The Woodburn Company stores are about 40 minutes south of Portland, but if you have a vehicle and want to do some shopping it's worth the drive. Like any outlet mall you visit, the stores can be hit or miss, but we scored a few good deals (mostly as Christmas gifts) when we visited. There are a ton of stores, and even rides and a playground to help keep the little one's entertained. Though it's an outdoor shopping mall, most of the walkways are covered, so don't let the weather deter you from visiting.
This place is great bc the jewelry is so simple and unique. And how often do you feel like you like everything in a line. Almost never for me. But the pieces are mixed materials and colors. You are definitely paying for the uniqueness of the jewelry, it tends to be slightly pricey. Even if you can't make it out to the mother store you can find the pieces on etsy and on her website.
What to buy: I love the earrings! I get more compliments on my Betsy & iya earrings than any I have ever had.
What to pay: Be prepared, the earrings can run you from $12-$45, most being on the higher end of the price scale.
Trader Joes downtown Portland
Downtown Portland Trader Joes
(971) 544-0788 · 2122 NW Glisan St, Portland, Oregon
Ah Trader Joe's ... my favorite neighbourhood grocery store. Though not a single one in my currently resident state of Colorado. I have to drive to Albuquerque or Santa Fe, New Mexico to get to it. Or fly here to Portland or Seattle. So anytime I'm in a town with Trader Joes' you gotta know I'll hit it. Its a grocery store and so much more - shelves stocked with delicious and wholesome foods that puts Whole Foods to shame. Ranging from milk n' bread to exotic fares like imported cheeses, organic produce, oddities, cultural foods, and hand-tossed pizza from Italy. In addition to the variety, notorious for its liquor selection, though this Oregon store only seemed to have beer and wine. The prices are fantastically cheap. Unbeatable. Puts Costco and Sams club to shame in my opinion with quality and price. This is why I'm a dedicated Trader Joes' patron and I'd drive several hours to go shopping at their locations. Someday perhaps Colorado will get one. Till then the wanderlust will be satiated. This store is in walking distance from the Youth hostel and has a wide selection. Great shop. Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
Perhaps the most special part of this store is that it is a bit hard to pin down exactly what you will find here. Generally, you will find many of the items here are made by local artists. A number of the items are recreated or repurposed materials, or made in a green fashion. For example, there is an old steam heating radiator that has been converted into a fairly modern looking coffee table. Table and floor lamps created with bamboo from local craftsman Lawrence Newman are found here as well.
Paintings hanging on the wall tend to be fairly modern, though you may find a few surprising exceptions.
Ease carries a line of greeting cards named Red Aphrodite. These are made by a Portland artist from 100% post-consumer recycled material.
Really, what makes the store special is the eye of the proprietress, who is very good at seeing what works and what doesn't work.
For example, when a local artist produces a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired table lamp, she might find an appropriate 1950s table to put it on that was discovered at one of Portland's surplus stores. Or, perhaps she will find something that works just as well, if not even better, both artistically and functionally speaking.
Photo 1: Ease is located on the north side of SE Division street, just west of SE 50th Avenue. The store is part of a series of storefronts in a single building, but to date Ease is the only store that has a sign that sticks out from the side of the building above the doorway. They also have some very colorful series of "OPEN" flags that go into a socket in the sidewalk.
Photo 2: From left to right you can see some of the jewelry the store sells, plus some of the artwork on the walls. There is a bench at the very edge and to the right of the glass display case that is made from a snow board or skate board (I can't tell which). From there on over are various treasures both discovered and made by local artists.
Photo 3: The store's preference for contemporary and modern artworks can certainly be seen here. On the far left is also a "Frank Lloyd Wright" style lamp. In the corner is a bamboo floor lamp made by Lawrence Newman, who is a local artist that makes a considerable effort at making his works from bamboo, salvaged wood, and other green sources.
Photo 4: Here's another look at the "Frank Lloyd Wright" table lamp. Upon my visit on January 24, 2009 there was also a floor version of the lamp in the store as well.
Photo 5: Unfortunately due to the sunlight coming through the window on my visit to the store on January 24, 2009, the camera badly misinterpreted the light reading on this one. However, in the rack against the wall it is possible to see the Red Aphrodite line of greeting cards sold by Ease.
Obviously the interest and range here are quite specialized, and not 100% of everything is locally made (ie, the items found in the surplus stores). However, the store is a wonderful addition to the precious few that concentrate on selling the products of local artists and crafters. As you can tell from my Buying Local and Unique Tip, I'm not that pleased with the range and variety of options out there in terms of directing people to find unique locally made items. Ease is a huge step forward in terms of directing people to a location where locally made unique items are available, and far more convenient and less seasonal than (though not quite as much fun as) one of the local art walks.
What to buy: Local Craft and Artistic items sold here tend towards the fairly large furniture and home furnishings that would really be of interest to a very certain select group of tourists.
However, you can find a select group of smaller items here. For example, Ease sells greeting cards produced by Red Aphrodite. This line of cards is made out of 100% post-consumer recycled material by a local Portland artist.
Look carefully at the shelves, and you might find a few other smaller items that may be of interest.
You will also find a few items that should be properly listed under the "bath and beauty" category (which is a VirtualTourist shopping category, though I have chosen to put this store under the "art" category). For example, there are assorted soaps and scented candles. I must confess that these types of items are not in my range of interests and have not spent much time looking at what this store has available in this category. I am quite certain, however, that the store proprietress has put as much thought into careful selection of these items as she has into her art and craft items.
What to pay: Many of the items here are unique works of art, and are appropriately priced considering what they are. More commonly available items are also appropriately priced.
One of Portland's best record shops, Green Noise was transplanted to Portland after serving Eugene's record buying public for some time. Their loss is our gain, as Green Noise just plain bleeds rock and roll. The owner is very cool and knows just about everything there is about the rock. He even puts little hand written reviews on the price tags giving a description of the band. He'll even give "not as good" notices on some of the albums that he sells so as not to sell someone that one crap album that a really good musician did. The garage rock, punk, and early rock and rockabilly sections are excellent. Also tons of zines and books.
Located in downtown Portland, this shop features a wonderful collection of paintings, sculptures, fired clay, glass, furniture, etc. of local artists. We wandered through the store for several hours. Great stuff and much of it was very creative.
It seems like the love of books runs in the Powell family! Back in 1970, Michael Powell opened a small but successful bookstore in Chicago, which I had a chance to visit a couple years ago. In 1971, his father Walter decided to do the same in Portland, and when his son joined him a few years later, the duo turned Powell's Books into one of the world's biggest independent bookstores. Powell's "City of Books" store covers an entire city block and holds over one million new and used books, as well as an amazing selection of rare and out-of-print editions. The different sections are well identified and for such a big store, it's amazingly easy to get around. I enjoyed browsing around the fiction section - there's a big focus on American literature, and I was able to find some good deals on some used books. Also, it's definitely worth making the quick trip to the rare book room (open daily from noon to 6:00 pm) to gape at volumes that are worth thousands of dollars. With about 6000 visitors daily, I guess it's fair to say that Powell's Books has become one of Portland's most popular attractions!
Powell's City of Books is open daily from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm. Author events are held almost daily, and there's a small coffee shop in the store.
What to buy: With such an amazing selection of books, it was hard to narrow it down to what would fit in my suitcase! I ended up buying six books, including Chuck Palahniuk's "Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon".
What to pay: There's a discount section near the main entrance and used books are reasonably priced. New books generally are the same price as in other book stores.
This store is a great beer store. It also sells wine and has a deli with limited grocery selections. It has possibly the best beer selection overall in the whole city and it certainly is one of the best I have ever seen. It is a great place to go for Pacific NW beer in particular but also has good British, German, and Belgian beers plus some other US beers not always easy to find in this area. It also sells beer by the bottle rather than requiring some beers to be sold only in a six pack.
What to buy: Beer. It has a great selection of Pacific NW beers, British, German, and Belgian beer, plus some other craft beers from California, Missouri, etc. It has various other beers but these are the main selections.
What to pay: Prices are quite reasonable.
Belmont Station has long been regarded as Portland's best retail outlet for beer. It was located next to the Horse Brass Pub when I first visited there in 1994 but has expanded not only in size in the retail realm but also as a specialist beer cafe in its own right. They still have an amazing array of beers for sale to go but now they also have a small Belgian style cafe serving 16 draft beers and one hand cask. It is quite busy with a real neighborhood bar feel to it.
What to buy: We found lots of interesting bottles for the cooler including some more Alaskan Smoked Porter we had found on the Oregon coast the week before and Stone's Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. I just had to have one in the very crowded pub. It turned out to be a sour beer tasting festival and I had a very tart local lambic style beer. It was a bit too crowded to take notes so the name of the beer escapes me but it was refreshing. This is a pub I would have liked to check out more if I had more time in town.
The store is operated as a "community friendly" operation, and features a number of items that are "green", and occasionally features local artwork.
While not of interest to tourists and Portland visitors, their kitchen section features tools and utensels that are more expensive, but built to last forever. For example: a Mirador cheese slicer, made in the USA and not China, has a re-tensionable wire so that it may be tightened a number of times as the wire stretches with age. It may be far more expensive than what you will find in other stores, but it is a better value because it will last far, far longer than the junk in other stores.
If you are not a typical Pacific Northwest liberal, or at least a California liberal, it is best to avert your eyes to the items that have political statements.
This store regularly participates in the Southeast Portland ArtWalk, and during this time the mural on the large freight doors of the store is open to display. Unfortunately, due to some political problems, most of the time the mural must be covered.
What to buy: Unique Portland craft items, such as the knives, forks and spoons decorated with hard clay as shown in the photo.
Assorted bumper stickers and other items of a political statement nature
Various "earth-friendly" items
Unique cook books, greeting cards (though most of those come from out of state and are probably of no interest to travelers who have seen them before in many similar stores across the country) and a number of other unusual household odds and ends.
Toys: for example, for Christmas 2007 Mirador ordered quite a number of unique made in USA or made in Canada toys and games, due to the toy recall scares.
What to pay: Unfortunately, prices are not negotiable here. Such items as the LED Christmas lights are cheaper elsewhere, but Mirador has them nearly all year long. Expect to spend more for better quality items here for just about everything, compared to department stores or the likes of Fred Meyer and Bi-Mart.
Be sure to check the bargain racks that are outside the front door to the store!
My primary goal with this tip is to point out some of the basics of shopping in the Portland area, and a few specific stores and shopping areas that may appeal to those who are visiting. If you were visiting Portland, would you want to go to places that sell the same imported junk you can get in your own city? Or would you want to go somewhere that features items that are specifically made in Portland by locals, or at least made in Oregon?
Which is a not-so-subtle transition into my first Portland area suggestion: Made in Oregon stores are located in a number of Portland area shopping malls and in downtown Portland. The store slogan is "all items made, caught, or grown in Oregon." The store chain mostly lives up to its reputation, but it has been a regional joke for a number of years that all the plastic shopping bags say "Made in Oregon" on the side, and "Made in Taiwan" on the bottom. Here you can find everything from the cheap and mass produced (Oregon and Portland post cards) to more expensive craft-type items (Pendleton wool blankets, Willamette Valley wine) that, while still mass produced, are somewhat more unique than postcards. Despite the name and slogan, the shopping bags are not the only import here. As an example, some clothing items (particularly various Oregon university sports team shirts) are imported. SO CHECK THE TAG if you really insist on buying something truly made in Oregon. There are a number of different stores in the Portland area, and none of them stock all of the items. For more information and store locations see their web site, which of course is http://www.madeinoregon.com/
For interesting local Portland information and guide books, I have two suggestions: the Oregon Historical Society book store in downtown Portland has a wide variety of local information and such items as Portland post cards, plus a small selection of unique gifts. For those seeking information about hiking and other outdoor activities, I suggest the Audobon Society store on Cornell Road.
For more one-of-a-kind artistic items, you can't beat the various neighborhood art walks. Artists in a particular area of the city open their studios (often in their own homes) and show off their works. You can purchase directly from the artist, and get to know some wonderful and sometimes eccentric people in the process. These are only occasional events (some annual, some monthly), and you would have to time your visit to coincide with one of the events if you want to participate. However, if unique local Portland arts and crafts are what you are interested in, please see my Portland Neighborhood Art Walks tip for more information on these events.
Portland Saturday Market features a number of locally hand crafted items, and if you can visit downtown on a Saturday that is certainly a good place to look.
Finding a local retail store that sells the types of items you will find on the art walks or Saturday market is a significant undertaking. There are dozens of art galleries all over the city, but many of the galleries aim for the high end market. Northwest Portland's Lawrence Gallery sells bronze sculpture made by one or two local artists that are absolutely beautiful, but sell for twice the median Portland home price. Such places really are not aimed at the tourist looking to find a unique gift of regional origin.
Ross Island Pottery and Stark Street Studio are studio stores operated by groups of local artists. Ross Island has mostly ceramics of various types, and Stark Street is 100% ceramics. I particularly like the variety available at Stark Street. Due to the difficulties of trying to manage both a store and continue production of their artwork, the stores are sometimes a bit eccentric when it comes to such things as regular business hours. It may be best to call ahead of a visit.
You will find a few stores that do have a few interesting products from local artists, but there isn't anything like a "Made in Oregon" chain that concentrates on unique works of art. Here are a few of my favorite stores that do feature local artists:
Trillium Artisans is far from downtown Portland, and not in a tourist area of town. However, 100% of store stock is made by local artists. Furthermore, products sold in the store must feature a minimum recycled material content. The selection of items isn't large due to the tiny retail space available, but what space is available is used to its fullest.
Mirador has smaller home furnishings such as kitchen utensils, incense burners, and other assorted small items. The few products made by local artists include hand decorated spoons and a few other small items. Paintings, drawings, or prints from a local artist may sometimes be found on the wall. Products made locally are marked with a dot on the back of the tag. Their line of eccentric greeting cards, however, is made on the east coast.
Ease starts where Mirador leaves off. They sell furniture made by local artists as well as other artworks. Their eccentric line of greeting cards is made by a local artist out of 100% post consumer recycled material. The store has only been open since May of 2008, and there is talk of the store owner adding other artists and products as time and money permit. Depending on how that develops, this store could soon become the best option, other than Saturday market, for those seeking the efforts of Portland artists collected in a single location.
Uncommon Treasures at 3526 SE Hawthorne sells note cards featuring artistic photographs of Portland street scenes. They sell a number of other artistic items, but most of the rest comes from outside the Northwest.
The Real Mother Goose (stores in several places) has a number of unique works of art (a number of them from Oregon artists), but most are gallery grade artwork and not commonly of interest to tourists.
This store is operated by the Audubon Society of Portland, and is located on the grounds of their Bird Sanctuary in Portland, next door to their Wildlife Care Center.
What to buy: This store sells just about anything animal related. You can find bird books and wildlife books that deal with almost every corner of the world, not just the Pacific Northwest or Willamette Valley. You can find stuffed animals and animal related educational toys, bird feeders, pencils, art work, and many other small gift related items.
Books available here include various guides to hikes all over the Pacific Northwest, with a special emphasis with locations closer to Portland. These will help you find your way to the natural areas in and around our region, and particularly Portland.
Update: September 2007
Trader Joe grocery stores are few, far between, and far smaller then the giants. As a consequence they have less to offer, but tend to have lower prices. If staying at the NW International Youth Hostel, simply walk west on Glisan (glee, as in glee club) until you get to a nearby TJ outlet. Clean, bi-sexual restroom in the warehouse area. A block or two further west is a William Temple House thrift store, a NW neighborhood icon.
The IYH on SE Hawthorne has a nearby Safeway, one of the giants. Safeway has evolved over the years from neighborhood supermarkets to district superdupermarkets. Freddies (Fred Meyer) during the same time frame has outstripped all commers. They can be relied on to have ample pay phones & clean restroom facilities. The same is not necessarily true of Safeway. The good news for visitors is that the downtown Safeway @ SW 10th & Jefferson has long hours, from 5 AM until at least 11 PM. The deli seating area is cramped. I find it uncomfortable, though others may not.
The downtown Freddies on West Burnside, closer to the uptown shopping area then the downtown core, among the smallest albeit busiest Freddy outlets nonetheless has the most comfortable, most relaxing deli seating area I've so far seen; almost like an outdoor plaza indoors. It is also within easy walking distance of the NW IYH. Ask directions.
A Work In Progress
Update: May 2007
The Rejuvenation store and Hippo Hardware are both in the business of recycling the past. Rejuvenation, with greater floorspace, is more likely to have big buck items like claw foot tubs, chandeliers, or classic 50's style furniture less likely to fit in your backpack.
Midway between the two is the Andy & Bax surplus store. By the time you get done rummaging around there, you might want to save Hippo Hardware for another day.
From Andy and Bax: Walk due north on SE Grand Avenue to E Burnside, then right on Burnside to Hippo Hardware. Hippo is the last building before the Burnside/Sandy Boulevard/12th Avenue interchange,
From north side of Pioneer Courthouse Square: Follow MAX tracks east on Morrison to 4th Avenue temporary Bus Mall. Board northbound #12 Sandy or #19 Glisan bus at 4th & Morrison.
L A N D M A R K: Wentworth Chevrolet shortly after crossing Burnside bridge.
Exit at 8th & E Burnside, the last stop prior to the Burnside/Sandy Boulevard/12th Avenue junction. Ask bus driver if in doubt. Walk due east to Hippo Hardware.
Not your typical hospital clean modern hardware store, it doesn't look like much on the inside, and is even less impressive on the outside (think "True Grit"), but it may have just the thing-a-ma-jig you've been looking for but have never been able to find anywhere else.
Hippo Hardware is as far removed form a modern neighborhood hardware store in the opposite direction as a modern neighborhood hardware store is from a Home Depot megastore.
When your grandparents or their parents or their grandparents parents bought bobbles, bangles, or bright shiny things for their own homes, from bathroom fixtures to hinges to light fixtures to weather vanes, this is the sort of stuff they bought brand spanking new. Who knows, it might even possible to buy old-fashioned square nails.
A work in progress.
Update: May 2007.
P-38 can openers for one thing, perfect for backpackers, and probably more sanitary then geared models. Ever tried to clean one? No, I mean REALLY clean one. It ain't possible.
In fact, if in need of a backpack or sleeping bag, or are planing on camping off the power grid for awhile, or starting your own little war - very popular these days - this is the place to go. Didn't see any used Sherman Tanks (check the basement, though, to be sure), or lister bags either for that matter. Can't run a decent war without lister bags.
Andy & Bax mottled camouflage shopping bags, to top it off, make nice little souvenirs in their own right.
From Rejuvenation store: Walk due north a half mile or so to Andy and Bax or board #6 Trimet bus at SE Grand & Taylor. Exit at SE Grand & Oak. Walk north to Andy and Bax.
From north side of Pioneer Courthouse Square, board the Blue (Hillsboro) or Red (Beaverton) MAX train. You will be heading west in order to go east. Don't worry about it. That's what Columbus did, worked out fine for everyone except those who owned the place. Exit at the Goose Hollow MAX Station.
Connect with the #6 M.L. King Vancouver bound Trimet bus on Columbia Street across the MAX tracks. Bus shelter nearby. Validated MAX ticket serves as a transfer.
Exit at SE Grand & Oak. Walk north to Andy & Bax.
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