Branch and Birdie
Anna Fickle operated a shop on Etsy before opening Branch and Birdie, and this stylish new store in Montavilla certainly reflects its roots in that online DIY wonderland. The airy, inviting space is stocked with jewelry, handbags, clothing and kitchenware, often graced by hip, Portland-friendly images like bikes, owls and jellyfish. With a play area for the kids and events like singalongs for the whole family, the shop appears poised to contribute a great deal to a neighborhood where strollers occupy an ever-increasing amount of sidewalk space.
Colorful leather wallets ($24), screenprinted canvas laptop bags ($48).
The closest Portland comes to the wonderfully chaotic commerce of San Francisco's Chinatown, Fubonn is much more than a grocery store, with a wide variety of exotic foods (artichoke soda, yum!). This iconic complex, which bills itself as Oregon's largest Asian shopping center, also encompasses several cafes, bookstores (specializing in Chinese and Vietnamese texts) and gift shops offering imported tea sets, toys and herbs. Sweeten any stocking with a pastry from Meianna Bakery or any one of scores of intriguing candies in the supermarket, or demonstrate your status to neighbors with one of several bizarre marble statues (including a 4-foot-tall Jesus that will set you back about $1,500). Shopping at Fubonn is more than an errand; it's practically a pilgrimage.
: Ten-cup Tayama rice cooker ($29.98), Taiwan Giant Lollipop ($4.98).
Gifts & Toys, Inc.
It's hard to adequately describe the sheer WTF-ness of Gifts & Toys, a chilly warehouse of rare mass-produced treasures, exhibiting the ultimate absurdity of consumerism. There is much to pick through: Barbie knock-offs, plastic desk clocks graced by fighting cocks and Obama Inauguration T-shirts are just a taste. But the real attractions are the aisles of framed wall prints, in various sizes, including an astonishing selection of religious and patriotic iconography beside kittens beside Tupac beside Indians beside an array of Scarface and Betty Boop. Yet though it all seems like perfect fodder for gag gifts, after touring this Louvre of absolute kitsch one is blindsided by some inexplicable earnestness in it all. Gifts & Toys, you keep me up at night.
8-by-10 prints are $3; 16-by-20 are $6.
OK, so this is a few blocks off 82nd Avenue, but it's worth the detour for a wide selection of retro patterns and fabric from the 1930s to the present day. In a crafty city like Portland, this emporium of gently used cotton, yarn and polyester should be a mandatory starting point for anyone who wields needles and thread, crochet hooks or knitting hoops. The owners promise that a visit will be like a treasure hunt, and they aren't kidding; from beads to quilts to fabrics of all imaginable prints and colors, Knittn' Kitten is bursting at the seams (sorry!) with endless creative possibilities.
Vintage apron ($5-$10).
It's hard to go anywhere in Portland without meeting an aspiring crafter of IPA, porter or stout. There is probably not a soul left in the city who hasn't quaffed a friend or relative's lovingly brewed creation, some more successfully than others. Whether you're a home brewer or just know one (or several dozen), head to Let's Brew to find pretty much everything one needs for a successful barleypop, from barley and malt to bottle caps. Can't do it at home? Rent Let's Brew's professional kitchen and keep it sanitary. Cheers!
Basic brewing kit ($120).
Just off Stark in Montavilla, Shag is testament to the fact that in the style world, what goes around comes around. Lamps, chairs and, yes, rugs only recently thought to be hopelessly outdated, are here cleverly curated and arranged as eternal emblems of high modern sensibilities. Those who reflexively head up to IKEA for simple, unadorned furniture would do well to stop here first; at least with Shag's offerings, you know that couch, table or chair will last longer than five years. It may already be older than you. Bonus: Stop by Duds, just two doors down, for stylish vintage clothing at the lower-than-Goodwill price of $5 for everything from pants to shoes.
Vintage globe table lamps ($80-$90).
Yard Sticks Furniture
Inside and scattered around the yard of a 1930s cottage on a desolate stretch of 82nd Avenue near the city limits lies an extensive collection of handmade cedar picnic tables, benches, chairs, bar stools and even water wheels (a reputed specialty). With the exception of the latter, we're not talking about anything too unusual; Yard Sticks just carries solid, well-made outdoor furniture far superior to anything you'd find at Home Depot or that you'd (god forbid) make yourself. And c'mon, who couldn't use a water wheel?
Five-foot picnic table ($375).
Al’s Shoes & Boots
Entering this modest storefront across from a scruffy barbershop, a shopper is immediately welcomed by two things: the oddly comforting smell of leather, and an eager, refreshingly un-hip staff who knows how to make a shoe fit. "Al" was Al Green, a war-surplus merchant who first opened a shoe store in 1947, at Southeast 39th Avenue and Powell Boulevard. In 1956, the business moved to 82nd Avenue, then just a quiet two-lane road according to manager (and Al's son) Chuck Green, who has been working in the store since he was 13. Green and employees continue Al's mission: to provide the city's workmen and businessmen with an extensive selection of steel-toes, motorcycle boots, Hush Puppies and cozy slippers, with special emphasis on wide and extra-large shoe sizes. "We don't get into the latest fashions," Green says. "We just do good shoes that work well." The consistency and quality must be why many of Al's customers are the children and grandchildren of Portlanders who walked through the front doors six decades ago. With the sincerity and knowledge of the longtime staff ("you can just look" at a shoe to see if it fits, Green says), and oldies streaming from the radio, one could guess those original customers would still recognize Al's today, even though its namesake passed away a few years ago. Some things just shouldn't change.
Slippers International wool blend slippers ($29), Laredo python-skin cowboy boots ($199).