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Portland's Chown Hardware Celebrates 140 Years

If you've remodeled your bathroom or living room, chances are you've taken a spin through Chown.

By Kiva Hanson September 13, 2019

Frank Chown with sons Steve, David and Fred look at a catalog in 1967

If you've remodeled your bathroom or living room, chances are you've taken a spin through Chown, the Northwest Portland plumbing, lighting, and hardware store. If you have, you're following in a Portland tradition that's 140 years old. 

Chown Hardware started in 1879 after patriarch FR Chown chose Portland, a then-new and growing city, to launch his business. The first location opened downtown on 1st and Main. Back then, they didn’t sell the high-end fixtures and hardware we know them for today. Instead they stocked farm tools, sporting goods, and were the first place in Oregon to sell radios. 

They’ve shifted their focus many times, adapting to Portland's needs across multiple eras. In the 1930s, they sold more hunting and fishing licenses than anywhere else in the state. In the late 60s, they opened a second wing of Chown where Eleanor Chown (who married into the family via FR's grandson Frank) tossed decorative hardware, fixtures and appliances into the mix. Today, those items make up half of Chown's business.

Chown Hardware's current Portland location on NW 16th and Flanders in 1955

This adaptability is what David Chown, CFO and great-grandson of FR says has led to such long-term success. “We’ve always been willing to change, every generation has looked at current trends and has been willing to make big bets and big changes,” says David.

Through all 140 years of changes, Portland has been an essential part of Chown's success. “I think choosing Portland as the place to start played a huge factor in why we're still here,” says Kyle Chown, CEO. “Portland has always been a city that supports local business. We’ve been able to thrive for 140 years because of the designers, achievers, builders and innovators Portland is really about.” 

They’re celebrating their birthday with a block party bash complete with food trucks, tons of local vendors, karaoke and tacos. “We’re obviously very humbled and proud of how far we’ve gotten, we recognize a lot of that success has to do with Portland,” says David. “We wanted to throw a party for Portland as a way to say thank you for allowing us to be in business or so long”

Check out Chown's anniversary block party on Friday, September 13 at 2pm at their NW Portland location—with a 21+ karaoke cocktail party in their event space next door, The Eleanor, at 6pm.

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