Published On: Fri, Nov 24th, 2023

Portland store was repeatedly vandalized. A chain of kindness ensued.

Portland store was repeatedly vandalized. A chain of kindness ensued.
Portland store was repeatedly vandalized. A chain of kindness ensued.

Blane Hartleb’s car stereo store in Portland, Ore., was vandalized — again. The vandals damaged his store in an unsuccessful attempt to steal car stereo equipment. It happened twice in the span of a month.

“It happens about once every 90 days, some type of vandalism,” said Hartleb, who has owned Outrageous Audio for 37 years.

In late September, someone broke into the store’s warehouse, destroying the doors and locks. It cost Hartleb about $800 to repair the damage. A few weeks later, vandals smashed the glass front door. They didn’t steal any merchandise, likely because of Hartleb’s security system — which includes a gate blocking entry to the store, as well as a camera and alarms.

Local news covered the second attempted break-in, and the following day, Hartleb received a surprise call from a stranger. It was Matt Sliney, who also owns a nearby small business, Town & Country Glass.

Sliney offered to fix Outrageous Audio’s front door — completely free of charge.

“I felt bad for the guy. He’s just had so many break-ins, and I just felt I could give him a hand and fix his window for him,” Sliney said.

He rescued a family from Vietnam in 1975. On Thanksgiving they thank him.

While he hadn’t met Hartleb before, he had vivid memories of old Outrageous Audio commercials, where Hartleb hammed it up for the camera.

“They were quite funny and me and my friends would always get a kick out of watching those,” Sliney said.

He could also relate to Hartleb’s situation, and said some businesses are leaving Portland because of crime issues.

He said his business — which he opened in 1990 — has also been vandalized in recent years. “There’s a bike store next door to us and they have been broken into more times than I can count.”

When Sliney heard about what happened to Hartleb’s store, he knew right away he’d reach out to him. He often offers to help out local businesses when he hears about vandalism.

“We’ll offer to do the job either for free or for a highly discounted amount,” he said.

Hartleb was stunned by the gesture, saying repairs would have cost him more than $1,000.

A stranger asked me to take her photograph. It saved my life.

“We were just blown away,” he said. “I would never have expected that.”

He was stunned again when Sliney’s workers showed up straight away to get the job done.

“They sent their truck out that day, measured and redid the glass,” Hartleb said. “It was fantastic.”

Hartleb said he wanted to continue the chain of kindness.

About a year ago, Hartleb began giving his customers a rear-view mirror hanger, letting them know that if they leave Outrageous Audio a Google Review — good or bad — he would donate $5 to both St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, as well as the Oregon Humane Society.

Hartleb had asked his customers which two causes they cared about the most, and the consensus was: children and animals. While reviews had trickled in over the course of the year, after Sliney’s kind deed, Hartleb doubled down, urging his customers to help him pay it forward. Tons of reviews poured in.

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Since last year, the store has received 1,035 new customer reviews. As a result, Hartleb said, he wrote a $5,175 check to St. Jude, and he hand-delivered a check for the same amount to the Oregon Humane Society on Nov. 13. He also dropped off a truckload of cat and dog food, plus animal supplies at the humane society. The story was first reported by KPTV.

“A donation like this was an amazing surprise for us,” said Sarah Yusavitz, a corporate relations officer at the Oregon Humane Society.

Yusavitz said the holiday season is a busy time for the shelter, and Hartleb’s donation will go toward “the area of greatest need.”

“We’re just so grateful that Blane thought of us,” she said, adding that community donations help keep the shelter operating.

Sliney said it’s gratifying that his initial gesture spurred even more goodness.

“I feel fortunate to have a small part in that,” he said. “I can’t hold a candle to Blane. He took it to a whole new level.”

Hartleb plans to continue donating as reviews come in.

Her dogs were to be euthanized while she was in a coma. A stranger stepped in.

“We’re just going to keep paying it forward,” he said. “You get caught up in this world and you don’t realize how important it is to help everybody.”

Hartleb is hopeful that more people will be inspired to pay it forward in their own lives.

“It’s just snowballed into a feel-good thing,” he said. “We all really need that.”

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