Friday, August 21, 2009

Biking to Sellwood

Today was our first “retail experience” day. A large part of our time spent while traveling is being on the hunt for new products and ideas that will make our stores a better shopping experience. I try and search out areas before we leave on a trip that might have the style of stores that are a good fit for our area also, and then we put on the walking shoes, fill up the water bottles and hit the road. Today we hit the road on two wheels for the trip to Sellwood. Portland is one of those cities that is not only walking friendly, but biking friendly as well. Once we land at the airport, we take the light rail in to the downtown area and then there is no need for an auto the rest of the week. Portland was/is one of those forward thinking cities that planned out their transportation needs way in advance. The entire downtown area is called a “fareless zone” and you can hop on and off the streetcars, buses and light rails as long as you stay inside that zone, quite large, it encompasses most everywhere we usually need to get to, including the convention center where the Far West trade show is held.

Back to the two wheels. One of the small supberbs outside Portland that looked like a fun spot to visit is called Sellwood, and is located across the Willamette River from the downtown area. We checked out public transportation and then found out that we could rent bikes, ride across one of the bridges, and then venture down a bike trail the 7 miles to Sellwood area. Once there it would be a short 6 block walk, up a very steep hill, hence the walking our bikes, not riding, to a small downtown area about the size of ours in Fallon, but once there, we found all similarities stopped. Sellwood is filled with eclectic antique stores, bookstores fashioned out of old caboose cars, coffee shops, little garden stores tucked down vine filled alleys, numerous wine shops, bakeries, restaurants and pubs. The streets were lively with locals and visitors alike. We locked up the bikes and set off for our first stop across the street – a small, but packed to the ceiling little gem of an antique store. As usually our case, we struck up a conversation with the shopkeeper, asking permission before we took any pictures of the treasures we were finding. Our dilemma, we quickly realized, was the fact that even though the bike ride was a treat, we were on bikes!! And bikes don’t hold very much when you only have one basket for four bikes. Poor planning on our part, but we were determined to make the best of it – at the first stop alone Melissa was already arranging shipping for an adorable and functional bright red 1950’s kitchen stool.

The rest of the afternoon flew by as we tried to at least pop our heads into each and every little shop. We were determined to help stimulate the economy of these independent sellers. We found a new purse line that we will be carrying at Red Zinnia, quite a few new wines at a great little shop that does weekly wine tastings very similar to ours, some fabulous new design ideas, and a book or three for me. We picnicked outside after choosing our treats from different locations and soaked up the sun and the local culture from our front side table. After an afternoon of retail therapy we rode back down the hill and set off on the trail to take us back to Portland. And yes, we reminded the young men that rented the bikes to us, always – always offer at least two bike baskets when renting to four women!

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