and ran the Fulton Park Dairy.
So from an early age, animals were a big part of Ardy’s life, and horses in particular were her passion. On occasion she would ride from Hillsdale to Lake Oswego and back.
In the early 1950s, cows were displaced by students on the ridge in the West Hills. That’s when the family sold most of the dairy to the Portland school district. That land became the campus for Rieke Elementary School and Woodrow Wilson High School, now Ida B. Wells-Barnett High School.
But the family held back a key strip of land along Capitol Highway and turned it into the Hillsdale Shopping Center.
For years Ardy, as the Managing Partner of Wardin Properties, literally held the keys, deciding what businesses would put down roots in approximately half of Hillsdale’s commercial center. In later years, her late husband, John, also purchased commercial property in Hillsdale. The holdings they managed together came to include the Casa Colima restaurant and the Wardin Building, constructed in 2014 and now housing OnPoint Community Credit Union.
The tenant now with the greatest longevity in the shopping center is Mike Roach, co-owner of Paloma Clothing. Roach tells how in 1975, at just 25 years old, he partnered with his mom to propose opening a store featuring imported clothing.
Ardy barely glanced at how the two strangers looked “on paper.” Instead, she saw their promise. “She gave us a chance,” Mike exclaims, as if Ardy’s decision was a miracle that happened only yesterday.
Other decisions produced more success stories — among them are The Portland Ballet, Gigi’s Café, Baker & Spice, Other Worlds Games, the OnPoint Hillsdale branch.
Ardy didn’t bat 1000. No one does in commercial real estate, but she was clearly at the top of the game.
Long-time Hillsdale resident Robert Hamilton, savvy in business matters, extends the baseball analogy. “Like a good general manager or manager of a baseball team, Ardy looked beyond statistics and playing experience. She looked for potential.”
And just as successful teams often become like family, tenants often felt welcomed and cared for as members of this Wardin family business.
Chris Braidwood-Reid, Ardy’s daughter, was taught by her mom how to run the Wardin business when the time came. Chris recalls that tenants frequently greeted Ardys with hugs.
Ardy’s familial support was constant in good times and bad, says Mike Roach. He and others note that during the 2008 Recession and the current pandemic, Ardy quietly helped many of her tenants survive financial hard times.
Mike remembers that early on being part of Ardy’s “family” meant the occasional reprimand. The tip-off came with Ardy addressing him as “Buster.”
“Over the years,” he recalls, “I got more disciplined to avoid getting called ‘Buster’! After all, I was 25 when we started and had a lot to learn about what a landlord expects and what they would and would not permit.”
That kind of attention was consistent with how Chris describes her mom’s attitude: “She had high standards for work being done right, insisted on it, and was always fair. Those who worked for her were clear on her expectations, and, if they did their job right, she was loyal to them for years to come.”
[June 21, 2021]
Richard Stein, owner of the Hillsdale Food Park, responds with this story:
"Thank you for the tribute article about Hillsdale icon Ardys Braidwood. I wanted to share one more example of Ardy's vision: Ardy had not one second of hesitation when I came to her proposing to build the Hillsdale Food Park. She recognized immediately that her vacant piece of land could become a real hang-out place for the neighborhood. Starting the Food Park, I had absolutely no idea how to run a business nor be a landlord. Ardy kindly became my mentor, fielding my distressed calls at all hours and offering her wise counsel. She was a generous and sensible landlord and yes, at times she let me know my other name was 'Buster.'"
Do you have a story to share about the history of the Hillsdale business district or about Ardys? Let us know.