The Lollipop Shoppe is not a new store specializing in lickable candies mounted on a stick. The business with a sweet-sounding name is actually a bar and live music venue whose licks come from guitars and whose highs are the result of hard-rock and psychedelic tunes that leave you buzzing long after a sugar-fueled rush would have worn off.
So, if the name isn’t a reference to candy, or a nod to Tyler and Devon Treadwell’s other bar, Tulip “Shop” Tavern, what’s the inspiration? Turns out, it’s a reference to legendary late Portland musician Fred Cole’s early band, The Weeds.
In 1968, the band’s new manager unilaterally decided to rename the garage and psychedelic rock group to The Lollipop Shoppe in an attempt to capitalize on the bubblegum pop explosion of the late ’60s. It was a short-lived excursion for Cole, who went on to found the seminal Portland punk groups Dead Moon and Pierced Arrows. The new music venue is appropriately adorned with an outwardly poppy sensibility but is dedicated to subversive tunes blending riffs and spacey imagery that you wouldn’t expect to find in the former Dig A Pony space on Southeast Grand Avenue.
Originally, the Treadwells didn’t even want to call their second bar anything even remotely similar to their first, preferring to let it take on its own personality. But fittingly, “We all decided to name it that after a long night of mushrooms and tequila on the coast,” Tyler Treadwell says. “We wanted the name to have a psychedelic, late ’60s, early ’70′s rock-’n’-roll vibe because that’s how we plan on programming most of the live music. The fact the ‘shoppe’ is part of the name almost made it a no-go, but we all liked it and all agreed that it was a good name, so here we are.”
The Lollipop Shoppe is a collaboration first dreamed up by Elizabeth Elder and Bryan Wollen, who founded Lose Yr Mind Festival eight years ago after growing tired of the constant chaos of booking house shows and small venues. Elder booked the bands and did production while Wollen handled the sound, their love affair with music established at college radio stations and small local bars. They knew Dig A Pony owner Aaron Hall and had consulted with him on potential leases for a new venue before he offered up his own.
“I’ve known that I want to operate a venue for a long time,” Elder says. “I worked in them for most of my 20s, plus I love the way they bring people together. During the pandemic shutdowns, I started exploring the idea more by taking business classes via Mercy Corps’ Women’s Business Center.”
Elder and Wollen were regulars at Tulip Shop and had gotten to know the Treadwells before approaching them about the idea of collaborating. They proposed splitting the aspects of the business to cater to their strong suits: The Treadwells would run the bar and food service, Elder and Wollen would handle everything related to music and events booking.
“Devon and I had been talking about another location, but it was very loose still. Just tossing around ideas and fantasizing,” Tyler Treadwell says. “As for it being a second Tulip Shop…Devon and I specifically feel every location, every space has its own personality, and we don’t really want to do another Tulip Shop. We like going into spaces and feeling them out and creating our programs to fit the space.”
Dig A Pony was a very successful bar that didn’t close due to lack of profitability, so restarting it as is would have been an easy path forward. Instead, the team decided to keep what works but let it dance to the beat of a new drum.
The space is part daytime bar, serving a small but well-considered menu of Cajun food, approachable cocktails, and diverse beer, and part accessible and intimate 200-capacity venue come nightfall. Unlike some other slightly larger venues, the performance area is not separated from the rest of the bar, and there are no ropes, coat checks, wristbands, or Solo cups. It’s open, low-key, approachable, and perfect for showcasing new bands. Anyone could stumble into The Lollipop Shoppe and not feel intimidated by the cost of entry or hipness of the crowd.
“There also aren’t a lot of rooms of this size in Portland at the moment. We need rooms like this to cultivate a healthy music community. I call this type of room an incubator space,” says Elder, who hopes to attract small touring bands on the rise and other up-and-comers who will eventually outgrow the room.
During the pandemic, Tulip Shop hired a new chef, Nick Seabergh, who started putting Southern-inspired specials on the menu that impressed everyone with their balance of flavors and textures. The Treadwells thought the entry of The Lollipop Shoppe would be a perfect opportunity to let Seabergh embrace that style of down-home cooking and serve it there.
“He’s a real nostalgia food nerd like me, and we just geeked out on sandwiches and he introduced us to a bunch of Southern-leaning and Gulf Coast-inspired bar food that I wasn’t privy to,” Tyler Treadwell says.
So Seabergh and the Treadwells traveled to New Orleans to hit all the classic spots and try all the best po’boys while also finding inspiration in the city’s classic cocktails and drinking culture. They brought that knowledge back to The Lollipop Shoppe, which serves everything from catfish to surf and turf to the less-common Debris Fries—potatoes smothered in shredded roast beef and gravy.
The drinks read like a top 10 of New Orleans, with classics like the Sazerac, French 75, mint julep, hurricane and daiquiri. They also dusted off a few that had fallen out of favor, like brandy crusta, absinthe frappe, and an all-day bloody mary.
To pull off the tightrope act of a cozy neighborhood bar crossed with a destination live music venue, The Lollipop Shoppe retooled the kitchen equipment and expanded the bar for more complicated preparations. The design of Dig A Pony didn’t need a lot of work, but they wanted to aesthetically freshen it up with more lively art and colorful splashes of psychedelia to make it their own. New paintings by Samuel Farrell grace the back booth-lined walls, while Nicky Kriara put in custom mosaic tile installations.
Over the coming weeks, The Lollipop Shoppe will expand operations with a to-go food menu to serve the neighborhood. It will also open for lunch, happy hour and shows seven days a week. Part neighborhood bar, part concert experience, The Lollipop Shoppe wants to serve both crowds and carve out its own community identity, just like Fred Cole.