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District Spotlight: Woodstock
In the late 1800’s, the outskirts of Southeast Portland were mostly forests and farmland. Despite its rural geography, a thriving business district would eventually develop in these rolling hills. Five miles southeast of bustling Old Town, the Woodstock Business District was first settled in 1852. The area was developed in 1889 and given the name ‘Woodstock’ in honor of the Sir Walter Scott novel. Thanks to a new trolley line connecting the area to downtown and the newly constructed Reed College nearby, businesses recognized an opportunity to serve the area’s growing residential and student population. Today, Woodstock has more to offer than ever, with locals, students and visitors flocking to the district’s many destination businesses for fabulous food, unique retail and quality services.
Venture Portland sat down with the leaders of the Woodstock Community Business Association (WCBA) to talk about what they love about the district and why they are proud to call Woodstock home.
Thad Davis is the President of WCBA and owner of Payroll on Time, a payroll firm focused on client-centered, local service. Elisa Edgington is WCBA Treasurer and Hospital Manager at VCA Woodstock, which offers veterinary services for dogs and cats with an emphasis on preventative medicine. Stacey Lennon is a WCBA and Venture Portland board member and Sales Representative at Payroll on Time.
What do you enjoy most about Woodstock?
Thad: I’ve lived in every quadrant of the city and Woodstock is definitely my favorite place. I like how you can get everything you need here. You never have to leave if you don’t want to!
Elisa: I like how it feels like a small town. It has a Portland vibe but you don’t feel like you’re in the middle of a big city.
Stacey: Until recently we’ve been relatively undiscovered so I think that has kept the small town vibe alive. You walk down the street and see people you know.
The Woodstock Business District contains 417 businesses that provide 3,089 jobs. The district is bounded by SE Cesar E Chavez Blvd to the West, SE 62nd Avenue to the East and SE Holgate Blvd to the north and SE Johnson Creek Blvd to the south. The district also contains Woodstock Park, which was acquired in 1921 and features playing fields and an accessible play area. The park is adjacent to Woodstock Elementary School, which was built in 1910 and is the oldest standing elementary school in Portland.
How has Woodstock’s identity changed over time?
Thad: The biggest change has been the growth! A lot of the streets in the district are unpaved so historically they’ve been used as duck ponds more than roads, but now were starting to see a lot of new larger developments bringing density to these areas.
Stacey: New Seasons Market was really the catalyst for growth. They really set a new standard for larger buildings being built in the district.
Elisa: We’re seeing more young families spending time in the district when they used to just pass through on their way to somewhere else.
Stacey: Double Mountain is another great newer addition to the district. They came in and really revitalized their space.
Thad: The increased density has also been great for businesses at the eastern end of the district near 52nd Avenue like Heart Coffee Roasters, Kaleafa and Super Torta. That area is often missed by visitors since its a few blocks away from the heart of the district.
New Seasons Market Woodstock opened in 2015 and, in addition to groceries, features a 100-seat rooftop bar and kid’s play area; Double Mountain began in Hood River in 2007 and opened their Woodstock taproom in 2016 which serves up New Haven style pizza, sandwiches and beer; Heart Coffee Roasters began in 2009 and has partnered with coffee producers in Brazil, Columbia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya and Mexico; Kaleafa began in 2014 as a small medical cannabis dispensary on SE Woodstock Blvd and now has locations throughout Western Oregon and Super Torta serves authentic burritos, tamales, tacos, and of course, tortas.
What would be your perfect day of food in Woodstock?
Elisa: Toast is a great breakfast spot. I really like Woodstock Wine and Deli for lunch. Their sandwiches are really good! For dinner I would go to Portland Fish Market – they make some of the best Fish and Chips I’ve ever had.
Thad: For breakfast I typically get a bagel from Papaccino’s or a muffin from Grand Central Bakery. For lunch I would go to Otto’s Sausage Kitchen. They are known for their grilled sausages but I think their secret treasure is their hot sandwiches. For dinner I would go to Bridge City Pizza. They are one of the only places I’ve found true Chicago-style pizza in Portland. For dessert I would go to Mehri’s Café and Bakery. They provide desserts for WCBA meetings and they are delicious.
Stacey: Bergerac has remained pretty undiscovered but has a outstanding brunch. They serve the most beautiful poached egg I’ve ever had. And there’s never a wait! My lunch would be at Tom-Yum Thai Cuisine because I love Thai food. A lot of people don’t notice them because they are tucked away in a shopping center but their food is fantastic. For dinner I would get fried chicken from the Delta Café.
Toast opened in 2010 and serves homestyle breakfast and brunch using fresh, local ingredients and breads and pastries baked in-house; Woodstock Wine and Deli opened in 1985 and features wines from around the world and signature dishes like Mushroom Pate and Clam Chowder; Portland Fish Market opened in 2014 and specializes in wild-caught fish and shellfish from fishers in coastal towns like Garibaldi and Ilwaco; Papaccino’s is a coffee house that features a cereal bar and kid’s play area; Grand Central Bakery Woodstock opened in 2014 and offers fresh-baked pastries, sandwiches and salads; Otto’s Sausage Kitchen opened in 1929 and is a fifth generation family-owned business. The shop offers more than 40 different kinds of sausage and was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Bridge City Pizza serves authentic Chicago-style thin crust, with cheese, toppings and sauce brought right to the edge; Mehri’s Café and Bakery opened in 2003 and specializes in desserts and wedding cakes but also serves various Persian dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner; Bergerac serves dishes from Southwestern France, a region known for duck confit, wine, walnuts and foie gras; Tom-Yum Thai Cuisine serves noodles, curries, wontons, pad Thai, soup and other Thai specialties; Delta Café opened in 1994 and serves up Southern staples like blackened catfish and shrimp and grits and hosts live music on weekends.
What are some kid-friendly businesses in Woodstock?
Stacey: Piccolina is a kid’s resale shop. They also do consignment with local businesses that make kid’s clothing. The owner lives in the neighborhood and is very engaged in the community.
Elisa: Double Mountain has solid options for kids. Parents can have a beer and you don’t have to worry if your kids are too noisy.
Stacey: Dick’s Primal Burger is super family-friendly. They do a lot of fundraisers for our local elementary schools.
Thad: The Woodstock Community Center does a lot of activities that are geared toward children. They have a preschool there, Tae Kwon Do and Toddler Art Time. The community has really come together to keep it thriving. The WCBA has 2 board spots for the local neighborhood association and Woodstock Stakeholders Group so there’s a lot of collaboration with residents and property owners.
Elisa: The perfect example of this is the Halloween on Woodstock event we do every year. The Woodstock Library starts the day with some not-so-spooky stories and then kids can trick or treat at businesses along the Boulevard. Woodstock Farmers Market hosts activities in their parking lot as well.
Piccolina opened in 2008 and carries recycled and locally made kids clothing, toys, strollers, bedding and more; Dick’s Primal Burger is the nation’s first diner to incorporate dietary needs into its menu by offering fare made from healthy, humanely raised ingredients; Woodstock Community Center is located in a historic 1928 firehouse and offers a variety of recreation activities and enrichment classes for all ages; Halloween on Woodstock happens on the Sunday before Halloween and features trick-or-treating at local businesses, kid’s crafts and live music; Woodstock Library has existed in various forms since 1908 but the current building was completed in 2000 and includes special Chinese and Spanish collections and Woodstock Farmers Market was founded in 2010 by the WCBA and features more than 40 vendors and live music every Sunday in June-October.
What are some legacy businesses in Woodstock?
Thad: Otto’s Sausage Kitchen is ‘The Original Woodstock Business’ because they have been around since 1929. They are a great community partner. If you ever need a bunch of hot dogs for an event you should go to Otto’s!
Stacey: Whenever I visit my parents my mom always asks me to bring her some dogs from Otto’s! Another long-time Woodstock business was The Joinery. They make lots of really cool custom furniture. After 37 years in the district they outgrew their space and recently moved to St. Johns but we wish them the best!
Elisa: Lutz Tavern has been here forever. They are the bar that made Pabst Blue Ribbon popular!
The Joinery began in 1982 as a furniture refurbishing and repair business and now handmakes a variety of hardwood furniture using traditional woodworking techniques; Lutz Tavern opened in 1947 and is known for saving Pabst Blue Ribbon with record setting sales of the blue collar beer in the early 2000’s. Other legacy businesses include Woodstock Hardware, which opened in 1914 and offers household tools, supplies and even skateboard equipment and Sho’s Auto Repair, which opened in 1961 and provides car maintenance and repair backed by a 1-year 10,000 mile warranty.
What makes Woodstock a destination for arts and culture?
Elisa: It started with a couple businesses just wanting to brighten up blank wall space and now you can find at least one mural on nearly every block in the heart of the district. When we realized we were becoming known as an arts district, we wanted to continue to grow the amount street art.
Stacey: Angie Even from the Woodstock Stakeholders Group started the Woodstock Street Art Project to commission new murals and applied for a Venture Portland grant for 10 new art trash cans painted by Rather Severe. They are the artists who did some of Woodstock’s other murals so it helps us stay consistent with the identity of the district.
Thad: City Sanitary was very generous to donate garbage pickup for those cans. It keeps our district really clean! The Woodstock Mural Committee is another group responsible for bring public art to the district. They helped create the massive Woodstock Community Mural on the side of New Seasons.
The Woodstock Street Art Project started in 2016 and has partnered with RACC and Metro to commission murals on Cloud City Ice Cream, Delta Cafe and Red Fox Vintage; Rather Severe is the brainchild of Travis Czekalski and Jon Stommel, who have created murals for Adidas, Target, Microsoft and more; City Sanitary started in 2013 and processes 80,000 tons of material each year. The Woodstock Community Mural took two years to complete, and is the work of local artists Mike Lawrence and Heidi Schultz. The mural’s themes are commerce, education and agriculture and it contains many references to Woodstock businesses. The district is also home to several tattoo studios – Forbidden Custom Tattooing which opened in 2004; Tattoos on Woodstock which opened in 2005; 7 Zodiacs Tattoo which opened in 2012 and Wonderland Tattoo which opened in 2013. Also nearby is The Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery at Reed College which was established in 1988 and hosts three to four exhibitions a year that would otherwise not be seen in the region. The college is also home to a state of the art Performance Arts Building which opened in 2013 and includes rehearsal and performance space, offices, scene and costume studios, collaborative spaces, and a multimedia lab.
What are some hidden gems in the District that most people might not know about?
Thad: Red Fox Vintage is a consignment shop with more than 55 vendors. It’s my go to spot for buying presents for all ages. You can find everything from locally made jewelry, art, records, even stuff you had as a kid! Proper Pint Taproom is also great. They have a rotating menu of 32 different beers curated by the owner. They’ve got an outdoor patio and are really dog-friendly.
Stacey: Cloud City Ice Cream! But don’t tell anyone! It’s so good people line up around the block for their ice cream in the summertime. Key Bank is a really active bank in the district. They host the Woodstock Farmers Market in their parking lot every week. Advantis Credit Union is also great. They are the presenting sponsor for our Woodstock Gives Back event. The UPS Store also helps out a lot with the event – they do all of our printing and their graphic designer is magical.
Elisa: We go to Shoko Sushi for every VCA Woodstock meeting! Transformations Salon is a great place to get your hair done. Eric Norberg from The Bee is a huge supporter and helps us promote all our events.
Red Fox Vintage opened in 2010 and sells a variety of clothing, furniture, art, jewelry, records and other oddities; Proper Pint Taproom keeps a live tap list on their website and regularly hosts pop-ups and shows Portland Timbers games; Cloud City Ice Cream opened in 2011 and features flavors like Bananas Foster and Roasted Cherry Mascarpone that are inspired by the owner’s family recipes; Key Bank operates 1,100 branches in 15 states including 17 locations in Portland; Advantis Credit Union opened in 1928 and is now Oregon’s 6th largest credit union; Woodstock Gives Back is a district-wide day of giving that occurs on the second Sunday in September and features district businesses partnering with local charities and non-profits; The UPS Store offers printing, shipping, mailboxes, notary and graphic design services for individuals and small businesses; Shoko Sushi opened in 2017 and serves sashimi, noodle soups, yakisoba and tempura; Transformations Salon opened in 2001 and offers haircuts and color with a glass of wine or tea while you wait and The Bee started in 1906 and is the second oldest neighborhood newspaper in Portland.
What would be a good souvenir for a visitor to Woodstock?
Stacey: When New Seasons Market first opened in the district they partnered with Gumball Poodle to make Woodstock socks! Also, our Woodstock Gives Back posters this year were really cool if you were lucky enough to snag one. I might have a few extras…
If you are looking for a souvenir for your pet, Healthy Pets Northwest has a selection of treats, toys, food and CBD products. Visitors can reach the district by car via SE Cesar E. Chavez Blvd or SE 52nd Avenue, by Trimet’s 19, 71 and 75 buses, or via bike on SE 41st or 52nd Aves. Visitors on bike can get their rides serviced at The Missing Link, which offers tune ups, bike fitting and a variety of parts and accessories.
What future plans for Woodstock are you most excited about?
Stacey: I’m really excited about all the new businesses moving into the district like Hapa Ramen. They just transformed a space that had been vacant for a long time.
Elisa: I’m excited to see the southern part of our district continue to develop. Not a lot of people know that the Brentwood Darlington area is part of the Woodstock District but there’s a lot of great businesses down there like Three Sisters Nixtamal, Starlight Knitting Society, 52nd Ave Hardware and ASAP Market. They just haven’t quite reached the critical mass on SE Woodstock Boulevard. However, there’s a lot of new development happening there now so it is only a matter of time before SE 52nd Avenue becomes a destination in its own right. I’m also excited to continue growing the partnerships between WCBA, the neighborhood associations and the Woodstock Stakeholders Group and continue to foster that sense of collaboration and community.
Hapa Ramen started in 2013 as a food cart and was voted Portland’s Best Ramen by Lighthouse Magazine in 2015; Three Sisters Nixtamal started in 2012 when Co-Owner Adriana Azcárate-Ferbel inherited her aunt’s tortilla cutter used in her Enchilada Potosina business in Mexico; Starlight Knitting Society opened in 2015 and is a full service knit and crochet shop that offers classes, trunk shows and other special events; 52nd Ave Hardware offers lumber, paint and other building supplies and ASAP Market sells groceries, fresh baked bread and a variety of beverages.
For more info about Woodstock visit woodstockbiz.com.