What Do Foster Bars Mean to You?

In a recent posting, we speculated on where the World Famous Cannabis Cafe intended to open on Foster. While the posting was mostly filler, it did lead to an interesting, albeit brief, conversation on Facebook. The few comments in response to the post weighed in on the merits of dispensaries (and the number of them on Foster) and their relation to the overall character of the neighborhood. Some were ok with it, some weren’t; some had greater appreciation for the less-polished version of our neighborhood than what some hope it to be. All natural responses, all valid.


Vibrant night life in front of Bar Carlo

Somehow, though, the conversation devolved with one commenter lambasting the bars on Foster, as well as making bold generalizations about their patrons. To quote them:     “…Screw the dive bars and their alcoholic meth head patrons. May they someday grow up…”
Though we disagree with their assessments, we also felt it was food for thought. After all, Foster does have a lot of bars. A lot. And not all are created equal.

So we started thinking about some of our favorite pastimes. And then we realized our pastimes aren’t necessarily yours. (Just kiddiing—we’re not as big ‘a drinkers as we lead on to be. Or maybe we are—you’ll never know.)

In all seriousness, though, the comments led us to an old blog piece we posted more than three years ago (From Boozy to Hip). In that piece, we referenced an article posted by Good Magazine  (There Flows the Neighborhood: Follow the Booze to the Next Big Block) in which they spoke on the value of bars in a neighborhood’s positive trajectory, and how they served as agents of change in a transforming area of Brooklyn. The article suggested the “improving” (read: gentrifying) character of the neighborhood had a lot to do with the amount of people being drawn to the street at night because of its bars, particularly 20- and 30- somethings.


Live music and art at NWIPA

While many will argue about whether Foster becoming a “scene” is a good thing or not, it’s obvious that without the bars, our stretch of road would not only be long, it would be long, dark and devoid of people at night. And without those people, we wouldn’t have the flirtings of restauranteurs seeking out places on Foster; rumors of the Day Theater showing movies some day; live music venues; and the general sense that something is happening here. In regards to the latter point, something is happening and, in theory, the trickle down effect is game stores, Tango studios, performance space, music venues, record stores, and places to eat. Sure, bars do not plant the seeds of change per se, but the article suggested they create enough of a social scene and energy that it produces a draw of sorts. And that draw, they say, is a net positive for the neighborhood.

On Foster, at this point, our bars may be our best asset—our strongest draw. Again, not all bars are created equal, but there are a certain few that add obvious benefit to the neighborhood: live music, events that attract people to Foster at night, food, a third space for relaxing after a long day or week at work, trivia, karaoke, art openings.

Not all appreciate the bars on Foster, though. And that’s ok. So we thought we’d pose the question to you, the readers: what do the bars on Foster mean to you?

Are they dens of debauchery and evil? Do they enliven Foster and bring value? Too many, not enough, or just right?

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Meet Your Neighbor: Marla Watson, from I Heart Retro

We continue our Foster Folks series this week with a look at the neighborhood’s newest retail shop, I Heart Retro. Retail’s good for Foster. Retro and vintage furniture? Even better. Let’s meet Marla Watson, neighborhood resident and owner of I Heart Retro.
*****************************I Heart Retro, front evening*********

1) Tell us about Marla. Who are you and how long have you lived in the neighborhood?  
“I am Marla Watson.  My husband and I have lived in FoPo for almost 18 years. We have a 21 year-old daughter who was raised in this neighborhood and also works at I Heart Retro.”

2) You ran a successful business in a more prominent neighborhood (Hollywood)—how did it come to be that you were able to relocate to Foster?  
“My lease was up soon in Hollywood and Laughing Planet had their eye on my space.  As we know about Portland, “the rent is too damn high,” so I decided to move.  I get I Heart Retro, Marlabored easily and like change.  Anyway, I looked at a lot of spaces around Portland, and I found this space and another great space on Killingsworth right by PCC.  It was hard to find spaces at all, because the marijuana stores are leasing a ton of the open retail space.  So I had to make a decision and I choose FoPo.  It sure makes my life a heck of a lot easier.”

3) So what will folks find when they wonder into I Heart Retro?  
“Vintage, retro and mid century furniture and home décor (from the 1950’s – 1970’s).  They will also find a huge space.  It is deceiving from the front how big the store actually is.  In addition, they will find good customer service and a clean store. We are not a hoity-toity mid century store. We are real life. I Heart Retro is where you can get decent retro furniture for a pretty good price. Sure, we have some high-end pieces and IMG_1287we have some lower-end pieces.  We try to have something for everybody.  But I want to make this perfectly clear, just so we are all on the same page: I Heart Retro is not a thrift shop.  Each piece is chosen by me to be in the store and reflects a certain aesthetic.  There is a lot of work and a lot of thought that goes into running a successful vintage store.  Often you might find me in my front yard refinishing a piece of furniture or in the back room repairing something.  Often I have my head in the back of a console stereo working on a repair.  I pick it, schlepp it and fix it.”

4) Your family has been in the neighborhood for 17  years. Obviously you felt it was a good time to set up shop locally, but what are some of the positive changes you’ve seen in the neighborhood over the years?  
IMG_1281“When we moved into the neighborhood it was a “target neighborhood” which meant you could get a discount rate on your mortgage through the State Bond, as well as help paying your down payment.  Because this neighborhood used to be lower on the socioeconomic scale, we used to get a few perks; I used to organize a street cleanup for 63rd, 64th and 65th between Holgate and Powell.  We would have dump fees donated by Metro and we would have dumpsters at the corner of 64th and Center.  All the neighbors would participate.  People would drive their trucks through the alleys and do alley clean up.  People would clean their yards and front porches.  It was a real sense of community for our three streets.  Of course, as we started cleaning up the area, more people with means moved in and we were no longer considered a “target neighborhood”, so the street cleanup stopped.  But it was a lot of fun while it lasted and I met a lot of great neighbors. 

“There used to be a lot of meth houses and chop shops in the alley’s with abandoned cars on the street. The neighborhood was a bit seedy back them. Tweekers and day drunks would try to engage me in conversation when I was working in the front yard.  Lots of rentals back then too, so the neighborhood turned over a lot. Used to be a dude on a bike who would slash car tires in the middle of the night. Sometimes he would get a whole block of cars.  It happened a lot.  Once there was a car chase that ended on my street and the State Police were out front with their shotguns drawn.

IMG_1282“The positive changes are more homeownership; people taking pride in ownership and pride in Foster Powell.  Lots of awesome people live in this neighborhood.  I don’t think the neighborhood has been gentrified in the way that North and NE Portland have.    This has always been a working class neighborhood, for which I am proud. I see a lot of families in the neighborhood now.  So many babies and strollers.  And these young families love the neighborhood, which is fantastic.” 

5) And what do you envision for Foster’s future?  
“I hope the future of Foster is brighter than it’s past.  Maybe it is wishful thinking, but when all the small businesses get priced out or moved out of Hawthorne and Division, they are going to have to relocate somewhere. Foster still has some reasonably priced retail rents and the main drag and the developers have been keeping their distance. I think Foster will continue to grow, in the same way Hawthorne did in its early years.  One can only hope!”

6) Back to I Heart Retro. Foster is slowly building a retail presence. There’s a Catch-22, though, where the neighborhood is starting to create a demand for certain amenities and services, but there isn’t yet enough to get folks onto Foster more and supporting what’s already there. If you could speak to the masses, how would you convince them to check out your store when looking for furniture and home decor?
IMG_1286“I Heart Retro has a pretty huge social media presence, so we do drive business to the street. It would be nice to get more retail. Foster is hopping after dark with all the bars in the area. I think it will happen. The streetscape is coming soon and Foster is going to be transformed. I just hope it does not transform like N. Vancouver and N. Williams, because, well yuck.  Talk about taking the character right out of a neighborhood.”

7) If you could choose a movie, song, celebrity, or historical figure (fictional or otherwise) that best characterizes Foster, who/what would it be?
Billy Bragg’s “Waiting For The Great Leap Forward.”

There you have it, folks. I Heart Retro in a snap shot. But, we also got a nice look into the neighborhood’s recent history. Both should be reason to get out and support your local businesses and celebrate community.

I Heart Retro is located at 6927 SE Foster.

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Happy Weekend, Foster People!

Welcome back, weekend. We appreciate you bringing cooler weather, a couple fun events, live music, and an opportunity for some civic engagement. Feel free to leave the cooler weather when you go away.

Here are your weekend tidbits…

– Before we jump into the fun stuff, let’s just make a quick mention of the terrible hit-and-run that occurred last week on Holgate (at SE 60th). A neighborhood resident was severely injured while crossing the street, as she was hit by a hit-and-run driver. As per KGW, the police believe the person driving was in a motorcycle (or three-wheeled bike) heading west around 10 p.m. Ugh! Something’s got to give. This is happening way too often on our streets. Positive thoughts to the victim, and hopefully the person responsible is found.

– Sorry to be a downer. On a decidedly brighter note, Hallowed Halls will be hosting their “Opening Party” this Saturday, starting at 7 pm. Here’s what the Willy Week had to say about the event:
     “It didn’t take long for Portland’s illustrious music scene to begin expanding its borders to a newly up-and-coming neighborhood. The Hallowed Halls, a once public library and now recording studio, opens its doors in Foster-Powell, offering a state-of-the-art recording experience. While the studio boasts an echo chamber, luxe ambiance and one of the largest live rooms in Portland, the opening party guarantees to be just as lavish. With complimentary libations, finger foods and psychic dance grooves by Gold Casio (members of Adventure Galley), this is a promising step for both Portland music and FoPo.”

– Back to traffic safety real quick. A legislative bill that will allow for unmanned photo-radar machines on high-crash corridors should net Foster (and Powell and 82nd) some level of automated speed enforcement in the near future (well, sometime next year, maybe). Check out Bike Portland’s brief summary of the bill’s passing: here.

– We’ll just keep plugging SMART Collective until you all check out a show and/or their skate and apparel store at 69th and Foster. They’re hosting another in-house concert tonight, with Heavy Sunsets, Rod, Ladywolf and Students. Show starts at 5pm to get your weekend going early; $5, with a discount for students.

– Speaking of live music…in addition to SMART Collective’s show, here’s the weekend (and beyond) lineup:
Starday Tavern- The BroadStrokes, Friday; PhiloPobia, Saturday
O’Malley’s- Dartgun & the Vignettes, Dr. Stahl and Hair Fire…Saturday, $4 cover
Bar Carlo- Hot Club of Hawthorne, July 15 (and every third Wednesday) at 7pm

– Remember when we were well on our way to having a completely filled commercial plaza between 64th and 65th on Foster? Well, we’ve essentially been only half-filled for some time now. Red Castle has a claim to one of the storefronts on that strip for its proposed Cafe Red, but it’s sat vacant for months (and presumably many more to come…bummer). And the former office space for Portland Ketchup Company (Portlandia Foods) has been vacated, too. In regards to the latter, we’ve seen the rent listed as low as $1,300 on Craigslist (posting since deleted), but recently bumped up as high as $2,100 (posting also since deleted). The landlord’s now come down to a cool $1,925 per month (surely this posting will be deleted soon, too). Something tells me that space won’t be filled anytime soon.

A couple opportunities for civic engagement coming up:
– First, this Saturday is one of Mt. Scott-Arleta’s Tree Inventory workdays. I know, sounds boring. But it isn’t. Really. It’s also really helpful for the neighborhood, it’s tree canopy, and the organizers who rely solely on kind-hearted, considerate, decent, environment-loving, thoughtful, earth-saving volunteers. Please tell me you don’t fit into one of the above descriptions? More information here.
– Secondly, the Foster-Powell Neighborhood Association meets Monday. The second-Monday-monthly (except in August) meeting takes place at Foster Burger, from 6:30 – 8 pm. No agenda posted yet.

Finally, in addition to the live music posted above, here are more happenings for you to get into this weekend:
– Timbers viewing party at Portland Mercado, from 2 – 7: Fiesta Latina with Somos Timbers and La GranD Radio; viewing party in market hall and at Barrio, starting 4 pm
– Fifth installment of (Un)Made: Solo Relay Series at Performance Works NW: Jen Hackworth and Tahni Holt perform Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; $10
– Comedy Night at FoPo Tavern, Friday at 9 pm

Have a righteous weekend, y’all. Be cool, be safe.

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World Famous Cannabis Cafe Coming to Foster. But Where?

A couple weeks ago, the Willamette Week included this snippet in their weekly scoop:
    “WORLD FAMOUS FOR A REASON: In 2009, Portland’s World Famous Cannabis Cafe became the first cafe in the United States for state-authorized medical marijuana cardholders to socialize and safely medicate. The cafe quickly became legendary—it really was world famous—but after an upgrade to its Montavilla location, it closed in June 2014 after the city requested costly seismic improvements, and new laws eliminated the ability for patients to medicate onsite. Now that Measure 91 has passed, and anyone 21 and older will be allowed to consume marijuana on private property, the World Famous Cannabis Cafe is reopening. The new building will be on Southeast Foster Road, and founder Madeline Martinez, former executive director of NationalOrganization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws’ Oregon chapter, hopes to make it the best version yet. “Third time’s a charm,” she says.”

We all know that Foster Buds isn't the only dispensary on Foster. Just don't tell Google that.

We all know that Foster Buds isn’t the only dispensary on Foster. Just don’t tell Google that.

Obviously that caught our attention. But Foster is a long road. Very long. They could be setting up shop in Pleasant Valley for all we know. But then the Willy Week followed up the rumor with an article about the World Famous Cannabis Cafe’s owner, Madeline Martinez, in last week’s issue. Here, it is again reiterated that the shop will be on SE Foster, with some added details on what to expect:
     “…The new cafe will be on Southeast Foster Road, and Martinez is looking forward to making it the best version yet. Former cafe customers can expect the reinstatement of stoner bingo during the day (“Seniors love that—and they always giggle when we call number 69,” Martinez says), standup comedy, and live blues and funk on weekends.”

Here's our obligatory "RIP Smokey's"

Here’s our obligatory “RIP Smokey’s”

Ok, this is definitely not happening in Pleasant Valley. So where, then, will it be?

We definitely have enough dispensaries. But this is a cafe—maybe there’s no competition between the two. If so, I’d venture to say we’re looking at somewhere between the Lents Town Center and SE 52nd.

So on a slow blogging day, let’s just take a few stabs in the dark:

– First, there’s the former dispensary at SE 61st and Foster. (And we’re not so sure it’s a former dispensary—as in, the once-dispensing-green-pharmacy that was there ceased to operate as a business, but barbed wire remains, as does the occasional coming and going IMG_0169of people.) The bones are there; space; history in the industry; multi-use building; heavily trafficked and near the active night/bar scene just a few blocks east.

– Second, we have the Bob White or Wurlitzer Warehouse. The Bob White’s recent sale was done so in a shroud of mystery. And even after the purchase….silence. If not the former theater, the Wurlitzer Warehouse behind it already has a makeshift bar setup (which can serve as a cafe counter); a stage for live music; and an industrial feel that might make such a use not so blatant near a residential area. And let’s not forget that Mr. Storie, the Bob White’s former owner who still has control of the Wurlitzer, once stated a passing interest in a grow operation in the space. Whether he was joking or not, the curiosity remains.

– Third, the mystery space next to Torta-landia (on the north side). Again, we’re not trying to start rumors, just posing hypothetical landing spots. While this space is not technically on Foster, it is only one block off the main thoroughfare. It’s also conveniently imagelocated next to (not one, but) two Mexican restaurants (Torta—duh—and Nayar Taqueria). Once home to a Kambucha company, renovations have been slowly going on for the last couple months (see frosted windows to the left) Oh, and we were recently told by someone that they thought storefront improvements on that space were to prepare for a proposed dispensary. If that rumor is true, could dispensary = WFCC?

Who knows. Maybe they plan to open at the former Fruit Face (on 92nd). Maybe they will be in Pleasant Valley after all. Maybe they’ll sandwich themselves between Henry Higgins Bagels and the future Cafe Red to throw everyone for a loop.

I suppose we’ll find out soon enough, at which point we’ll actually have real content to share, not just speculation fluff.

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More Food in the Neighborhood: Rose VL Deli is Now Open

So there’s this….
















Rose VL Cafe is now open at the funky strip-mall/parking-strip on SE Powell and 65th. If you haven’t been to their parent cafe on SE 82nd (near Fubon), expect tasty (or “meticulous,” as they say) soups, sandwiches and, among other things, bubble tea. The Vietnamese cafe will make a nice addition to this stretch of Powell, where they’ll be joining such places as El Campasino, Siri Thai, The Lodge Bar and Grill, Steakadelphia, and Spritely Bean coffee shop—all within walking distance.


* Oh, and if you’re feeling adventurous, hit up Dickey Doo’s for a post-meal drink. (We’ll just assume that shooting a couple months ago was an anomaly.) Or don’t. But if you do, please share your experience.

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Meet Your Neighbors: Jason and Alia Hoffman, from Darling Press

This profile comes courtesy of guest contributor, Emily Dart-McLean. She recently caught up with  Jason and Alia Hoffman, owners of Darling Press, to get the lowdown on the tag-team duo who runs their business at Foster Row.
By now, if you are in the hood you have heard word of Foster Row, a creative space for makers, centrally located between the Decorette Shop and Thai Cam Video. Foster Row Darling Press, Storefronthas brought new energy to the strip of Foster that…well… host a lot of the “strips” on Foster. I had the chance to sit down with Jason and Alia Hoffman, the owners of Darling Press to learn more about them and their business. Darling Press holds down shop at the east-side corner of the building, where they can be spotted slinging printed goods, curating and maintaining the storefront (where they sell a variety of local artist goodies) and occasionally working alongside their sweet children and little dog, Couscous. Good designers, great aesthetic, extremely kind and friendly. Check them out…

Who are you and what do you do?
Often referring to ourselves as “modern day hippies,” we’re a couple of artists who are building our own business as best we can while raising two wonderful (small) human beings and improving the community around us. Our little storefront on Foster Road offers a little retail area where we offer a curated selection of local makers, and it’s also Darling Press, Jason and Aliawhere we letterpress wedding invitations, business cards, and our own line of paper goods.

What brought your business to Foster?
Our reliable friend, Craigslist.org
Before we moved our print shop to the Foster neighborhood we were working out of our home, three miles south of FoPo in the historic Darlington-Brentwood neighborhood. Once we outgrew our garage and searched around the internet for possible studio spaces, Foster Row seemed like a dream come true because it’s so close to our house, our kids’ schools, the grocery store — basically our whole life. Unless we’re camping in the woods, it’s a pretty good bet that we’re somewhere in “outer” SE Portland

What does your business bring to Foster?
Foster isn’t exactly known for it’s artistic culture (yet!), and we consider ourselves to be on the frontier, if you will, of the FoPo arts scene. Letterpress workshops, First Friday Darling Press, letterpressevents, and open figure drawing nights are the first of our dreams becoming reality. We are hoping to join forces with other makers and host a variety of workshops in our studio space — ideally book binding, paper making, calligraphy, and other paper-related crafts. We are also planning exciting community events with our Foster Row neighbor Wolf + Rabbit Emporium, who offers a host of additional classes, workshops, and events. Both spaces offer a fine selection of gifts and goods, too.

You have a centrally located storefront, have you seen any changes on Foster over the past year?
We love watching new food carts arrive at Carts on Foster. It’s awesome that Tacos Chavez took over the old Thai Street Food that had been empty for so long. It was poignant to see the Drive-In building demolished, and I think the neighborhood lost a Darling Press, retaillittle of its connection with the past. By the same token, we’re excited to see what will take its place.

What is your favorite thing about the Foster neighborhood (where do you go)?
It may be pretty obvious, but our most frequented spot on Foster is I’ve Been Framed, where we pick up art supplies and paper often — usually after we’ve dropped off a few packages at the Post Office. Sometimes we’ll meander just a little further to check out the selection in the record store (Variety Shop). Although we’ve tried just about every cart at Carts on Foster, Roadrunner’s smoked pork brisket is a near-constant craving. On the late nights, when we have spent too much time at the presses and have left zero time for preparing meals, Foster Burger is our saving grace.

If Foster had a theme song, what would it be? 
We’d say that right now, the west end of Foster is definitely Herb Albert’s “Love Potion #9,” but it has the potential for Quincy Jones’s “Comin’ Home Baby.”

Thanks to Emily for hooking up with Darling Press’s Jason and Alia Hoffman. Don’t forget that Foster has a lot of options for you to shop locally, and Darling Press can help you keep your money in the neighborhood if and when you’re in the market for custom-made letters, cards, invitations, etc. Keep it local, y’all.

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