Someday, Portland, it will stop raining*. (And we don’t mean these one-off days that we’ve been having, where it’s 70 degrees, and everyone gets all hopeful and breaks out their flip-flops and then the next day it is 49 degrees and raining, again.) We mean there will be day after day of mild temperatures and blue skies, our reward for the other eight or so months of the year in the PNW.
And when that day comes, you may want to cast away your puffy coats and winter fleece and joggers, and actually wear something new. You may wish to put on make-up, perhaps, or to buy someone in your life a gift, just because.
Lucky for you, there’s a new (ish) crop of independent stores holding it down on some of the city’s best-loved shopping strips. Consider this a shout-out to the boutiques and mercantiles and second branches of favorite places that have opened in the last two years, while many people have been hunkered down, and honing a time-to-break-it online shopping addiction.
Make-up and Skin Care Are Having A Moment
Three is a trend, right? Close enough, and so we couldn’t help but notice a handful of new independent storefronts dedicated to making your face look as fresh as possible.
Native-owned Coral Story Beauty moved from Lake Oswego to its snug, sunny SE Division storefront about a month before the pandemic hit in earnest in spring of 2020—whomp whomp. But the store has made it through, and they specialize in carefully sourced organic makeup. Try the local, women-owned line of lipsticks from Axiology ($28) for a quick pre-summer pick me up. 3370 SE Division, Richmond
Keep an eye out for the soon to open, female and BIPOC-owned Jen K. Artistry on a suddenly up-and-coming block of lower Hawthorne. Billed as a “luxury beauty studio,” the new space will focus on all things eyelashes—think brow lamination, for starters—as well as general makeup services. 1465 SE Hawthorne, Hosford-Abernethy
Ok, slight cheat here, since their flagship Alberta Street store has been open since pre-pandemic, but the wellness and skincare specialists at the female, AAPI-owned Blendily opened an outpost up in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood in late 2021. The vibe there is botanical—plants and flowers are blended to make a handmade line of lotions, bath salts, soaps, scrubs, shampoos and more. 1532 NE Alberta, Alberta Arts District
Gifts, Gifts, Gifts!
Should you need to purchase letterpress cards or bespoke wrapping paper, hand-poured candles or—increasingly, in at least a corner of most such stores—a houseplant in a ceramic holder, there’s a (new or semi-new) store near you to help with that. Seriously, this kind of store has proliferated in Portland in recent years, to a not-quite-alarming degree—is this the lipstick effect, writ large?
With their Alberta Street OG location still going strong, the new branch of the Black-owned EcoVibe had its grand opening this past weekend at a giant, long-empty storefront on Hawthorne Boulevard that is suddenly filled with color, light, and greenery. You’ll find plants of every variegation, a literal wall of luscious throw pillows, and a dizzying array of ceramics, too. 2380 SE Hawthorne, Hosford-Abernethy
Mississippi Avenue’s clutch of indie shops has a new addition in Santana General, a Latin and Indigenous-accented mercantile that bills itself as “not your ordinary general store” and opened last June. Come here for delicate amber-colored coffee presses, stacking bowls from Mexico, literature of the resistance, vintage tapestries and more. 3966 N. Mississippi Avenue, Boise-Eliot
The departure of feminist-gift haven Citizen Ruth left a gaping hole on SE Division Street (peep their new Portland HQ, now open on lower NE Alberta), which Little Rituals will try to fill when its slightly-delayed grand opening uncorks this coming weekend. Pop over to get sparkles threaded through your hair and browse through their selection of candles, crystals, and size-inclusive graphic tees. Meanwhile, longtime N. Williams staple Blackthorn Mercantile has just opened a second storefront on NE 28th off of Burnside, which has a very Schitts’ Creek Rose Apothecary vibe from the jump. 1416 NE Alberta, Alberta Arts District, 3070 SE Division, Richmond and 233 NE 28th, Kerns
When in doubt, buy a candle. And if that’s the case, why not a locally poured, vegan, non-toxic, gender-inclusive candle (in other words, don’t look here for overpowering florals or musk) from Wild Mountain Wax Co., which moved into a 1600-foot storefront in Foster-Powell last fall. Besides their stock-in-trade candles, they also boast a host of PNW inspired jewelry, blankets, and cunning craft cocktail kits. 6416 SE Foster Road, Foster-Powell
Use Your Hands
The pandemic turned us all into amateur hobbyists. And while some of the longtime stalwarts of this genre in Portland have recently closed up shop (RIP, Assembly), other new storefronts are opening to take advantage of the craze for all things craft.
Devotees of HBO Max’s cult “Great Pottery Throwdown” (like the baking show, but make it ceramics, and the judge cries instead of glares) or the Amy Poehler/Nick Offerman hosted “Making It” should find their way to the newly opened, queer-owned Daffodill Studios. Don’t be intimidated if you’re not typically the crafty-type—the owner says it’s intended as a beginner-centric space—and upcoming workshops include handbuilding planters or slab mugs, crochet basics, and rug tufting. 2642 NE Sandy Boulevard, Kerns
If you think it seems like every home goods store in town is suddenly displaying an inordinate amount of macrame, you would be absolutely right. (Trust us, we did the research.) Learn how to make your own at Modern Macrame, opened on N. Williams in December of 2021. Sign up to learn how to crochet your own “granny square” and you’ll be on your own way to a blanket, or just drop in to one of their regularly scheduled community craft nights. 3808 N. Williams, Boise-Eliot
No More Stretchy Pants
Because there is truly only so much athleisure one can browse on the Internet before one might feel the need to go into an actual store and try something on, no? Big independent clothing store openings have been a little sparse on the ground in Portland of late, but we have high hopes for more fashion forwardness as summer sets in.
Another relocation of an old favorite, Machus migrated to downtown’s fashionable West End in late summer of 2021. The minimalist men’s store has more space now for showing off its private label duds, plus high-end independent menswear from a select group of designers—we’re especially partial to their in-house sweatsuits, in atypical colorways (think pink quartz and lapis, for one.) 1101 SW Alder, Downtown
Small, sunny, and snug, women-owned Shop Lyko in St. Johns, which opened in June of 2021, doesn’t have an enormous selection of clothing, but each piece has clearly been chosen with care, and there is an ease to all of its slow fashion pieces. We like the Me & Arrow wide pants and ruffle skirts; this is also a place to find Soluna Collective pieces, now that their Grand Avenue popup has finished its run. 7413 N. Lombard St, St. Johns
*By the way, don’t @ us. We know we need the rain, for the farmers and the snowpack and the wildfires. WE KNOW.