Put a 'P' on It: Made in Portland, Oregon
“Portlandia’s” first claim to viral fame was probably when Bryce Shivers (Fred Armisen) and Lisa Eversman (Carrie Brownstein) recommended that shop owners “Put a Bird On It,” in what was only the second episode of the cult IFC sketch comedy. In that hilarious sketch, Bryce and Lisa encouraged putting a bird silhouette on everything from teapots to tote bags to make them somehow more cool and more…er…Portlander-y. The sketch poked fun at the hipster-craft obsession that is very much a part of Portland, Oregon.
Because Portland loves all things Portland.
The city’s talented and diverse maker community has become an important asset in attracting visitors. It might be said that items made in Portland, Oregon—Pendleton blankets and shirts, Portland Razor Co. products, Stumptown coffee—are more important than items that are labeled Portland or feature Portland on them. People want things that are handmade locally with a sense of place. Many Portland-made products offer just that, but they don’t always have the word Portland on them. For Portland-incognito items, check out Travel Portland which offers a comprehensive guide of shops that feature Portland-made stuff from candy-makers to chocolatiers to leather good—Travel Portland even features a fan club that is devoted to the once-unloved carpet at Portland International Airport (PDX).
But, where might you find cool stuff that actually has a “P,” as in made in Portland, Oregon, on it?
Sure, big supermarkets, like local favorite Fred Meyer and even that mega-huge market that is Walmart have their share of postcards, puzzles, and Portland-tagged bells and whistles. But there are other, more local Portland-based boutique and shops that offer really fun items branded with that decidedly quirky and catchy Portland vibe.
Check out Marcus Harvey’s very cool clothing shop, Portland Gear. Portland Gear (627 SW 19th Ave.) is designed for the city, by the city, curated organically through owner Harvey’s @Portland Instagram page. Harvey saw a desire for a product that allowed people to show their Portland pride. So, in the winter of 2014, he launched the brand with two iconic tees and a simple “P” logo. A year and half after the launch, he opened a brick and mortar store in an old dry cleaner’s—it still has an automated dry clean rack that customers can interact with—located near Providence Park. Since the launch, through popup shops like a decked out 1973 Volkswagen Westfalia, the store, events, and collaborations with other brands and notable athletes, Portland Gear has quickly grown to become a player in the local small business community.
Harvey, 26, is an Oregon native who was born in Portland, raised in Hillsboro (near Nike’s HQ), and went to college at the University of Oregon in Eugene. He knew, from an early age, that he wanted to be involved in the local apparel business. “Being a Nike kid I’ve always had a passion for clothes, shoes, and sports,” said Harvey. “When I went to college and took my first digital arts class, I was hooked and knew I wanted to create apparel and products that people could wear and build stories [around].”
But it wasn’t originally his intention to create a clothing line that featured Portland. It all started on Instagram, over three years ago. Since then, Harvey has grown it to over 260,000 followers.
Combining his background with his large pro-Portland following, he launched Portlandgear.com on Black Friday in 2014, racking up an impressive $5,000 in sales on the first day.
For Harvey it isn’t always about the product. “We put people first and love being part of the community of Portland,” says Harvey. Community pride plays a big part in his business plan. In fact, Harvey says, “We spend more time planning our events and summer calendar than we do on new product lines. We believe people are what make the brands, and we’re fortunate to be in a city that has such amazing and loyal people.”
Portland Gear gives back to the community in other ways, too. Harvey notes, “We did a Portland Pride shirt where we ended up donating over $4,000 to an organization in Orlando after the horrific shooting [at Pulse Nightclub] last year, and we do free events in our store and warehouse [which is located just around the corner from the shop].” A new project is partnering with Portland’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital: Hero hats. For every one sold, Portland Gear donates three to cancer patients and their families, “to help bring them all a bit closer as they go through this tough time.”
Portland Gear sells plenty of P-covered products to locals but Harvey says a decent number of products have also been shipped to former Portlanders in every state and 22 countries over the past two years.
Harvey likes to keep his product lines clean and simple so they can be interpreted by the wearer in any way they literally see fit. “We have a really simple and iconic logo that means whatever the person that’s wearing it wants it [to mean],” said Harvey. “It’s a simple ‘P’ logo with the state of Oregon on the inside of the ‘P’ in a really clean and minimal way. To some it’s the city they’re from, to some it represents where they visited their parents or attended college. We have lots of people who wear it to sports games, when they travel to other places, really everywhere and for every occasion.
“We don’t want to be a trend or fad, we want to always stay relevant and give people an opportunity to share their city pride.”
Harvey encourages other entrepreneurial types to pursue their passions, especially in Portland. “I think if you love it, you should totally go for it, but don’t be surprised if the road is a bit bumpy on your way,” said Harvey. “Take everything as a learning experience and continue to grow and create cool products. Portland is a great city for business and, with its neighborhood feel, everyone wants to support everyone which is pretty amazing. This city is our bloodline and we love what it’s done for us and we look forward to keep doing great things for it. It’s more of a big town instead of a small city. I love that.”
Here are other shops featuring pride for Portland.
Hello From Portland (514 NW Couch St.)
Located in Old Town, next to its very hip sister store, Upper Playground, Hello From Portland is filled with incredible Portland-tagged gifts and souvenirs; cards, candles, sweets, children’s and adult apparel, kid’s toys, wallets, mugs and glasses, magnets, model kits and mobiles, books, and even soaps for you and your pets—all produced by local vendors and artists. It doesn’t get more Portlandia-ish than this incredibly cute shop.
Tender Loving Empire (Three Portland locations: Hawthorne, Northwest 23rd Avenue, Downtown)
The ten-year-old Tender Loving Empire has a whole selection of items available both online and in-store they call “Portlandy Stuff.” You might find a Portland rain tote, a Portland bridges desktop calendar or Portland bee balm, yes, BEES. TLE is one of the best places for artists and craftspeople and musicians to be seen and heard, as well as connect with new fans and friends.
Crafty Wonderland (808 SW 10th Ave.)
With a rotating lineup of talented vendors, Crafty Wonderland is the place to go to find some of the best handmade goods in the Northwest, as well as affordable work from talented visual artists. Crafty Wonderland started as an annual event meant to bring together crafty people with those who appreciate cool handmade items. But Portland and its guests couldn’t get enough of this stuff. The Crafty Wonderland shop, located near the MAX line and the center of the city, carries amazing handmade goods from over 180 Portland-area artists. Need a Portland beer cozy? This is the place to get it.
Powell’s Books (1005 W Burnside St.)
With over 1 million books, Powell’s City of Books is the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. Located in the Pearl District on the edge of downtown, Powell’s occupies a full city block between NW 10th and 11th Avenues and between W. Burnside and NW Couch Streets, and contains about 1.6 acres of retail floor space. Of course it has plenty of books on Portland and Oregon, but it also offers really cool items emblazoned with local pride for Portland—and Sasquatch, aka Bigfoot, who has become an unofficial mascot for all cool things in Portland. Here he is featured on glasses and a really sweet lunch box.
Made In Oregon (Various locations)
One of the original providers of all things local, Made in Oregon (MIO) has been offering locally-made goods since the mid-1970’s. With a focus on gift baskets full of Oregon favorites like salmon, wine, cheese, hazelnuts, and marionberry jam, MIO also offers gorgeous Pendleton Woolen Mill blankets, the latest Portland Timbers merchandise (Go, Timbers!), Portlandia products, and “PDX carpet” items featuring the iconic and beloved Portland International Airport carpet. And yes, they also have grandmother-approved gifts like snow globes, spoons, and shot glasses. You can even find a bit of rain to take home. How cool is that?
And if all else fails, you can always buy a pink box full of doughnuts from Voodoo Donuts, which is, oddly enough, one of the most prized and instantly recognizable souvenirs of this city.