Portland conventional wisdom goes something like this: While big box stores and online giants serve the needs of the masses, enlightened shoppers patronize Portland's truly impressive selection of locally owned businesses. And while we've been known to drop a pretty penny or two on Portland's choicest shopping districts (Hawthorne, East Burnside, Mississippi, and Nob Hill, etc.), our hearts belong elsewhere: to the overlooked retailers who are truly "keeping Portland weird." From throwing stars to moon rocks, Japanese undergarments to taxidermied squirrels, the following stores have got your shopping needs covered in ways you never even knew existed.
•Andy and Bax, 324 SE Grand, 234-7538, andyandbax.com
Authentic ninja outfits, airhorns, throwing knives, police badges, Mexican wrestling masks, hand grenades, and wool socks. Pretty much our favorite store ever.
•Artistic Taxidermy Studio, 5700 SE Foster, 771-3337, artistictaxidermy.net
Sadly, "artistic" here means "skillfully done," not raccoon/caribou hybrids. But still: Animal mounts are offered in semi- and full-sneak positions, and bear rugs always come with the tough decision—mouth open or closed?
•Better Bargains Thrift Store, 10209 NE Sandy, 254-1060
It's nice to find one thrift store that hasn't been entirely picked over by hipsters in this godforsaken city.
•Boom-Boom's Balloons, 2739 N Lombard, 289-7807
North Lombard is an incredible shopping district unto itself, but one of our favorite spots is Boom-Boom's, which has all your piñata, Quinceañero, and general fiesta needs covered. (Also a hot spot for cruising other PDX balloon fetishists.)
•City Liquidators, 823 SE 3rd, 228-4477, cityliquidators.com
There's no telling what crazy stuff will turn up at this labyrinthine megamart: office and home furnishings, sure, but that doesn't explain the dozens of still-boxed, talking Master P dolls we saw there last year. ("Ungh! Ta-nah-na-nah!")
•Deseret Industries, 10330 SE 82nd, 777-3897
Think Protestant religions are the only ones who get their own thrift stores? No way—the Mormons have been reselling crap at Deseret since before the invention of Berry Blue Jell-O.
•Ed's House of Gems, 7712 NE Sandy, 284-8990, edshouseofgems.com
Not only does this place feel like it should be on the side of a dusty Idaho highway rather than Sandy Boulevard, but in addition to your regular selection of rocks and minerals, they stock things like meteorite particles, fossilized camel teeth, and other cool forms of slingshot ammo.
•ESU Hillsboro Auction Center, 6585 NW Cornelius Pass, Hillsboro, 617-6116, estatesalesunlimited.com
Live auctions of furniture, household items, and Kewpie dolls every Friday night at 6:30 pm. It's like shopping and bingo rolled into one!
•EuroClassic Furniture, 6602 SE Foster, 771-0551 euroclassicfurniture.com
Eastern European pimp supplies, including mirrored headboards and reading lamps shaped like naked fairies.
•Fowlplay, 18235 NW Sedgewick, Beaverton, 690-3695
Nobody loves a good pun like a pheasant taxidermist.
•Free Geek, 1731 SE 10th, 232-9350, freegeek.org
Portland's favorite computer graveyard boasts a wonderful thrift store full of motherboards, processors, and other techy stuff. (Okay, we have no idea what any of that means, but we're charmed that they boast about their ability to get you a 5.25-inch floppy drive, "if you wanted.")
•Fubonn Supermarket and Deli, 2850 SE 82nd, Ste 1, 517-8877, fubonn.com
This incredible Asian supermarket is merely the anchor for an entire mini-mall of Oriental delights. Better than 100 trips to Epcot.
•Gartners Meats, 7450 NE Killingsworth, 252-7801, gartnersmeats.com
Not sure what to get us for Christmas this year? Apple cinnamon pork links, Spanish chorizo, tenderloin steaks, or sugar-slab bacon would all be good starting points. (Oh, calm down, vegan. This isn't about you.)
•Goodwill Outlet Store (AKA "The Bins"), 1740 SE Ochoco, Milwaukie, 230-2076, meetgoodwill.com
If you've never been on the receiving end of a lice infestation from buying clothes and trinkets by the pound, you don't deserve to call yourself a Portlander.
•The Grotto Gift Shop, 8840 NE Skidmore, 261-2424, thegrotto.org
Who knew there were so many different kinds of crucifixes?
•Highlander Knives & Swords, 1409 Jantzen Beach Ctr, 283-5377
This is the closest you will ever come to living out the scene in Kill Bill when Uma Thurman gets her own Hattori Hanzo sword.
•Jubitz Travel Center, 10210 N Vancouver, 283-1111, jubitztravelcenter.com
Come for the coyote-inspired mud flaps and passenger-seat sandwich makers, stay for line dancing and grub at the Ponderosa Lounge.
•Mademoiselle Noelle's Fortune Tea House, 5713 NE Fremont, 998-6616, myspace.com/fromclairvoyance2clarity
Portland's only fortune-telling tea house is your one-stop shop for spell kits, Hoodoo oils, witchy knickknacks, and, of course, a glimpse into your hazy future. Bonus gift idea: enrollment in Mademoiselle Noelle's White Owl School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
•Magic Fest, 1406 Jantzen Beach Center (in the Jantzen Beach Supercenter), 735-0600
Everyone loves a magician—just look at the very real celebrity endorsements on the website of Mark Benthimer, who owns Portland's premier magic shop: "How are you doing that?" gushes Scottie Pippen, while Ronald Reagan raves, "You have to show that trick to Nancy!"
•Oregon Aero SkyDancer, 303-478-4853, oregonaeroskydancer.com
Perfect for that person who truly has everything, but could probably still use one more personalized message written in the sky. (SkyDancer Aerobatics always make good stocking stuffers.)
•Pearsons Art Gallery, 20860 S Highway 99E, Oregon City, 263-8533
The art of chainsaw sculpting doesn't rest entirely on how well the gas-chugging instrument is wielded: The real "je ne sais quoi" depends entirely on knowing that there's no such thing as too much lacquer.
•R&G General Merchandise, 4932 SE Foster, 775-2210
This (admittedly creepy) junk store has miles upon miles of old, uncategorized VHS tapes for a buck or two apiece. Harry and the Hendersons, Alyssa Milano's workout and dance video, and Dracula Negro: They're probably all in there somewhere.
•Remington's, 16252 SW Upper Boones Ferry, 684-4100
Ever wonder where Mormons get those great missionary outfits?
•Ruhl Bee Supply, 17845 SE 82nd, Gladstone, 657-5399, ruhlbeesupply.com
Harvest masks? Check. Hive kits? Check. Live bees by the hundreds? Oh hell yes! (Order now for April delivery.)
•Sam Jin Furniture, 9955 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy, Ste 110, Beaverton, 672-7486
Korean music cassettes, antiques, the odd clown statue. Ah, Beaverton!
•State of Oregon Surplus General Store, 1655 Salem Industrial NE, Salem, 378-4714, http://egov.oregon.gov/DAS/SSD/SURPLS/index.shtml
Whatever police don't steal from the evidence room (kidding!) winds up in Salem at this state-run "Property Distribution Center." Plus: used police bicycles, gas masks, bowling supplies, fire engines, motorcycles, and (presumably) lots of grow lights.
•Stuff, 9770 SE 82nd, 775-2056, ilikestuff.com
The veritable Nordstrom of Portland pawnshops, Stuff bills itself as "the kind of place you could take your grandma." (But if you don't come back with their money in two weeks, they'll sell her like a stolen saxophone.)
•Su Casa Imports, 1050 SE Walnut, Hillsboro, 648-5779
As if being a fantastic Mexican supermarket with endless rows of Jumex and Bimbo products, a dizzying array of saint candles, and a produce section that includes nopales and sugar cane stalks wasn't enough, Su Casa has live mariachi bands every Sunday afternoon. Makes Safeway seem downright dull, doesn't it?
•Surplus Gizmos, 5797 NW Cornelius Pass, Hillsboro, 439-1249, surplusgizmos.com
Three rules: Keep them away from light. Do not let them get wet. Most importantly: One must never feed the creature after midnight.