If you’re not paying much attention while you’re traveling SE Grand Avenue in Portland, you could easily believe you’re on a generic every-town thoroughfare through a run-of-the-mill district of light industry. Admittedly it isn’t as visually interesting as the city’s tree-lined residential streets, or the parti-colored shops of Hawthorne Boulevard, but if you pull yourself out of that commuter on-my-way-elsewhere daze, you’ll see things and places that assure you you’re nowhere else but Portland.
One of my favorite stretches of pavement lies on SE Grand, between Stark and Pine. It’s a good thing my wife and I don’t live right nearby, because there’s stuff to be found on both sides of the avenue that all but cry out for my wallet, and the missus isn’t immune either (although she’s much better at resisting). Let me list here the sirens that beckon, so that you may understand.
Next Adventure at 426 SE Grand Ave. is a great place to find outdoor gear and sports wear. I don’t climb mountains or ski (as my center of gravity rests somewhere near my bottom lip AND I have a fear of heights) but since I ride a bicycle I’m always on the look-out for good rain gear or a new backpack. This place has pretty much everything but sherpas on call.
Next up the block is Bike n Hike (400 SE Grand). Cool folk, nice bikes, good stuff, no ‘tude. This is a bike town and we have a lot of bike shops. I haven’t been to every one, but here’s hoping they rise to the standard set here.
Across the street at the corner is The Lovecraft Bar (421 SE Grand). Howard himself might have loved this freaky place, a collision of cocktails and the macabre. Since Portland embraces both, this joint has no choice but to exist. If you’re in the mood for an adult beverage or a nosh, and have an appreciation (or at least a high tolerance) for the gothic-slash-industrial-slash-things-that-go-bump-in-the-night mileau, this establishment is just the ‘thing’ (mmwah-ah-ah!).
Immediately around the corner on SE Oak is Shop People LLC (416 SE Oak St.). This is a member-funded workspace for local industrial artists and inventors, a fully-stocked tool shop for just about anything you’d need to create about anything you want. In truth I’ve never stuck my head in here (and I’m not ‘handy’ and so would rather not infect the space with my juju of ineptitude), but the concept fairly screams Portland, does it not?
And now we skip diagonally across the intersection to Andy & Bax, at 324 SE Grand. I have an unabashed love for this place, with its military surplus and outdoor gear. I confess to a backpack fetish, but there’s a lot of other stuff in here I’d love to have. When I hike and camp, there’s bound to be at least one article from this shop along for the trip. Plus, there are display cases full of weaponry that any well-dressed Klingon would appreciate. I know where I’m heading when the zombie hordes come shamblin’.
Honestly, in this town you can find something to love on just about every street. Go look!