Local business means feminist bookstores and happy chickens, but wait; there’s more.
By Enid Spitz
Portland may be land of home-made craft fairs, local boutiques, and pop-up shops, but there is another face to local business too. Less endearing but no less dedicated or quirky, a whole genre of local business operates invisible to Portlandia skits.
Alpine Laundry I is a mystery, but Alpine Laundry II is one such local business that will never be satirized by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. The only twenty-four hour laudromat north of Lake Oswego, this amalgamation of randomness is true to its odd name.
Spanish phonebooks, Bibles and water safety pamphlets clutter the table below a massive plasma screen, normally playing Law & Order re-runs or Hallmark movies. In August, a pink beach cruiser hung from the ceiling advertising Alpine’s raffle giveaway. One corner regularly houses a vending machine, domestic violence helpline poster, and a massage chair solely used as a child’s climbing apparatus. Across rows of spinning washers, another corner boasts two 90s era computers with Internet. Sounds of soap operas and quarters co-mingle, while free wifi and eco-friendly washing machines complete the eccentric package.
The elderly owner, originally from the Philippines, limps around mopping and vacuuming at all hours of the night. Little seems to faze him; he once mopped right through a police investigation, when a heated argument in Spanish broke out over one patron’s purse and a bystander called it in after hearing various threats. Alpine’s owner continued as usual, taking advantage of the free floor space while children crowded to the window, peering at police cars outside.
Alpine Laundry II may not make upcycled jewelry out of beachwood, bamboo clothing, or bike paraphernalia. It is not on Twitter, Instagram, or even Facebook. While Portland prides itself on the weirdness epitomized by kilt-wearing, unicycling bagpipers, nondescript spots like Alpine hold secret stashes of city character. Like most cities, Portland’s soul can’t be captured on camera, it can, however, be lived.