Best of Portland 2013: Best Buys


Samantha Hess is a touchy person. When I meet the 5-foot-tall, olive-skinned professional cuddler, I extend my hand for a handshake. Instead, she grabs my hand, massages it and asks me to look into her dark brown eyes. "This is how I make people feel comfortable," she says as I feel my face redden. The Cuddle Up to Me ( owner says her ability to put people at ease is what makes her the best cuddler. And, she adds, "I'm the perfect cuddling size."

Hess, a 29-year-old former personal trainer, charges $35 for a 30-minute cuddling session, $60 for a one-hour session or $300 for an overnight session (that's 10 hours of spooning). Before hugging Hess, you have to sign a waiver acknowledging the sessions are nonsexual and "professional" in nature. "As someone who is very tiny, I need to take extra precaution," Hess says of the contract. By late July, Hess had 16 clients—all male.

"Erections happen," she says. When they do, Hess says she becomes the big spoon. So far, her most popular cuddle position is something she calls "the blanket." "I have them lie flat and I just lie on top of them, with my head on their shoulder," she says. "It seems to be really comfortable for my clients."

Hess came up with her snuggling business after watching a video of two men soliciting hugs. One was holding a "Free Hugs" sign and the other was holding a "Deluxe Hugs, $2" sign. "The guy with the deluxe hugs sign was getting a lot more hugs," Hess says. She later learned of a woman in New York running a business similar to the one she wanted to start, called "The Snuggery."

Hess allows her customers to determine her appearance. Upon request, she creates a playlist, nixes her regular perfume, changes her hairstyle or goes barefoot. "Some people are very particular about me wearing socks," she says. SARA SNEATH.


If you love to buy big stuff, old stuff, and not-quite-working stuff, Commercial Industrial Auctioneers (13231 SE Division St., 760-0499, is your place.

Operating on a 5-acre lot at Southeast 132nd Avenue and Division Street, CIA attracts large men in Carhartts kicking tires on oversized forklifts. It also has fleets of backhoes and more excavators, tractors and tools of all descriptions than you can imagine. "The merchandise we sell usually caters to the male gender," says Ray Beal, a partner in CIA. "Heavy equipment is our bread and butter."

Beal says seven years ago, when he and his partners started the business, their motto was "the CIA you can trust."

But then they realized that might alienate key customers. "I saw a U.S. marshal taking pictures one day," Beal says. "We do sell to them, and I didn't want to lose that account."

CIA sells surplus items for Multnomah County, TriMet, the city of Gresham and other agencies. The company also holds liquidation sales for failed companies' bankruptcy estates. Beal says a bankruptcy sale yielded his highest-priced item to date—a $145,000 airplane. He also sells items for as little as $2.50—about what an empty fire extinguisher fetches.

Every 60 days, CIA offers the public whatever surplus struggling contractors and overstocked government agencies want to get rid of. Buyers need only present valid identification to bid but must pay for their items that day. A well-supplied auction will have 1,200 items on the block, including old cars, power saws and boats that have not seen the water for years. Beal keeps two auctioneers busy, operating from a converted TriMet bus that serves as the auctioneer's podium.

"A bad economy does not hurt us," Beal says. "We were one of the few companies that prospered in the past five years." NIGEL JAQUISS.


Typewriters are the new vinyl. And like vinyl, typewriters are often cherished for the wrong reasons. Around Portland, these elegant machines are too often collected rather than used; reduced to funky toys for wedding receptions or exploited as props, posed on knockoff midcentury bookcases next to potted succulents and unread editions of Infinite Jest. For those who still write on typewriters—and we know who we are—there's only one thing worse than precious stationery stores selling price-gouged Smith Coronas or Underwoods: Etsy vultures who make jewelry from sawed-off keys.

If you crave the feel of keys smacking paper against a platen—if you understand the very different joys of an Olympia SM-3 versus an SM-9, or why a Hermes 3000 really is the bomb of them all—there's only one place in Portland to go: Ace Typewriter & Equipment Co. (7433 N Lombard St., 286-2521, This living museum in St. Johns has been operated continuously since 1961 by Dennis McCormack and his son, Matt. Antique business machines (most for display only) stare down, like ancestral oil portraits, at revved-up typewriters for sale at fair prices. People from all over ship their gummed-up Remingtons and bent Olivettis to be repaired here. Still, it's a wonder this throwback can keep the doors open in our gadget-addicted world. That is, until you understand the McCormacks' values: respect for the machines, reasonable prices and service that's like the key strike of a Royal Arrow—straight, clean and true. BRENT WALTH.


The former owners of a floral-print plastic giraffe, bright pink Razor scooter and slide guitar will probably never see them again. Such is the fate of 80 percent of the objects that wind up at TriMet's lost and found, a rectangular 500-square-foot, fluorescent-lit backroom in TriMet's Southeast Portland headquarters (4012 SE 17th Ave., 962-7505,

Most businesses have a lost and found where people return to claim misplaced possessions. But for TriMet riders, that range expands to 52 miles of MAX light rail, 79 bus lines and 14.7 miles of WES commuter rail. "People leave their items for every reason under the sun—they're tired, distracted or have had a long day at work," says TriMet spokeswoman Angela Murphy. "But it all ends back in the same place." There have been penitentiary blueprints, bones from Portland State University's biology department and an urn filled with cremated remains. TriMet's lost and found keeps these orphaned items for two weeks before donating them. Last year, 21,258 items were unclaimed.

There are a few success stories—three ukuleles were recently reunited with their owners. Station agent Mark Rotella says people who do find their items are ecstatic. "They usually want to hug you," he says. "I'm like, 'No, thanks.'" SARA SNEATH.


As easy as it is to dial up an iPhone app or GarageBand plug-in to approximate the sound of a vintage synthesizer, there's nothing like the delicious tactile experience of pushing keys and twisting knobs to create one's own Kraftwerk-style symphony/racket. That's what makes Control Voltage (3742 N Mississippi Ave., 265-8494, such a fun place to shop.

For about a year, the sleek storefront has offered everything an electronic aesthete could want: drum machines, samplers and software, as well as transistors and circuit boards for the DIY set. Novices, though, will head right for the table of synthesizers, where the Moog or Korg of your dreams is there for a test drive. Wisely, all the in-store synths are fitted with headphones, so only the player can hear the bleeps and bloops, a decision made to help save the noobs from embarrassment and maintain owner Jason Kramer's sanity. ROBERT HAM.


If tourists to Portland's Old Town-Chinatown district want to remember how weird it all was, they have several options: They could purchase a hoodie from strip joint Mary's Club, they could buy a dozen doughnuts from Voodoo, or they could go to the city's only illegal homeless campground on the site of a bulldozed adult bookstore, and get a commemorative T-shirt for $20.

Right 2 Dream Too (Northwest 4th Avenue and Burnside Street) sells the screen-printed shirts—one blue with a cartoon figure sleeping on a cloud, and one garnet with white lettering reading "Right 2 Survive"—at its front entrance beneath the Chinatown gate. Camp organizer Ibrahim Mubarak says proceeds go to paying camp operating expenses. Think of it as your contribution to city government: Portland officials, in a bitter feud with the property owner, are fining the camp $1,500 a month. AARON MESH.

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