Guest Blog: Indie City Guides: Portland by Charissa Faire


Today Charissa Faire, regular contributor to The Fabulist and writer behind Isn’t It Always a Surprise!, is sharing an Indie City Guide for the city of Portland, Oregon. Portland is a very indie friendly city and one I wished I lived in…if all my family & friends would move with me, that is. Charissa’s fabulous guide will run today, tomorrow and Thursday, so make sure to check back each day to read about the cool happenings in Portland.

If you are interested in writing an Indie City Guide or sharing what is indie happening about your city, then shoot me an email.

by guest contributor Charissa Faire

From the moment I first visited Portland, back in June of 2007, I realized that this is a place unlike anywhere else. A place with what must be THE MOST sidewalk chalk drawings of any city on the entire planet. A place where it is not at all unusual to find an interactive poster someone put together and hung on a telephone pole in honor of their love of the boardgame Candyland. A place where Spoon and The Decemberists and The Shins are played as the muzak in the local shopping malls and restaurants (all are are local bands).

I just moved to Portland from San Francisco about seven months ago, so I can’t provide the expertise that a true native could. And I’m a bit of a hermit, honestly, so I probably can’t even provide the expertise that another seven-month-long resident could. But what I CAN do is give you the perspective of a girl with fresh little eyes with stars in them seeing everything around her for the first time, before the city acquires the patina of familiarity and she starts to take it all for granted. So, I’ve assembled a short list of a few of the places in Portland that can inspire even a bona fide homebody like myself to venture out of her apartment and into the rain or — yes, it does happen here occasionally! — into the sunshine.

Clothing, Beauty, and Accessories

Portland has an incredible array of vintage, handmade, and just plain unusual clothing and accessories to choose from. First on my list is Gilt Vintage and Artisan Jewelry, a gorgeous two-story jewelry store with a selection of both vintage and locally handmade ornaments you won’t find anywhere else. The staff is helpful, the prices are reasonable, and most importantly, the pieces have stories behind them. A romantic sort of history for a very romantic sort of store.

720 NW 23rd Ave
Portland, OR 97210
(503) 226-0629‎

Next up is Sock Dreams. Can you imagine how excited I was when I saw my favorite online store for all things legwear has an actual physical location, and it’s right here in my city? Apparently they opened here in April of this year–just in time for my arrival! And with items not to be found anywhere in their online catalog, it’s worth a visit. After all, it’s essential to have a pair of socks or stockings for every possibility. You never know what might come up.


725 SE Powell Blvd
Portland, OR 97202
(503) 234-0885

One of the most well-known places for vintage clothing in Portland is the Red Light Clothing Exchange, a store that counts The Gossip’s Beth Ditto among its regular patrons. Racks upon racks of the cutest, most colorful little vintage dresses you’ve ever seen line the walls, along with a staggering array of vintage t-shirts, boots, high heels, roller skates (!!), polyester shirts, rainbow wigs, handbags, cowboy hats, pleather pantsuits…you name it, you’ll probably find it here.



333 SW 10th Ave
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 294-0800

Not to be ignored, there’s another little vintage store nearby called Magpie that’s worth checking out. It has a large selection of very groovy outfits and accessories in an elegant setting, but this shop impressed me most with its beautiful, sparkly purses and costume jewelry. Magpies are known for their love of shiny objects, and so am I. It’s easy to see why I love this place.


520 SW 9th Ave
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 220-0920

Eclexion is a downtown boutique specializing in independent designers. They offer a wide diversity of fashions, and order only one of each design and color so you’ll never run into someone wearing “your” outfit. While that’s a complete drag if you stop someone on the street and ask them where they got their fabulous dress, it’s absolutely wonderful if you’re the one who got to it first.

111 NW 2nd Ave
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 248-2735

Blush Beauty Bar is a cosmetics store in Northwest Portland with quite possibly the most friendly and knowledgeable staff I have ever encountered. Helpful without being overbearing, they can point you right to every single locally and independently made line of products in their store. Not only that, but they’ll often let you try them out or take a sample home! Their local lines include Guerrilla Glamour, Velana K, Treat Beauty, and the Lily Lambert line of fragrances. I have tried almost all of the local lines of products and love they’re all fantastic, but I’m especially head-over-heels in love with Lily Lambert’s perfumes. If I could make this screen scratch-n-sniff for you, I would.


513 NW 23rd Ave
Portland, Oregon 97210
Phone: (503) 227-3390


I’m not going to go crazy on the Entertainment section, because there are honestly just too many options to choose from and it’s all a little overwhelming. But there are two choices that I feel bear mentioning: Living Room Theaters and Ground Kontrol.

Living Room Theaters is a restaurant, bar, and independent filmhouse all in one fantastic package. It’s also the only all-digital, only-digital movie theater in the U.S. If you want to read about the numerous advantages this provides to lesser-known independent directors and to the environment, click here. But what it means to lovers of independent film like us is there’s always some little gem of a movie on one of six screens waiting to be viewed over a tasty meal.

341 SW Tenth Avenue
Portland OR 97205
(971) 222-2010

Another place worth a special mention is Ground Kontrol. Out of all the places people kept telling me I had to go when I first moved to Portland, Ground Kontrol was at the very top of the list. This is a veritable temple to all things classic arcade, with a bar and live music and pinball tournaments and all kinds of other fabulous nonsense to boot. If you are looking for a place to play some Centipede or prove your pinball mastery while sucking down a Mike’s Hard Lemonade, you have found your paradise.


511 NW Couch St.
Portland, OR 97209
phone: (503)796-9364

I’ll return over the next couple of days to continue this city guide with descriptions of more shopping, art, events and food (oh, there will be food!). But until then, in case you didn’t believe me, behold the Candyland poster. It opens up to reveal a tiny mouse playing the xylophone. I am not kidding.


About the contributor: Charissa Faire came to Portland by way of Florida and San Francisco, and she now lives in Portland with her cat, her fish, and her boyfriend Tedd. She is a regular contributor to The Fabulist and has a photo and poetry blog called Isn’t It Always a Surprise!.


  1. would you please remove this photo of my fragrances from your site, if i provided you with a nicer cleaner one??????
    many thanks,

  2. I lived in Portland for 15 years but have lived in California for the past 23. The things I miss about Portland is the diversity of shops. You can find anything there and different sections of town are like complete different cultures. Charissa – you could spend the next 15 years exploring and still not see all of it. Things you must try is an Autumn Meringue at Papa Haydns, a burger at Staniches and Managers special at the Spaghetti Factory; Mizithra cheese and clam sauce. Please post more about Portland.

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