The area that includes the eastern foot of the Burnside Bridge is prosaically titled the "Lower Eastside Industrial District." But local business owners have other ideas. The presence of arty anchor tenants like Imago Theater and the Viscount Ballroom have led some to suggest that this turf should be rechristened Portland's "Theater/Arts District."
Huh? Didn't "T" and "A" used to stand for something else in this zone, seedy long before Union Avenue morphed into Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard? Well, not if Casey Garrett has his way. A supporter of the plan to revitalize the area through art, this Portland State architecture student has made the district the focus of his final project.
"I've lived in the area for a year and a half," says Garrett, who's worked as a cook at the Viscount. "And I've watched how the neighborhood has cleaned up. The point of my project is to help develop the neighborhood in ways that are consistent with the new community vision."
Initial plans include a billboard and thematic streetlight banners, as well as the drafting of funding proposals to support the undertaking. On June 5, a fundraiser at the Viscount Ballroom (with bands and comedians) will serve as a "kick-start" for Garrett's project.
Jesse Watson is lukewarm about the new proposed Theater/Arts designation. "That name doesn't quite tell people about all the other shops and businesses in the area," says Watson, the owner of Atomic Lily. He excitedly lists the new and incoming tenants--a salon next door to his shop, the newly opened Farm Restaurant in a white Victorian cottage set back from the block, a cafe across the street. But vintage stores like Watson's are what's really happening around here. With Atomic Lily, Double Trouble and a new Hattie's Vintage location packing the block of East Burnside Street, between Southeast 7th and 8th avenues, here's what you'll find:
734 E Burnside St., 380-0284.
Since September 2001.
National tragedy and a fire last fall haven't hobbled Atomic Lily. A friendly place packed with trucker caps, more than 4,000 vintage rock T-shirts and an in-house dog, Roo ("she smiles on command"), this store has a comfy abundance of casual attire.
Finds: A coral floral double-knit catsuit with matching belt ($18), pink-and-white Nikes ($25). More REO Speedwagon and Cheap Trick T-shirts than you can shake a glow stick at.
729 E Burnside St., Suite 105, 230-9244.
Since April 2003.
Double Trouble is the new Portland branch of a successful Seattle vintage boutique. Owner Malati Rossington thinks the store's unique contributions are its prices ("we're cheap. We're very, very cheap") and its party atmosphere. Double Trouble holds regular "makeover" events, in which salon stylists coif partygoers and re-outfit them from the store's inventory. She's also recently started hosting bands once every two weeks. This is consistent with the Seattle store's format (Seattle DT was recently voted one of "the most rock-and-roll places in America" by Blender magazine).
Finds: The mega-popular western shirts ("I had no idea there were so many '50s greasers in Portland," $14), a Rainbow Brite ringer Tee ($11).
729 E Burnside St., Suite 101, 238-1938.
Since March 2003.
Hattie Shindler knows vintage--her Clinton Street boutique is still kickin' after 13 years. So when the opportunity came to open a "bigger, better, prettier" store, she jumped. "There's actually a lot of foot traffic down here," she says. "Although I usually close at 7, if there's a show at the Viscount, people will come in and shop until I leave at 9." Hattie has an expert eye, and the store is packed with unique pieces--sexy suede boots, fitted floral blouses and sweet cotton frocks.
Finds: Violet Spanish-leather wedge heels ($65), pink and champagne satin jackets ($25), deadstock (old stuff from long-forgotten stores that has never been worn or out of its package).
A night of music, comedy and dance performances, with proceeds to benefit the central eastside theater/arts community.