Just as most musicians have ceased to make a living in the age of streaming, many bars and restaurants can't survive on takeout and delivery alone.
And just like how your favorite bands have always sold merchandise to put some extra money in their pockets, so it goes for Portland's food and drink establishments. With winter coming, and their fortunes at the mercy of the ever-changing rules governing COVID-19, the hat or T-shirt that was once a fun thing to have hanging behind the bar is now both a modest source of revenue and a way for regulars to show their allegiances in a difficult time.
At the start of the pandemic, Mississippi Studios—which remains shuttered as a music venue, but whose adjacent burger-and-beer joint, Bar Bar, still has takeout food and outdoor service—did a run of what was supposed to be 100 T-shirts. It wound up filling 500 orders.
"It was a great design, but I can't help thinking a lot of it was also folks just wanting to see us come back strong," says marketing director (and former Willamette Week music editor) Casey Jarman, who also designed the bar's latest "Snakes" T-shirt.
Earlier this year, more than a dozen bars and restaurants were beneficiaries of the Creative Support Club, a limited-edition collaboration between local branding agency Nemo Design and screen printer Pacific North Press to feature local bars and restaurants.
"The best part of the whole effort was seeing the outpouring of love from the community to support their faves," says Matthew Mirpourian of Pacific North, which continues to do printing and distribution for a variety of local businesses. "There were just so many people jumping to help out and celebrate their haunts. It really helped us manage emotionally too."
One of those businesses was Tulip Shop Tavern on North Killingsworth Street, which got pocket tees printed with the Humboldt neighborhood bar's flowery logo.
With Tulip Shop's excellent cheeseburger selling for just $8, and cocktails unavailable to go, it certainly helps when someone wants to add a $30 hat or $25 T-shirt to their takeout check. But co-owner Tyler Treadwell—who also does the bar's designs—says it's also nice to just have people out there flying the bar's flag.
"People say, 'Oh, man, I was out in another neighborhood and I saw a Tulip Shop shirt, and then we had this cool conversation about Tulip Shop,'" he says. "If I hear that once a week, it makes so much of a difference."
Here are 14 favorite pieces of local schwag available for sale right now.
Trucker hat, $25; koozie, $5; band T-shirts, $25
Buy at: landmarksaloon.com/merch.html
Pacific North is also making Landmark-branded T-shirts—a small "LS" on one sleeve—from such artists as Mike Coykendall, TK & The Holy Know-Nothings, and Pete Krebs, with all proceeds going to the bar.
Kim Jong Grillin
Buy at: tinyurl.com/kimjonggrillin
Three choices: "Megatron," a reprint of the cart's first-ever logo T-shirt, and a three-color version of the "OG Cat."
Clinton Street Theater
The Rocky Horror Picture Show face mask, $15
Buy at: donate.cstpdx.com
Tulip Shop Tavern
Pocket tees, $25; snapback hats, $30
Buy at: No online sales; available in person at 825 N Killingsworth St. or with orders to go by calling 503-206-8483.
Enamel pins, $8
Buy at: shop.mississippistudios.com
Also available: red jewel lamp crystals, just like the ones sometimes stolen from the lamps inside the venue.
Nong's Khao Man Ghai
T-shirt plus khao man gai, $25
The T-shirt sells separately for $20 and the khao man gai for $13.
Jacquard knit beanie, $15
Buy at: toughluckbar.com/store
Shower curtain, $70
Buy at: monquipresents.myshopify.com
The black-and-white collage of old show posters is also available as an apron, phone case, face mask or enamel mug.
Gasoline jacket, $30
Buy at: marysclub.com/merchandise.php
Portland's oldest strip club is also old school when it comes to virtual commerce: Orders go to an AOL email address, with payment via money order, but ask about a Venmo option.
"Black Flag" T-shirt, $18
Buy at: lardo.myshopify.com
Also available in "Misfits."
Lucky Devil Lounge
Lucky Devil classic thong, $9
Buy at: cafepress.com/dantes
You'll also find Lucky Devil and Devils Point merch, including booty shorts and Stripparaoke T-shirts, at devilspointpdx.com.
Laurelthirst Public House
Lady or logo patch, $4
Buy at: laurelthirst.com/shop
"Champion Destroyer" golfing disc, $15
Big's Chicken, Reverend's BBQ and Laurelhurst Market merch also available.
Trap Kitchen PDX chopsticks T-shirt, $30