Meet the Owners

Jennifer Robinson

 

Describe yourself in one word?

“Compassionate and intense” she laughed. For those of us who know

her well, this is so Jen – there is never one answer, never one option.

Jen’s personal drive behind running a business is creating and building

relationships. “Loyalty is a virtue in business,” she says.  “To get

loyalty in relationships is to give loyalty.  I strongly believe what you

give out you get back.”  This takes a much deeper perspective when

you find out Jen is married to her High School sweetheart.  It is the

most consistent thing you can count on with Jen – it’s the loyalty of

her heart.

What do you think is your specialty in Switch Shoes and Clothing or what do you personally bring to your customers?

“I never give up, I’m really good at coming up with different options, weather it’s a gift, an outfit, a problem that needs to be solved.  I really feel I persevere and that tends to lead to success for me both in sales and in relationships.”

What would you like to say to your customers?

“Ultimately – thank you.  And that it’s my pleasure to have a store that they love and there is so much more to come.”

What do you love about Switch Shoes and Clothing or what is most gratifying about having Switch Shoes and Clothing as your business?

“Being able to do things that are important to me like supporting my customers and women who work for me.  Knowing that I can create jobs that people like.  Support new upcoming local businesses and women who start them as vendors and designers.  It’s an avenue to empower women and that’s very important to me.”

What can you say about the women that work with you? 

“They are some of the hardest-working women I know, diverse with talent and beautiful.  They bring out each other’s strengths, very loyal to Rina and I and to Switch.”

 

 

 

 

Rina Menashe

 “Life is too short to blend in.”

 

Describe yourself in one word?

“I am a burst of color – one that stands out in the midst of all dressed in grey and black on a dingy, rainy day in Portland.  I love the freedom of creativity.  One of my ideas behind Switch Shoes and Clothing is Freedom.  Freedom of a design and a designer, freedom of the mind and work environment.  I don’t see how you can be creative with rules. Having a business gives me potential to be free in my own way.  Free in a way I create and free in my relationship with people.”

How did Switch Shoes and Clothing come about for you?

“People always stopped me on the street and asked me where I got my shoes, but I didn’t know anything about starting a business in this country.  It took a lot of encouragement from my husband, a lot of my own courage, and a lot of team work with my business partners to pursue starting Switch Shoes and Clothing.”

“The idea behind Switch Shoes and Clothing is to be different and unique, not something you find easily.  My dream is to see people on the street and you can tell that they are dressed in Switch Shoes and Clothing.  You either like it or not, but it’s our style. I want to build a relationship with our customers, but I still want to decide what our store will be. I don’t want to be controlled only by what our customers want, otherwise Switch Shoes and Clothing will be just like any other store in Portland.”

What does Switch Shoes and Clothing mean to you?

“For me having a business is not just a means of survival and source of creative self-expression, although these are essential reasons, there must be a philosophy behind the business – a goal, a mission.  When we opened the store I realized that in my own way I could make a difference by supporting small, family run companies in Israel and encourage companies that hire Palestinian workers.  I wanted to find a way to do my part and find peace in my heart.

My philosophy of building relationships and support continues here in Portland.  I don’t just want a business with things to sell and people who sell them, I want to create our own thing in this country, something like a second family. We have a very tight team of women here.  We also support people who come here to shop. We offer them tea and listen to them if they want to share or just talk. It’s about women supporting women.  Both Jennifer and I believe in that.”

Describe the environment and atmosphere at Switch Shoes and Clothing? 

“Switch is a second family to us, it’s a safety net where people and family and even personal dreams are valued and treated with respect.  It is a loving, caring environment that radiates from the heart of the women and men who own Switch Shoes and Clothing, to the employees and to the customers.  This circle of women supporting women is truly the heart of the business, the Heart of Switch.”

 

 

 

 

Jason Lensch

 

 

Describe yourself in one word?

“Passionate.  Before Switch Shoes and Clothing I was struggling with how to tap in to my passions, interests, and creative needs professionally. Switch Shoes and Clothing brought many positive changes and many things to be thankful for in my life. In many respects it has been an opportunity for personal growth and a major life-change, internally as much as externally.  Switch Shoes and Clothing has been a real ‘switch’ for me, as the saying around the store goes – ‘Once you Switch, you can’t Switch back.’ “

How did Switch Shoes and Clothing start for you?

It was 2005, my ninth year of running Sadie’s Dog Time, a dog-walking and daycare business in Portland.  Rina Menashe and my wife, Jennifer Robinson, wanted to open their own business. I wanted to support them and their interests.  Jen wanted to see through one of her dreams, to open and run a retail store.  For me at that time it was about being supportive. And of course there was the excitement of doing something new in our lives, an opportunity to take a risk and see where it would lead.”

How has Switch Shoes and Clothing evolved for you?

It started with being an owner, one of four people that created a business, to one who wears many hats.  My role evolves on a daily basis.  In the last year and a half my passion of social media and website development is something I’ve been working on and it’s one of the strengths I bring to the team.  I see Switch as one big family where I’m a member, where I feel at home. I don’t see myself as a sales person, it’s not my comfort zone, but I can be involved from an artistic point of advertising, through promoting the store and working with other business owners. I see myself as a Switch supporter.”

“Switch is not a one person business – it’s a team, a family.  We all have strengths and weaknesses – but we also have something to offer, we can learn from each other and we are learning each day. I found in my life an environment where I can speak my mind, make mistakes, and enjoy myself.”

What do you like about having Switch Shoes and Clothing?

“Several things – proud to have created a successful business, having an opportunity to be creative, face challenges, find a way to grow the business not only financially, but also through supporting staff and artists throughout the world. Developing an environment that supports creativity in all its forms: visual window displays to print ads to store promotions to our newly created online store.  Also, I truly enjoy being involved in the community and being able to support several things that make a difference in our world.   It’s important for me to connect with people and meet people I would never meet in a different line of work. It’s an intoxicating, exiting environment to be in, very energizing.”

What is your passion?

My wife, kids, dogs, and extended family are what I live for. I love having them in my life and being involved in their lives. “

 

 

 

 

Moshe Menashe

 

 

 

Describe yourself in one word?

 

“Technical.  My job description, at my other full time job, involves handling warranties on million-dollar machines that process and build chips at micro-levels. These chips are used in-everything electronic we use today that has been evolving and perfecting since break-through in quantum mechanics. These machines are complicated and something is always breaking down.  When it does everything stops and you have to respond within 24 hours, sometimes 12 or 4 hours, depending on the warranty.  My life is driven by technical things, I’ve always been in the engineering world and everything is analyzed by me in that way – not a lot of room to be spontaneous, because everything needs to be planed and organized.”

 

Being a technical guy, are there any spontaneous things you do?

 

“Yes.  It depends on my mood and the day.  If I have a bad day at work, I go see a movie or play poker. Spontaneous that is not work related – I look for Rina, my wife, and ask her to go do something with me for a couple of hours.  Like taking our dog Nemo for a walk, or we go to the French bakery,  or take our boat out on the river.”

 

What is your passion?

 

“It will sound stupid, but my dream and goal has been for many years to retire by age of 60. I want to be debt free and do whatever I want.”

 

So what is “whatever I want”?

 

“I just don’t want to wake up in the morning and feel pressure. It’s not that I don’t want to do anything, but I want to wake up and decide what I want to do that day. I have been thinking a lot about this, I want to go to work not because I have too, but because I love too. I had a restaurant in Israel and it was fun. And sometimes I play with the idea of opening a falafel stand in the village. I love to cook and love to cook for my family.”

 

How did Switch Shoes and Clothing come about for you?

 

“Rina was working at Nordstrom doing displays, but she wasn’t happy. Every time she went to Israel and came back with new comfortable shoes for women, people would stop her on the street and ask where she got them. There was nothing like it in the U.S.  During one of my business trips to Israel I went into a company that had dress shoes for women and basically bought some samples and surprised her with them upon my return home. She had the idea of a store in her head, but I wanted to push her to do something about it. We had an idea, but not enough knowledge to start a business until Rina met Jen and it took off from there. All four of us came from different backgrounds and had different strengths to make it happen. Rina has the design and creativity expertise, Jen has the retail business experience, Jason has the marketing and website experience, and my strength is in doing finance.”

 

In your words what is Switch Shoes and Clothing?

 

“The name Switch was Rina’s concept – she wants people to switch their minds on what they are willing to do and wear, go outside of the box. Switch out of the box – shoes out of the box, it’s about being brave to be different.”

 

What does Switch Shoes and Clothing care about?

 

“The whole idea is making our customers happy, being a different store that sells things that no one else has. We try to make Switch Shoes and Clothing a heart of the community, a place where you can be inspired and a place people can come to in good times and in bad times and we’ll have friendly, smiling faces to welcome them in.”

 

All bios and videos produced by Oksanna Tichenor