Six years ago, in the basement of a Southeast Portland bungalow, I descended the stairs of British expat Sarah Radcliffe’s basement into an organized wonder of colorful vintage racks stocked with denim jumpsuits, sparkly '80s dresses, and pretty pussy-bow blouses: Yo Vintage. Soon Radcliffe, a former trend researcher and buyer in London, would expand beyond her home into a brick-and-mortar location in the West End's popular Blackbox retail building, just around the corner from the Crystal Ballroom. While there, Radcliffe’s online following exploded, with shoppers coveting her tasteful selection of new and vintage women’s wear, plus key accessories from local makers like Primecut bags and BLTN jewelry.
And then last year, in the ongoing struggle for affordable retail location, Yo Vintage lost its lease. Radcliffe returned to the web—but her first child, Finn, also inspired her to switch up her inventory. Now she's rebranded as the Yo Store, taking over the corner spot in the historic Film Exchange building on the corner of NW Lovejoy and 19th—and she's added ridiculously cute European baby lines to the shop. But loyal followers need not fret: she still carries things to outfit stylish women and their homes. We spoke with Radcliffe about why she's back, the challenges of Portland's retail scene, and what customers can expect from the new shop.
What inspired you to open a brick-and-mortar shop again?
Community! I loved being part of the West End, and building up our customer base at our old spot. I never really worked in retail before having my shop, but I loved interacting with our customers and curating a space that I could be creative and grow into.
I knew after having my baby that I would open the doors again, but I just didn't know where or how as I wanted to change direction. I started going to trade shows in Paris and New York City last year, and knew that I need a brick-and-mortar to show Yo's point of view on mama and baby–an evolution of me and my existing customer!
How has Portland’s retail landscape changed in the meantime?
Everything seems so much more money-driven and less about investing/believing in small businesses here. I was looking for a space for about nine months until I found this magic dream space. It's stiff competition out there, and I got outbid a few times by larger corporate companies. Landlords didn't seem to be interested in investing in smaller businesses anymore—I guess because lots of smaller businesses have closed down and not been able to stick out their leases due to the crazy rent increases, and it was too much risk for them.
How did you end up in Northwest Portland?
I actually met the landlord of this building when I was eight months pregnant, as I wanted to take over the old Winn Perry space (he owns that building too), but timing was off (hello, new baby arriving three weeks early!). I was so frustrated with the search for a new spot downtown or in the West End and getting outbid, or getting asked to pay ridiculous rent, and remembered Henry, so I called him out of the blue. Timing was perfect and I got the keys a week later. This space has the best vibe, it's an amazing corner spot—loads of natural light and in a great neighborhood. We've only been open briefly, but I have met so many rad people and it feels like a great community to be part of already.
Will you carry an equal amount of kids', women’s, and home goods, or are you prioritizing one over the other?
Right now it is definitely more kids, totally got overexcited ordering all the cute tiny things, but my aim eventually is to have a real balance. A European lifestyle store for women, their homes, their BFFs and their kids. And vintage, of course: I can't give that up!
The Yo Store
935 NW 19th Ave
11 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, & Friday
11 a.m.–4 p.m. Saturday–Sunday