Northwest Portland’s Folly Just Celebrated its Tenth Birthday. But Getting There Wasn’t Easy.

While other businesses were closing up or struggling to survive, Sarah Bibb’s persistence and passion kept her head above water.

By Sarah Donofrio @sarahnicole_d

When Sarah Bibb opened her store, Folly, in 2008, the economy was on the verge of taking a nosedive—and so, too, was consumers' willingness to spend on clothes.

While other businesses were closing up or struggling to survive, Bibb's persistence and passion kept her head above water. Now, 10 years later, Folly has become one of the most beloved womenswear boutiques in Portland.

"It's hard for a store to get press if they aren't brand new," Bibb says. But with the state of brick-and-mortar retail being what it is these days, there should be more coverage of stores that have not only lasted, but thrived in this city.

Bibb's small frame is always accessorized with her signature thick-rimmed glasses and unique statement necklaces. Though her appearance instantly communicates that she is in tune with the world of high fashion, her warm and friendly demeanor tells customers that, while her style is aspirational, they too can look as pulled-together and fashion-forward as the designer.

Bibb had more than just the recession going against her when she founded her store a decade ago. Located at Northwest 16th Avenue and Lovejoy Street, Folly is not exactly in a shopping district. In fact, up until Pok Pok opened its fourth Portland location in 2016, the Radio Cab offices were the most notable landmark in the neighborhood.

Even today, the once-desolate streets still contain only a few small businesses. In retrospect, though, that relative isolation is what made Folly a destination. Unique and high-quality labels grace the racks, as well as Bibb's house line, which is made in the back of her space, in true Portland fashion. Though Bibb receives daily neighborhood foot traffic, her clientele consists of women from all over Portland—and the country—coming to her for her easy-fitting silhouettes and colorful prints, not to mention the high-end, yet unpretentious, shopping experience.

Along with building a massive clientele the old-fashioned way—through vociferous word of mouth—Folly has adapted and excelled within the present retail landscape. Bibb's online store is meticulous and an exact mirror of the brick-and-mortar, and her social media savvy shows with her quirky daily videos and outfit flatlays that have attracted 8,000 followers on Instagram.

Last weekend, Folly held a special 10th anniversary sale, and it confirmed the store's high standing in the local fashion scene. "The turnout was incredible," Bibbs says. "I was so moved to see people who had been shopping with me for so long." The success of the sale, along with her everyday visits from her mass following of Portland's most stylish women, is indicative that Folly should continue thriving for at least another decade.

Bibb attributes her longevity to her hard work and tenacity—although, admittedly, she claims she has built an unscalable business. Bibb never wants to open a second location, as her current one is "magical and special and personal."

"I mostly have stayed true to my vision," she says. "The more I do what I want, the better it goes."

SHOP: Folly, 1005 NW 16th Ave., 503-954-1334, 10 am-7 pm Tuesday-Friday, 11 am–6 pm Saturday.

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