A little story: Once upon a time, I was a hungry Reed College student tired of the cafeteria board plan, living in a 10-person vegan co-op (yes, I know, cue the Portlandia jokes). Collectively, we ate very well on $100 per person, per month thanks to a few things—namely lots and lots of beans, homemade bread, and bags of discount organic produce and bulk herbs from a little shop called Limbo on the erstwhile SE 39th Avenue.
This humble organic produce market—one of the first in the area—was home to Portland's best selection of bulk spices, dried mushrooms, teas, and herbal remedies, and it made that Reedie co-op's countless meals of dollar-bag lettuce heads and cooked-all-day lentils taste nearly exotic. My accounts of those early meals were my first foray into food writing, cataloged on the now-lapsed food blog LemonBasil (named, of course, after a bulk herb I'd buy at Limbo). After I started writing for the Portland Farmers Market, Eater, and ultimately for Portland Monthly, I continued to sing the praises of the shop, recommending the long aisle packed with jars of bulk herbs and spices to anyone looking for an oddball ingredient or harboring a hankering for DIY tea blending.
As anyone living in or near the Woodstock neighborhood knows, Limbo sadly shuttered on July 3, 2011 after 15 years of business to make way for an expansion of the Trader Joe's that shared a wall with the smaller market. A few reasonable substitutions popped up in its wake, but the end of Limbo's dancing logo left a hole in this home cook's shopping routine that no one store has managed to fill—until now.
Fast forward to today: while walking to my downtown office, I noticed some familiar handwriting and a pile of oranges outside of a storefront I'd never noticed before. Around the corner from SW Oak's Courier Coffee and soon-to-debut pastry luncheonette Maurice, there it was. Limbo, reborn.
This week, husband-and-wife team Rick Nichols and Ellen Campbell have reopened their beloved shop on SW 9th, complete with a growing offering of bulk herbs, teas, and spices, plus a full-service juice and smoothie bar, a selection of local beverages, and pieces of the painted metal mural that adored a wall at their original Southeast location. The herb shop and juice bar shares the industrial space with former Wieden+Kennedy Executive Creative Director Jelly Helm's design HQ Studio Jelly.
If you were an early fan, stop by for some carrot juice and share your memories with Nichols and Campbell—or check out my slide show below. You can almost smell the cumin, oranges, and rooibos through the screen.
211 SW 9th Ave