LIKE THE OFFSPRING of many species, spring and summer seem to be the favored seasons for new arrivals in retail, meaning we're past the flurry, at least for the foreseeable future. From the Shoe Store to Demimonde, 2012 has been a bountiful year of new stores, and we've managed to get a good eyeful of most of them. One of the more quietly located of these, however, is Rhapsody, which has taken up residency in Southeast Portland's Ford Building. Situated on the edge of the beloved SE Division/Clinton corridor, its more immediate adjacency to the train yards of Southeast Industrial has kept the building's growing population of fine businesses (the ground floor also boasts destinations Duchess Clothier and Vinnie's hair salon) from exploding in foot traffic with the same verve as you'll find up the street.
If you're a stranger to Zanita Zody's new store, she's no stranger to retail. Though recently returned to Portland (Zody was born on a commune near Cave Junction and named for her birth's proximity to a Manzanita tree), Zody spent time in Indiana, where she ran her first two stores. "I really see the store as a canvas," Zody says of her approach to retail. The interior of the spacious shop is filled with artwork, from a hanging series of wallpaper imagery to the teased-out gauziness of the dressing room curtains.
While taking issues of environmental impact and local manufacture seriously (the local Ms. Wood is a store favorite, as are a variety of small lines out of California and the Pacific Northwest, along with more mainstream, versatile pieces from lines like LAmade), Zody primarily takes her cues for stocking the shop from her preferences, and branches into the home décor territory with small ceramics and textiles. The theme that emerges as a result is an emphasis on wearable, functional pieces that have something added to make them distinct; a bit of flair that steers clear of interrupting ease of use, like a subtle asymmetrical, slightly draped hem on an otherwise simple silhouette.
A few handy excuses to check Rhapsody out: SE Portland author Wendy Willis will be having a reading for her recently published Blood Sisters of the Republic at the shop this Friday, November 2, at 6 pm, and on Saturday, November 10 (5-8 pm), Rhapsody will host a trunk show featuring Sahlia Jewelry Design, Ms. Wood, Clair Vintage Inspired, Tarte, and MapleXO. Rhapsody, 2505 SE 11th, #117, rhapsodyboutique.com.
As for the fellas, East Burnside's Machus is teaming up with their friends and occasional collaborators at Solestruck for a "cross-bridge" fashion event aimed at the guys on the arms of the girls at fashion shows across the city. Reads the event's call to arms: "We've paid our dues. We've followed our better halves to fashion events, drank boxed wine, and gave feedback on high heels. We've worn multiple hats as drink-fetchers, clutch-holders, and iPhone photographers. We've seen more avant-garde dresses walk down local runways than we probably need to. And now, it's our turn, boys."
Whether you fit that put-upon profile or not, this Friday's event sounds worth taking a free limo ride: A limousine shuttle will run every half hour between the two store locations where you'll find such temptations as complimentary cuts and grooming from Bishops, beer and whiskey, a "deco-paint shoe station," and an outpouring of men's footwear from Solestruck, a shoe store most notorious for its vertiginous, boundary-pushing styles for women. Machus, 542 E Burnside & Solestruck, 417 SW 13th, Fri Nov 2, 7-11 pm.
Another major development in retail this week is the announced return of the PDX Pop-Up project, an annual effort across various agencies to activate empty downtown storefronts with temporary, holiday-season shops featuring locally made products. This year's crop consists of four, including the return of last year's popular Boys' Fort (614 SW 11th), which has been residing of late in the smaller confines of Salvage Works in North Portland's Kenton neighborhood. Their masculine-focused talent for transforming spaces—their stores whip up a blend of custom furniture, small items for the home and wardrobe, and witty art—reflects the talents of Boys' partners Richard Rolfe and Jake France, who also do a variety of design work from color consultation to home makeovers. Exciting new additions include Wolf's Apothecary (902 SW Morrison), a combination of locally made beauty and health products and vintage and modern home goods headed up by city herbalist Jewelie Randall (who also owns Flora).
The two other shops have an apparel focus, with Monica Cullen and Ben Hermel's Emit (535 SW 6th), offering "bold, distinctive women's apparel and accessories." As the name would suggest, Enchanted Alpaca (902 SW Morrison) will specialized in apparel made with alpaca and other natural fabrics, with goods for men, women, children, and babies. One more thing that's sure to be an even bigger hit than visiting Santa at the mall: They're promising to host live alpacas at the store every weekend (!).
Adding an injection of excitement to downtown retail and an easy way to find economy-boosting gift ideas, the shops are slated to open on Thursday, November 8, with an opening ceremony hosted by Mayor Sam Adams.