Yesterday I attended a media tour of all that's new in the downtown retail zone, including the holiday pop-up shops. In years past, the pop-ups have been dominated by fashion and clothing, but this year the organizers got a heartier response from a crowd that's more focused on craft and home decor. The one not to miss is Boys' Fort, which I highlighted yesterday, but we also got a peek at the Saturday Market temporary spot they're calling the Saturday Market Annex. Participation is open to all vendors you'll find at the Market proper, so it's a reflection of the usual fare but (yay!) inside from the cold.

Both pop-ups are on the ground floor of the Galleria building at 600 SW 10th, and while I hope things go well enough this season that they'll consider joining Crafty Wonderland and the Portland Design Collective with permanent locations, both will have to skeedaddle out of their current spaces come January to make room for the behemoth that is Target. (Above the cash wrap in Boys' Fort there's a painted target that wasn't premeditated as a wink, but is appreciated as such.)

We also visited the work in progress that is the Downtown Artistry, returning for a second year in their usual spot at 940 SW Morrison, had an encouraging chat with the folks at Pioneer Place, stopped by beauty supply superstore Sephora, and San Francisco jeweler Shreve & Co.'s third outpost—their third store and the first outside of California. Economic woes or not, the overall sense is that the efforts that have been made to fill out downtown's empty retail spaces are working. Something's working. Even good old Nike is celebrating the grand opening of its huge new downtown store at 638 SW 5th today (right next door to Sephora). It's all good news after the jump.

Mugs get a bad rap as a generic or kitchy gift, but you put a cute little beastie on it and Im all over it. Go figure.
  • Mugs get a bad rap as a generic or kitschy gift, but you put a cute little beastie on there like this one at Downtown Artistry and I'm all over it. Go figure.

Perhaps the best news about the pop-up project is that according to Downtown Retail Development Manager Lisa Frisch, they had a harder time than usual finding empty spaces. Pioneer Place is filling up too. you may have already heard that Denver-based Punch Bowl Social, a diner/bar/bowling alley combo is taking over an entire floor. The one in Denver (Portland and Denver are two of five locations they plan to open in the next several years) hasn't opened yet, but the renderings on the web site look rather shmancy, like a Grand Central for the west side, and the people behind it come from restaurant backgrounds so there's hope for the food to be decent.

Punch Bowl is scheduled to be open for the holiday season of 2012, and while they—infuriatingly—could not give us any hints much less specifics, late next year will also see the opening of two high end retailers in the mall (I'm guessing vendors who got kicked out of the market when Saks closed), and in late '12 or early '13 a "landmark" retailer will also move in to part of the former Saks location. That could be a Uniqlo or a JC Penny; they would not even give us a genre to guess from.

Mine was one of two tours led yesterday. The other brought press round to spaces like Woonwinkel and the shops in the Blackbox building at SW 13th and Burnside, all new since last year. Like the restaurant scene, downtown retail seems to be growing more than it's fading, despite the deluge of horrifying economic news. I took my parents to St. Jack last time they were in town and my dad asked me to explain why new stuff pops up every time we turn around (and the majority stay open) yet all they here about is that nobody in Portland can find a job. I didn't have a good explanation. Tax-free tourism has something to do with it, surely, but that doesn't quite answer for all of it, especially the retail corridors that are thriving outside of the downtown core. Maybe you know. Tell me.