If you haven’t noticed, Oregonians are kind of outdoorsy.
by Enid Spitz
Beyond all-weather commuter cyclists and barefoot runners in Forest Park, wilderness pervades the Portland metropolis (there are 700 outdoors companies in OR). And this year Columbia Sportswear, a granddaddy of Oregon outdoors gear, is celebrating its big 75th. In a recent interview for Oregon Business 63-year-old CEO Tim Boyle, grandson of Columbia’s founder, explained his company is “nowhere near our potential.” But in Portland being family-owned, local, and adventurous counts for a lot.
In honor of grandfather Columbia’s birthday, here is a “localist” guide to outdoorsy local retail, courtesy of a few youngster companies growing into their own.
Localist rank: High. Founded in Portland in 2000, Sock Dreams stocks many eco-friendly, USA-made, and even hemp items. The company thrives on token weirdness with funky patterned socks. You’re likely to see a hint of Sock Dreams below many cyclists’ cuffed pants.
Oregon Mountain Co.
Localist rank: Medium. Reaching corporate middle age, OMC has gone far, a veritable REI with top brands and a big web operation. It’s no NextAdventure in Portland-ness, but OMC’s Sandy Blvd. headquarters prove loyal to the Portland skiers and climbers who founded it 1971.
Localist rank: High! “100% made in Portland, OR” is literally their header. “About grove” is a picture of staff at a Blazers game. The brainchild of two local designers, Grove is still small enough to give each employee (and company dog) facetime on the website. In its teens, Grove embodies the young, social media scene, but this local company wants to stay small and personal.
Localist rank: Low-Med. Keen expanded far beyond its Portland roots, but no one is holding that against the company. Behind Columbia, it is one of Portland’s best-known outdoors brands. Last January a report pegged the company’s revenue near $200 million. Keen is young, celebrating its tenth birthday this year, and it still calls Portland home. The first ever Keen retail store opened at 12:12 on 12/12/12 in Portland’s Pearl district.
“The story behind Keen’s repurposed new home:”
The Worn Path
Localist rank: High. Founder Niles Armstrong started with wood from Oregon’s coast and word of mouth to sell his driftwood jewellery. Now with a store on N. Mississippi Ave., Worn Path still recalls its rustic roots: “The hope behind Worn Path is that those who connect with us will feel our love of the outdoors, will find the time to be in and appreciate the natural world around us, and from there be defenders of it.” True to Portland-ness, they stock slingshots as camping equipment.