The landlords wanted to breathe life into the retail properties standing sad and empty downtown. The designers wanted a chance to compete for holiday shopping dollars. The city wanted to see rejuvenation along SW Morrison and Yamhill. Thus the holiday PDX Pop-Up Shop project was made a reality.
Two stores, Flurry (401 SW Morrison, in the former Shoe Pavilion) and Workroom 719 (in the former See's Candies at 719 SW Morrison) opened their doors on the evening of Thursday, November 12 to a crowd that included Mayor Sam Adams on ribbon-cutting duty. Two more stores are expected—if negotiations go smoothly—to open before Thanksgiving weekend.
A true testament to what can be achieved through cooperation, the project was orchestrated by a medley of public and private entities. The leases, good through the end of December, were donated. People like Randy Higgins of Vizwerks (a retail design company whose impressive roster of clients includes Mario's, Starbucks, and Nordstrom) donated his time to outfit the spaces, calling on favors and using his connections, which included a mutually beneficial boost from students in the new Pacific Northwest College of Art/Oregon College of Art and Craft joint MFA program in applied craft and design. The Portland Business Alliance, Portland Development Commission, City of Portland, Downtown Marketing Initiative, Downtown Retail Advocate, Greg Goodman and Downtown Development Group, and American Veterans Security all threw effort behind the cause, as did Portland's two fashion-industry organizations, Portland Fashion Week and Portland Fashion Synergy.
The result is impressive: Flurry is like the floor of a department store stocked only with local designs. Women's and men's clothing share space with accessories from jewelry to cashmere hats and shoes. Offerings range from formal to casual wear, including work from Maytee, Janeane Marie, Defyance, WeMa, Isaac Hers, Ryz, and many more. At Workroom 719, Rachel Ancliffe—on pause from her usual gig teaching apparel students at the Art Institute—has taken a curatorial approach, stocking a huge amount of dead stock from a high-end womenswear line she was hired to design, Charles & Victoria, that fell victim to the recession. Offered at 75 percent off its intended retail pricing, I'm declaring it the best deal in town. Joining the line are great gift ideas like gorgeous wraps and clutches from PlainMADE retail, and look for upcoming additions from Halo Shoes (1425 NE Broadway) and Entermodal.
Now all that remains is for Portland shoppers to respond, trading in the malls and department stores for the little guys right across the street. In a town that professes its love and support for all things independent, it's truly time to put the money down and prove it.