7712 NE Sandy Blvd., 284-8990, edshouseofgems.com.
Somebody on your Christmas list just getting coal this year—because that’s what they wanted? Ed’s, a diamond in the rough of Sandy Boulevard’s upper reaches, peddles “everything for the rockhound,” including, surprisingly, plenty of items not intolerably boring for normal people. Rocks themselves are available in every stage of processing, from big, rough hunks ($12 a pound for Arizonan petrified wood) to fine, dainty jewelry (a $79 Montana-agate pendant). Jars of shells, cases of arrowheads and geodes (notably, a towering Brazil amethyst for an appropriately awe-inspiring $3,995) together form a sort of home decor/educational props section. And for lapidarists who’ve been more nice than naughty, there are tumbling barrels, gem maps and other rock-reaping gear.
Buy this: The Eastern Oregon plume agate buckle ($39.50) is a real gem.
Capt. Fish Head Super Thrift Store
1805 NE César E. Chávez Blvd.
Capt. Fish Head’s street address and phone number are un-Googleable. In a neighborhood of blah storefronts, its strip-mall location is notably non-notable. And if you visit the “super thrift store” (which has a twin location in St. Johns) during its limited business hours, you’re liable to find the radio tuned to Top 40 and the proprietors gabbing about proper dishwasher-loading technique. All this, of course, only heightens the sense of having stumbled upon the stuff dream thrift-store finds are made of. Hip the Cap’n is not, but neither is it picked over. Most important, the “super” in its name is no empty sales tactic: It seems most everything here can be got for a fiver or less.
Buy this: It’s a myth that most body heat escapes from the head, but hats still make cozy cold-months couture. The ones at Capt. Fish Head, hanging from a fishing net above, run just $2 a top.
4142 NE Sandy Blvd., 287-3009.
If you haven’t heard of Celtic Corner, you’re not an Irish dancer; the store is the supplier to Portland-area practitioners of the traditional dance form. Were it not for this fact (and a very legit photo of shop owner Noel Hislop with Irish prez Mary McAleese on the store’s wall), Celtic Corner could pass for a Dublin Airport tourist trap. There are Guinness tees and Jamison flasks, and if a bumper sticker reading, “Patrick was a saint—I ain’t” is what you’re in the market for—yeah, they’ve got that. Celtic Corner is the real McCoy, though (Hislop has the brogue to prove it), so there are also more authentic Irish, Scottish and Welsh exports on offer, from Celtic-knotted jewelry to Irish national team rugby balls to wool sweaters and tartan scarves suitable for either Glasgow or Portland winters.
Buy this: The Wonderful World of Irish Dancing ($5)—and stop wondering what the difference is between a céilí and a quadrille.
4512 NE Sandy Blvd., 282-1171.
Like its namesake ancient cosmopolis, Hollywood Babylon is an oasis of fashionability in a desert of clothing-poor and overpriced antique malls. The secondhand shop deals in vintage and thrift threads alike (and sells both men’s and women’s clothing, though more of the latter than the former). Its collection is well chosen and generally inexpensive. On one recent visit, a luxurious cashmere sweater was luxuriously priced at $28, but most price tags were in the range of $10, and shoes in a box outside the door were just a buck a pair.
Buy this: What the hey—it’s Kwanzaa! Spring for luxurious and swaddle someone in cashmere.
Cosmic Monkey Comics
5335 NE Sandy Blvd., 517-9050, cosmicmonkeycomics.com.
In 2001, Simpsons creator Matt Groening remarked that Comic Book Guy, the grossly obese, insufferably snobbish proprietor of Springfield’s the Android’s Dungeon comics shop, was based on “every comic-bookstore guy in America.” Much has changed in the intervening decade: The Simpsons stopped being funny and comics (along with geeks and glasses) started being cool. Cosmic Monkey reflects that sea change. The staff won’t pathetically lord its esoteric knowledge over you, and the entire front end of the store’s deceptively deep space is given over to local publishers such as Sparkplug, Tugboat and Top Shelf; small-press comics; and other grown-up things like books on comics history and volumes from Vertigo, D.C. Comics’ older-audiences imprint. Just want the regular stuff? Spider-Man, Green Lantern, Captain America? Fine, dweeb: There’s an extensive selection in back.
Buy this: Habibi, Portlander Craig Thompson’s epic new graphic novel ($34.95)