Cheryl Shops...Portland
In true best-for-last fashion, the final leg of MW's and my tour of the Pacific Northwest was Portland, and it was by far our favorite city of the three we visited. The shopping is great--and I will get to that in a minute--but the awesome thing about the city is that in spite of how very artsy and bohemian it is, everyone there is super nice. Like, think of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, except all the hipsters make eye contact and engage you in conversation. Also, the food is fantastic. Another awesome thing: no sales tax. (Even on food!) We stayed at The Nines, a fairly new boutique hotel that sits on top of a Macy's, proving apparently I can never get too far away from work. In the immediate vicinity of that area--Pioneer Square--is a somewhat petite Nordstrom, which had just conveniently started its Anniversary Sale; Pioneer Place, an upscale mall with Louis Vuitton, Saks, and, I must say, a really awesome Forever 21; and Mario's, the type of establishment where middle-aged men drink pinot noir while their much-younger girlfriends try on clingy Pucci dresses (seriously, this is what I witnessed), and also the only store in Portland in which I encountered seriously frosty salespeople. Thankfully, there are also a bunch of great boutiques in the downtown area, where I encountered really sweet proprietors who complimented me on my bag, my shoes, my sunglasses, and so on. Frances May reminded me of Bird in Brooklyn, with a nice selection of A.P.C., Built by Wendy, Alexander Wang, and Vena Cava, much of it on sale when I was there. I was the only person shopping at Odessa, which features a strongly edited collection of Martin Margiela 6 clothes, Comme des Garçons perfumes, and the most Isabel Marant I've seen in one place outside of Paris. Much of it was 50% off when I was there. Radish Underground carries clothing and accessories from local Portland designers, and even without the sale that was happening, prices were quite reasonable--chiefly under $200. Johnny Sole's inventory seemed a bit wiped out due to summer sales, but from what I could tell, the store carries hip-but-comfortable shoes by Corso Como, Tsubo, Frye, and the like. Right across the street from that is Mercantile, a rather large store--bigger than a boutique but smaller than a department store--that carries, on one side, contemporary designers like Rag & Bone, See by Chloe, and A.L.C., and, on the other side, lines like Eskandar and Eileen Fisher, geared toward an, ahem, slightly older customer. Our guidebook called it "an ideal spot for young women shopping with their mothers," which is totally an accurate assessment; if I lived in Portland, I'd probably shop there all the time. With my mom. Finally, feeling somewhat let down by the vintage situation in Vancouver and Seattle, I was happy to find Magpie, a vintage store with a reasonably-priced and well-edited, trend-right selection, including tons of costume jewelry. I scored a 1940s dress for $12 and a silver tassel necklace, and was incredibly happy about both finds. Sadly, due to time constraints, I didn't make it to two other downtown vintage stores on my list, Decades and Ray's Ragtime, which leads me to my one criticism of Portland shopping, which is that stores don't stay open late enough (then again, that could just be the late-rising, shopping-till-8 New Yorker in me).

The Pearl district is just to the north of downtown; like Yaletown in Vancouver, it's often compared to Soho in NYC, and also like Yaletown, the similarities end in the fact that most of it is converted former warehouses. With its Anthropologie, West Elm, and the like--plus numerous high-rise condos--the Pearl tends toward the yuppie side. The shops are also a bit spread out, so we didn't spend much time there. However, we did spend over three hours in Powell's City of Books, which is reportedly the largest bookstore in the U.S. (and I can believe it--there were rooms and floors to which I didn't even make it). I bought everything from recent fiction paperbacks to two out-of-print Francesco Scavullo books (including Scavullo Women, which I've been looking for forever) and The Fashionable Mind, a collection of essays from Kennedy Fraser, the New Yorker's former fashion critic. MW and I ended up buying so much, we had it shipped home for a flat rate. I can't recommend Powell's enough; even if you are only in Portland for a few hours, you must go there.

A bit north and west of the Pearl is Nob Hill, with a stretch of shopping on Northwest 23rd Street, beginning with an Urban Outfitters just above Burnside and extending toward Lovejoy, where the streetcar deposits you. Blush Beauty Bar is like an independent, locally-owned Sephora, but with more personality and less sleekness. It was rocking with customers when I was there. Zelda's Shoe Bar is a tiny boutique with expensive European shoes from Claudia Ciuti and the like. I absolutely loved Souchi, probably one of Portland's best-known boutiques due to the in-house line of artfully draped and seamed sweaters. The sweaters are lovely and unique (although, it should be said, not inexpensive), however Portland was having record-breaking heat when I was there, and the last thing I wanted to think about was sweaters. Dana Lynn has a less weather-dependent selection of locally made jewelry and handbags (plus clothes too). I could've spent hours in Pop-Up Shoppe, a cave-like space featuring vintage clothing, toys, and various knickknacks; I spotted a vintage Biba dress--in my size--for $125 (or thereabouts), and I am still kicking myself for not having bought it. The one place I didn't make it to--but had really wanted to--in this neighborhood is Seaplane, which was, unfortunately, closed for renovations while I was there. Seaplane is known for carrying local designers, including a Portland gal you might have heard of, Leanne Marshall.

My favorite neighborhood, however, was just across the river, called Lower Burnside. Referred there by my friend MM (a Portland native) and armed with a list from the excellent Shop Vintage Portland, MW and I proceeded east, starting with Rock N Rose, which has a neat, well-organized selection for guys and girls with a rockabilly, indie sensibility. Hattie's Vintage had the most comprehensive selection we saw, and the owner definitely knew her stuff. It should be noted that the prices here were the highest I saw, but the owner was willing to negotiate, which is always a plus in this economy. MW hit the vintage Pendelton-shirt jackpot at Zeno Oddities, which, in addition to vintage clothing, also carries an amusing selection of velvet paintings and folk art. Bombshell Vintage had a lot of pretty dresses and very reasonable prices. Not vintage--but, hands down, one of my favorite stores in the city--is Redux, which feels kind of like being inside a real-life Etsy. It stocks a wide variety of jewelry from local designers, and prices are totally reasonable--I got a ring and two bracelets for less than $50. The store also hosts rotating fine artists, and features knickknacks, making it an excellent destination for gifts. Also worth visiting in the area is Hippo Hardware, a super-quirky, only-in-Portland hardware store featuring reproduction and vintage hardware, everything from plumbing fixtures to lights to doors and window; for those into architectural scavenging, it must be paradise. It reminded us of Horseman Antiques on Atlantic Avenue in both size and disorganization; unlike Horseman, its employees are incredibly cheerful and helpful. Finally, while you're in the neighborhood, I insist you have dinner at Le Pigeon, which is where MW and I had one of the best meals of our lives. If you can score a seat at the bar (as we did), you get to watch the chefs in action, which is almost as exciting as actually eating the food they're cooking. If you have enough room for a drink afterward, stop by the Jupiter Hotel's Doug Fir Lounge, where MW and I had a waiter who looked like Henry Rollins (but who was, again, incredibly nice!).

Sadly, three days in Portland was not enough--there were a bunch of neighborhoods, such as Hawthorne and North Mississippi-Williams, that we didn't even make it to. Then again, that's a good excuse to make a return trip, isn't it?

1 comment

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