Made in Portland. Yep, that sure has a nice ring to it. From clothing and accessories to snacks and other fun finds, we’ve rounded up 18 things homegrown in the City of Roses.
While some of these brands have branched out beyond our city, one thing’s for sure — there’s some major inspo happening around these parts.
Charles Danner felt the call of the wild when he moved his company from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, to Portland in 1936. He saw the market for durable boots, a necessity for the many loggers who plied their trade in the rugged forests of Oregon. The company and its products are built to last — you can still shop for Danner footwear downtown.
Founder Gert Boyle, AKA “Tough Mother,” built a brand on her own determination and the remarkable story of her family. In 1937, her parents fled Nazi Germany for Portland and purchased a small hat manufacturer called Columbia Hat Company. When her husband Neal died suddenly in 1970, she inherited the business, leaving behind life as a housewife to become the executive of the adventurous outdoors enterprise.
Since its launch in 2014, everyone from out-of-towners and lifelong residents to Portland’s professional athletes and celebrities has sported the emblematic “P” containing the shape of Oregon. Collabs with local movers and shakers like Breakside Brewing, OHSU, and the Winterhawks have been key to the brand’s meteoric rise. Read about it in cofounder Marcus Harvey’s memoir “Product of the People.”
Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, two Portland natives, cofounded Blue Ribbon Sports at the University of Oregon in 1964 after developing the first spikeless running shoe using a waffle iron. The company eventually rebranded to Nike, and in 1971, Portland State University graphics student Carolyn Davidson designed its iconic logo. Although she initially received just $35 — or about $200 with inflation — she was later rewarded with a diamond ring and company shares. The apparel giant’s world headquarters moved to Beaverton in 1990.
The “Caroline” rapper was born and raised in Northeast Portland’s Woodlawn neighborhood, graduating from Benson Polytechnic High School before dropping out of Portland State University to pursue his music career. His lyrics and videos are dripping with his love for the city and the Trail Blazers. He even snagged a sneaker deal with New Balance.
In 2000, frontman Colin Meloy left Montana to move to Portland, where he met up with fellow band members. The group became an indie folk-pop sensation, drawing on the melancholy of the year’s final month — and an unsuccessful uprising in 19th-century Russia — to formulate a signature sound.
The Dandy Warhols
This group has made us feel so “Bohemian Like You” for nearly three decades. Guitarists Courtney Taylor-Taylor and Peter Holmström, drummer Eric Hedford, and keyboardist Zia McCabe started by playing shows rife with nudity in grungy Portland bars, before releasing their first album “Dandys Rule OK” in 1995.
Following a tumultuous childhood that involved his father walking out, Art Alexakis fell into drugs, nearly overdosing before he cleaned up. Following a brief stint in San Francisco, the musician moved with his pregnant girlfriend back to her hometown — Portland. He took an ad out in “The Rocket,” a PNW music magazine; he received two responses — bass player Craig Montoya and drummer Scott Cuthbert — forming the band that went on to produce hits like “Wonderful” and “I Will Buy You a New Life.”
Phillips head screw and driver
You would think if you invented a tool that literally built the country — and can now be found in every single toolbox — that you would’ve held onto the patent. But very little is known about Portland auto mechanic John P. Thompson, who created the Phillips head screw and driver and subsequently transferred the rights to Henry F. Phillips, the managing director of a mine in eastern Oregon. Talk about having a screw loose.
Quick-release ski bindings
Sometimes the creative process can be, well, painful. Competitive Norwegian skier Hjalmar Hvam, who moved to Portland in 1927, was sitting in a hospital bed with a broken leg when he designed the first quick-release ski binding. At the time, skiing involved sticking your boot into rigid irons, which could cause gruesome injuries if your leg was twisted. After breaking the same leg a few years later, he finally worked out a safer prototype, and the first manufactured Saf-Ski bindings were put into action by the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division in World War II.
The modern chainsaw blade
While out in the forests of the Oregon Coast Range, Portland lumberjack Joe Cox noticed how effectively timber worms could chew through wood by cross-cutting against the grain. Inspired by their C-shaped jaws, he added hooked chisel teeth to a motorcycle drive chain — the result was a vast improvement on existing mechanized saws. Joe filed for a patent, and in 1947, he founded Oregon Saw Chain Manufacturing Corporation, known today as Oregon Tool. It wasn’t long before his “bug chains” were sold around the world.
Food and drink
Dave’s Killer Bread
Hailing from a long line of bakers, Dave Dahl ended up spending 15 years in prison for multiple offenses. When he got out, he and his brother Glenn developed an organic loaf made with seeds and grains and began selling it at the Portland Farmers Market in 2005. Since the beginning, the company has employed ex-criminals and is a proud Second Chance Employer.
Secret Aardvark Trading Co.
Scott Mortiz’s sauces and marinades skyrocketed to flavor fame in 2004, launching from local farmers markets to eateries around the world. The habanero hot sauce adds a delicious kick to anything — but especially the Reggie Deluxe at Pine State Biscuits.
With all of the vegan and plant-based dining options we have available today, it makes sense that the inventor of the Gardenburger lived in the Portland area too. In the early 1980s, Paul Wenner owned a Gresham vegetarian restaurant called Gardenhouse and was looking for a way to reuse all of the leftovers in his kitchen. He decided to blend the veggies with rice pilaf and craft it into a loaf — but the real eureka moment struck when he fashioned the mixture into a patty.
Self-procalimed “mompreneur” Pallavi Pande’s company creates eco-friendly tableware made from naturally fallen palm leaves. As a child growing up in India, she and her family would eat off of banana leaves — a fact that instilled in her a passion for sustainability and respect for Mother Nature. Each plate is chemical- and plastic-free, compostable, and microwave safe, plus a portion of proceeds goes toward improving education for the poor communities in her native country.
Before it became the sacred ritual of really chill college kids, Hacky Sack was the passion project of Oregon City’s John Stalberger and Mike Marshall. Mike learned the game, which has fascinating ancient origins, from a fellow inmate in a military brig and John found it therapeutic for his injured knee. The friends’ first version was a denim cube stuffed with rice, but eventually the business partners developed a round, double-layered product that was easier to maneuver.
Big League Chew
It may seem made up, but television actor Bing Russell once owned a minor league baseball team in Portland. While there are many mind-blowing moments to come out of the Mavericks — like the owner’s son Kurt Russell playing second base — a particularly fun tale is the origin of Big League Chew. Left-handed pitcher Rob Nelson came up with the bright pink, shredded bubble gum as an alternative to chewing tobacco, which many of his teammates used.
In 1995, Portland resident Ward Cunningham invented the wiki, a collaborative website where people can share ideas in an easily accessible format. His original invention, WikiWikiWeb was built to accompany his archive of computer programming designs, but it also laid the groundwork for one of the most-visited websites in the world — Wikipedia.
What did we miss? If you know an invention that’s not on the list, let us know using this survey.