Years before our maker scene caught the eye of the New York Times or before we became the ruler of popup shops and artisanal bazaars, you could play the Queen Bee game. It was a game I devised for waiting in public lines, pre-smartphone distraction, with one rule: to win, I simply had to spot one of Queen Bee's ubiquitous waterproof, faux leather messenger bags with their distinct swirly stitching on the flap.
It was a game I won every time. But now Queen Bee will close at the end of the year, ending production of those swirly stitched bags that marked an era of accessorizing in this town.
Over the last 23 years Rebecca Pearcy took her small side project spurred by her Evergreen college community in Olympia, to becoming our collective bag lady. “I ended up really rooted into the community there, which was amazing because it was the '90s and there was just so much going on,” she says about the beginnings of her company, one that started in early days of the internet but long before social media or online shopping was the even a thought. “There was so much creativity and a scrappy punk ethos. I came from that and in 2002 decided to move to Portland.”
And we embraced her. From the first days in her Produce Row studios to the East Burnside location, and then for the past 10 years on North Williams Avenue in both their manufacturing space and a retail shop chock full of bags, tea towels, and kitchen goods, Queen Bee reigned. But after two and a half decades, exactly half of Pearcy’s life, and thousands upon thousands of bags, she’s ready to focus on a new chapter. More specifically her eponymous line of fun screen-printed items like printed cat pillows, winding serpent blouses, and yes, even printed canvas totes. And not a hint of faux leather in sight.
“I started doing my Rebecca Pearcy line years ago, but it was always sort of the little sister to Queen Bee who was the dominant force. At this point in my life, I wanted to focus on the aspects of my business that I'm truly inspired about," says Pearcy. "People still want it, still respond to it and it's this beloved brand, but I'm ready to move on and put my focus on what I'm really excited about. I love doing the screen-printing onto the fabrics. That's just so fun for me. And I think at the heart of my creative vision is a love for pattern and print and color and, and just fabric.”
As Pearcy closes up shop (literally) on one chapter and prepares for another, rabid Queen Bee fans have one last chance to get their hands on their beloved bags. To make sure the production team can fill all orders before year-end, they’re rolling out “Last Chance” orders every few days in a special online collection and once those are done, they’re done. The goal is to keep the physical shop open through most of December, but Pearcy says if they have a run on items they might close earlier than that since it’s the extent of their inventory. Holiday shopping procrastinators this is your warning: once they run out, there will be no more.
“I think being a creative person and being an entrepreneur, there's always this leap you have to make,” says Pearcy of coming to this decision, one that surprised a lot of her customers. “So it’s like that's what I'm doing again [with Rebecca Pearcy]. It feels scary, but I also feel excited and positive and at peace. Of course there's mixed feelings and sad things about closing down Queen Bee, but really it’s just looking forward to the future, you know?”
3961 N Williams Ave.