It’s not a great revelation for me to say this has been a hard year for retailers. You know all about this. It's been hard for consumers too. But the holidays bring us to a crossroads. If you are financially able to buy gifts this year, or if times are tight and you want to just send a lovely card with a heartfelt message, you can make the decision right now to get those from a local business. In fact PDXSOS, who’ve been trying to get us all to shop small throughout the pandemic, even released a Portland Pledge campaign where shoppers vow to buy their gifts locally and either hang a resulting poster with pride or put it up on the 'gram to encourage others to do the same.
But the question remains: where do you get all your gifts when you're not doing the Hallmark movie version of shop-fighting your way through throngs of crowds with packages stacked precariously high? Read on, friends. A handful of Portlanders have made this process as painless as possible for you, and every dollar spent in town truly helps keep neighborhoods alive.
ONLINE PORTLAND MAKER MARKETS
Built Oregon’s entire mission is about supporting small businesses. For the last five years, the coalition of community leaders offers everything from entrepreneur accelerators to their own Built Festival—a week of consumer product industry events with founders sharing their insider knowledge for free. They had their eyes on a brick-and-mortar location bringing together new companies in from all over the state, with a focus on small woman and BIPOC owned brands, for them to get a feel for running a physical shop in their continued learning model, and then you-know-what hit. So they’ve done what we all have in the COVID era and gone online.
“We can find those rural companies or BIPOC companies that you may not know about and give them an opportunity to get awareness around their brand,” says director Mitch Daugherty. “That's our ultimate goal with this—a long-term path where you can support companies around the state.”
The Built Oregon Marketplace has easy-to-shop categories for their makers labeled out like “Gifts for Little Ones” and “Oregon Artisan Food Gifts,” full of familiar and not-so-familiar names. Daugherty asks you to consider one more thing.
“If we can kind of make that pitch that shoppers go pay full price. If some of these companies offer free shipping, that's great. But, it's almost like buy two gifts at full price instead of six at 50 percent off,” he says about a topic he believed in so much he wrote an entire essay about it. “Companies have already been struggling all of 2020, support them by paying full price. Don't wait for that day to get the best deals, because they'll do it. But it doesn't really help with their cash reserves going into January."
Early in the pandemic, furniture maker Jubal Prevatte, custom wood and metal design fabricator MC Lemay, and photographer Christopher Dibble saw how much our maker scene was hurt. Not only did the Great Shutdown kill projects and leave a wake of issues behind it, but many local creatives were not actually set up with e-commerce sites. Instead, they relied on pop-ups and in-person markets with hordes of people to pay the bills, and their business models vanished overnight. Together, they quickly established Makers Union PDX, an online marketplace where they say “cooperation, not competition” is the focus to get everyone through these tumultuous times.
Where Built Oregon’s digi shop leans toward everyday goods that make easy gifts like coffee or a new leash for Fido, Makers Union PDX is more about statement pieces like salvaged sycamore tree fruit bowls and fringed leather backpacks.
To show off some of the fine work in these artistic pieces, they’ve paired up with another entrepreneur collective, Portland Made, for Window Shop 2020: See, Scan & Support Local. The campaign took over vacant windows around the city where interior designers Shana McCullough of Shana Design C+O and Elise Klein of Klein Design Studios are creating blinged-out window displays featuring products from the online markets. Folks out for their neighborhood walks can quite literally window shop any of the pretty pieces by walking up to the display and scanning a QR code on display to take them right to the product online. Bada boom.
The window shops go live on Small Business Saturday, November 28, at 1538 NE Alberta Street, 2805 SE Ankeny, and in a building so new it doesn't yet have an address at Quimby and 22nd, and they'll stay live through December. Bonus feature: 15 percent of any sales from these special displays go to the Black Resilience Fund. Find them all here at pdxwindowshop.com.
Ashley Cintas grew up all over the country—North Carolina, Michigan, Palm Springs, you name it—knowing each place had its own charm and creatives. But she says it wasn’t until after she’d moved to Portland and was strolling down Mississippi Avenue that it all clicked.
“It dawned on me, there are all these really cool shops, and why don't my friends know about this? Why do they have to come travel to me to see these awesome, unique products? And that's how I put City Shoppe together," she says. "I really want to do two things: I want to be able to make shopping all these awesome local shops convenient and make it online because that's just where the world is headed.”
Now her newly launched City Shoppe lets shoppers do exactly that. You can shop by Portland brands, or you can filter out to New York or Seattle with more cities on the horizon. With nearly 50 local lines from Electric Goods stately lamps to Tan Tan Hoisin sauce on the ever-growing site, options abound.
For ten years we've happily crowded into the Portland Bazaar to snap up gifts from all kinds of makers. This year the crew have decided to take the same great shopping from the event space to the internet. "With it being the 10th anniversary of the Portland Bazaar, we were definitely sad to not be in person this year along with many others but are really excited about the e-commerce site and the sales it is bringing to our vendors," says producer Delia Tethong.
You can find nearly 90 local makers on the site and ship the gifts nationally or pick them up in a low contact arrangement out of the 811 E Burnside shopfront. Not sure what to get? You can opt for one of their curated gift boxes with a variety of Portland made goods like Saint Olio aromatic cleanser, Sauvie Shrubs blueberry-ginger shrub, and Tom Bumble peanut butter candy.
IRL MAKER MARKETS
Yes, the freeze is in place, but these markets are working within Governor Brown's guidelines to offer shoppers who rely upon in-person shopping the opportunity to complete their gift lists.
A showcase for independent designers and newer brands, Unique Portland says they're trying to be part pop-up, part incubator, and a little bit of a spotlight for small companies you might not know yet. To keep it as safe as possible, they have a limited amount of timed tickets up for grabs, with social distancing and mask policies in place while you browse for things like Straightaway's beautifully packaged cocktails in a bottle or Martine's leather crossbody bags. Saturday, 12/5, 10-4 pm, 1615 SE 3rd
The PDX Black Collective night market has been going on for months thanks to Day Bibb, owner of Helen Rose Skincare, and Keyunna Baker, owner of Shoe Box by Ki. They have a rotating list of additional BIPOC guest vendors like Muse Cheesecakes and Goodos for Doggos in Bibb's space for small shopping experiences only allowing in a handful of folks at a time (with masks on). 12/5-6, 3-7 pm, 212 SE Alder