Portland Shopping Tips by glabah Top 5 Page for this destination
Portland Shopping: 78 reviews and 81 photos
Sprawling Made in Oregon store at Portland Airport
Although not limited to the Portland area, the Made in Oregon stores are a good place to go if you are looking for that unique gift for someone who wants something from Oregon, but you are not sure what to get them. Also available in these stores is a wide assortment of Oregon only food and other items, including everything from the expected post cards to unusual and unexpected crafts, artworks, toys and food.
There are several stores in the Portland area. Unfortunately, the best of those stores has closed: this was the store at the Saturday market, just north of the Burnside Bridge. The new location in downtown Portland store is in the Galleria shopping center, near 10th Avenue and Yamhill Street. There is a MAX station there on the blue and red lines. It doesn't present quite as good a location as the old store as it isn't close to all the unique stuff at Saturday Market.
Other Made in Oregon stores are located in the various shopping malls, including Lloyd Center, but those stores are smaller and therefore unable to stock the same level of variety that used to be carried in the downtown store. One of these smaller stores is also located at the Portland Airport. It must be visited after going through security screening.
Directions: Please see the web site, as there are various store locations scattered throughout Portland. Instructions for getting to each of those is different. For tourists, Lloyd Center and Galleria are best.
Theme: Local Craft
Ease on SE Division sells work by Portland artists
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.
Address: 4823 S.E. Division Street, Portland, Oregon
Directions: North side of the street. Look for "open" flag on sidewalk and circular shaped sign above entrance. One of several storefronts in the building.
Other Contact: ?
Portland Saturday Market: Waterfront Park new spot
Portland's popular Saturday Market, for decades a fixture under and near the Burnside Bridge, was mostly forced to leave its longtime home due to redevelopment plans for the area directly south of the Burnside Bridge. 2009 was the first year to visit the market in its new location, with a new structure to allow vendors to use Waterfront Park as their "home" of operations. Therefore, any VirtualTourist or other travel tip that hasn't been updated in a while about Portland Saturday Market has a little bit of inaccuracy to it.
While the new location promises to be as good as the old (at least, the politicians promosed as much), the new location means a new operating environment and having busy Front Avenue / Natio Parkway cut the market in half, and makes the entire environment a somewhat different experience than the tight easy to access way the market used to be. The movement of a number of the booths to that new shelter inside Waterfront Park does mean that Saturday Market now interchanges pedestrian traffic with Portland's longtime recreational center along the river, the fact is that the wonderful local flavor of Saturday Market is now split into two sections: the group in Waterfront Park and another group of booths and some permanent stores around the old location of Saturday Market, with the horrifically busy Natio Parkway (formerly Front Avenue) separating the two sections of the market. The "Portland Saturday Market" sign at the MAX station under the Burnside Bridge now marks a parking lot for the building next door. While it is true that there are frequent crossings of Natio Parkway, the old logical grouping no longer flows quite as well, and you now need to go one block south of Burnside to cross Natio Parkway and visit those vendors with booths in Waterfront Park.
Photo 4 shows the new location of many of the booths looking back towards downtown Portland. The vehicles that you see (the utility truck and the bluish green car) are driving right between these two sections of the market on Natio Parkway. This is the location where there are walk signs to cross Natio Parkway, but the more logical location under the Burnside Bridge has no such crossing any more.
Keep an eye on the market's web site, below. As Saturday Market has been a Portland institution since the 1960s, and this change has only been instituted in 2009, I'm quite certain that adjustments will be made as time goes on.
The outdoor market runs weekends (Sundays too!) from March until December, for people to find those unique Christmas gifts. After that, vendors are tired of selling their things in the rain!
However, Saturday Market has attracted a number of full-time stores to the area surrounding the market, and many of those are open even when the open air market is not operating (the rest of the week, and the rest of the year).
About the photos:
The Main Photo: This is the new shelter in Waterfront Park. During the week, this building has an animated fountain in the floor that shoots water up, but on the weekends it is the new home of many vendors from Saturday Market. This view is looking north, with the Burnside Bridge and the top of the lifting towers for the Steel Bridge in the background.
Photo 1: This winds up being the first photo in the viewer because it was long the foundation of my original Saturday Market tip. This gives a reasonably good flavor of Saturday Market and the eccentric characters and vendors that hang out here. However, today the parking lot is now required by the building to the right in the photo on the weekends, and therefore the tight-knit group of vendors you see here have been forced to relocate.
Photo 2: Yes, MAX trains still run right through the market, just as they did when I uploaded this photo in 2007. While it means you need to watch your kids closely, it also means since 1983 there has been no auto traffic on 1st Avenue through here, which actually makes it a lot easier to connect the entire market together as one tight knit group. It also means you can get to the market quite easily, as even on weekends finding parking in downtown Portland can be a real pain.
Photo 4: From waterfront Park looking west towards the Skidmore Fountain, it is possible to see the busy Natio Parkway that now splits Saturday Market.
Photo 5: From waterfront park, this is the street crossing of busy Natio Parkway. The red trailer is a public information booth, and they have internet access so that any item you ask about and they don't know, they can look up on the internet. The boths in the background may look boarded up, but they are actually sheltered from the rain, and are open on the other side.
What to buy: There are many local crafts on sale here, as well as many unusual manufactured items that are hard to find elsewhere, and international handcrafts.
It is really hard to describe because of the sheer number of vendors that come, and because sometimes vendors that can't come to the market have other vendors that are friends come, and they have a completely different set of items to sell.
Pay particular attention to any myrtlewood carving, as that particular wood is beautiful, only grows in Israel and Oregon, and a skilled woodworker can create some wonderful things with it. You may also be able to find a myrtlewood perfume, which is somewhat rare to find but does occasionally turn up. Most of the artists that work with myrtlewood are located on the coast, but sometimes their efforts do show up at Saturday Market.
Naturally, since Saturday Market has its roots firmly planted in its founding in the 1960s, you will find tie-dye and hemp clothing for sale here.
What to pay: Generally you can get some decent (not necessarily great) deals at about 4:30 or 5 in the evening as the vendors start to pack up their things and head home. Each thing they sell is something they don't have to pack.
Address: SW 1st Avenue & Ankeny & surrounding region.
Directions: Old location under Burnside Bridge closed. Use the same MAX stop (Skidmore Fountain) and walk one block south then east to Waterfront Park. Various venders have also been scattered to the south and west of the MAX station.
Theme: Local Craft
Mirador Store: Tableware decorated by Local Artist
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!
Address: 2106 SE Division Street, Portland, Oregon 97202
Directions: Going east on Division, look for their store on the corner of SE Division and 21st. Parking is VERY limited, so I suggest parking on a side street. Or, take bus route #4 Division.
Phone: (503) 231-5175 or 800-396-5090
store named Ease on SE Division features local art
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.
Theme: Local Craft
Oregon Historical Society Museum Store in Portland
Oregon Historical Society book store sells quite an assortment of materials. Originally, when they were in a different part of the museum, their store was mostly historical books with information on the history of Oregon, places to explore such as eastern Oregon ghost towns, and similar materials.
These days, however, the museum store has relocated to its present spot at southwest Broadway and Madison. There is far more space here, and the collection of materials available for purchase is now far beyond the historical information books that used to be their largest collection.
Don't get me wrong: their historical books are usually interesting and there is still quite a collection for sale here. However, you will also be able to purchase quite an assortment of items well beyond books.
The store is on the southwest corner of the intersection of Southwest Broadway and Morrison, but the entire block is dedicated to the Oregon Historical Society museum. Only a small part of the facility is the museum store, however. The west side of the block (the museum entrance but not the museum store) faces the South Park Blocks, and across the park blocks and one block north is the Portland Art Museum main entrance.
See Also: Oregon Historical Society Museum under "Things to Do"
The URL below is to the Oregon Historical Society web site, which includes a bit of information about the store.
What to buy: How about a few miniature totem poles or other Native American materials?
Or glass ornaments?
There is a reasonably good assortment of Portland and Oregon post cards and various other Oregon memorabilia available here.
The 150th Anniversary of Oregon Statehood Blanket is made by Oregon's own Pendleton company, but there were only a few produced, and the current asking price for them is in the four digit range.
What to pay: Unfortunately, you will have to pay whatever the price tag says to pay - there isn't any negotiation over price in this store.
Address: Broadway & Madison (near art museum)
Directions: Broadway street is the north-south street on the west side of Pioneer Courthouse Square. Go south about 8 blocks, or take a southbound bus or train on 6th and walk 1 block west.
Theme: Local Craft
Nature Store: Audubon Society of Portland
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.
Address: 5151 NW Cornell Road, Portland OR 97210
Dollar Scholar on Hawthorne
Dollar Scholar offers quite a number of items, many of them children's toys, for $1 or under each. Some of them are $0.25 each. Customers can open anything and play with anything.
The store has been in operation for a number of years, and this is also a very good bet for local information.
What to buy: If your children are antsy for something to do, this is a good place to get face paint, cheap new toys, or something else they need to keep them going.
This is also a good place to get Hawthorne Buisness District maps.
What to pay: Nothing more than $1, (unless you want more than one thing!)
Address: 3279 SE Hawthorne
Directions: North side of street, middle of the block.
Theme: Toys and Games
Denali Furniture: Chinese traditional furniture
Generally, when people talk about furniture and other items made in China, the feeling is that the goods are made there because they can be made cheaply in China's vast factory complexes.
This is not the case with items purchased from Denali. The items here, while they are made in China, are in the style of old Chinese craftsman, or in many cases are in fact the real Chinese article made 100+ years ago. To the Chinese these would probably not be considered antiques, but here in the USA these are valuable and unusual Asian artifacts.
While large, heavy furniture is obviously not the type of thing most travelers would want to purchase, some of the small sculptures and art artifacts might be of interest to some.
What to buy: While large, heavy furniture is obviously not the type of thing most travelers would want to purchase, some of the small sculptures and art artifacts might be of interest to some.
What to pay: It is doubtful that you will be able to negotiate prices from the tag price, but you might try.
Address: 211 SE Madison Street, Portland 97214
Directions: Directly under the Hawthorne Bridge westbound ramp. Easiest access is from Water Avenue or SE 2nd, under the bridge. The dark upper right corner in photo is Hawthorne Bridge ramp.
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