The Story Behind the Mississippi Miracle
If you could pack all the heart and soul of Portland into one street, it would have to be Mississippi Avenue. Home to Portland’s largest African-American population, it’s become the hottest, trendiest, most-Portland street in Portland. I love the annual Street Fair, one of the city’s largest, but any jaunt on any day is still a great one when it comes to Mississippi Avenue. From food to shopping to entertainment, the options are as broad as they are eclectic.
But before we get to that, let’s talk a bit about how Mississippi Avenue came to be a hot spot. Its roots go back to the late 1800s, when Portland was just an infant as far as cities go. Eventually, this once-thriving, bustling neighborhood began to lose its shine. By the mid-1990s, the cheapened land was lapped up by developers. Apartments and condos sprung up. Boutiques moved in. The soul was slowly giving way to trendy.
It wasn’t until the very end of what was a truly unfair, brutal, and all too common gentrification process that the neighborhood banned together and raised money to save the last African American owned building. A little late in my opinion, but at least at some point the community was determined to hang onto what made this area great to begin. This banding together reminded our community to be leaders in inclusiveness and though this story is far from perfect, it’s sadly one of the more encouraging accounts around when it comes to responsible growth, and what is being done to stop the pushing out of original community members.
Instead this district is aiming to create a blending of cultures through community events like Open Signal’s annual NE Block Party: Bring that Beat Back happening Aug 26th. Community oriented gatherings like this are just the beginning, but as more people move into the area to live and do business, this tightly knit community continues to expand to welcome everyone. An independent spirit and a quirkiness, mingled with good taste, great food, and a heightened awareness of what makes a community strong. And that’s the Mississippi Miracle.
Today, you’ll find Mississippi Avenue filled with artists, entrepreneurs, and a few Victorian homes mingled in between the modern buildings. Somehow it all works. Plus, there’s a great mix of dining and shopping options. Here are a few of my favorites along Mississippi Avenue and surrounding streets:
Shop Along Mississippi Avenue
In The Meadow, you’ll find a unique assortment of food, flowers, and ingredients. From salts to chocolates to bitters, you’ll find the best collection of finishing touches as well as the classiest barware. Take a peek. It will feel just like home.
Salty’s Dog and Cat Shop
Okay, so you know I love Salty’s Pet Supply, just because they cater to cats and I’m the Cat Lady Realtor. Okay fine they have a full dog and other pet section too. I love that they’re local and the owner is a community member I know and trust. They love to have dogs and cats come visit and are amazing at providing informed advice that’s friendly and thoughtful.
North Portland Bike Works
I’m crazy about green living, so having a bike shop that’s also a non profit? That makes me love North Portland Bike Works all the more. They have bikes, parts, and classes on how to repair anything bike-related you can think of. I also found the CUTEST bike helmet there. And believe it or not, I can be a little bit picky! I know you are shocked to read that about me.
Even if you don’t want a lightbulb, I’d encourage you to swing into Sunlan Lighting just so you can meet Kay “The Light Bulb Lady.” She’s hung on through all the changes in the area, and become the go-to for specialty bulbs in Portland (and her amazing and quirky window displays). She’s even had a feature film created about her called “The Sun’s Only Rival.”
A beautiful, thoughtful, locally-sourced shop that puts you in reverie the moment you cross the threshold, Pistals Nursery is home to succulents, air plants, pots, and a plethora of classes and plant care advice. But don’t let their smaller size hide their huge heart for community. Their robust design and installation services go hand-in-hand with this vision of building out spaces that encourage community and connection.
The Rebuilding Center
Portland’s Rebuilding Center oozes with project possibilities. Every single day, 8 tons of materials move through this store, reducing waste, and renewing this city one doorknob, cabinet, and light fixture at a time. With a robust rotation of classes, an ever-changing inventory, and deconstructing services that never rest, The ReBuilding Center builds community through reuse.
Eat Along Mississippi Avenue
When you need a break from shopping, the food choices are just as varied as the shopping ones. Prost Marketplace is a foodcart pod right next to the Prost! Beer Bar. Rumor has it that 3 new carts are opening up here in the very near future, including a Little Conejo (taqueria), Bloodbuzz (cocktail cart), and Breadbox (sandwich cart…actually just opened and it’s delish).
Olympia Oyster Bar
This is one of my favorite Happy Hour finds. A raw half dozen on the halfshell and a London Buck and I’m a happy gal. There’s one thing for sure, Olympia Oyster Bar definitely classes it up without being stuffy. It’s a favorite spot to wind down after a long day, or wind up for an evening out. It also happens to be directly next door to Scout. Who wants to happy hour with me?!
Liberty Glass Bar
Pink House. Need I say more? Named after their great grandparent’s post-prohibition bar in the Midwest, Liberty Glass Bar knows food, drinks, and good times, just like home. This is another favorite happy hour stop.
Radar is one of those places that pulls you in and makes you feel comfortable. Met with rave reviews by Food & Wine (2nd on the list for best bar food), Bon Appetit (best way to eat radishes), PDXMonthly (best brunch place), and a solid 5 star review on Facebook, if you haven’t been to Radar yet, you’re missing out. Just yum, all around.
There are so many choices, I could wander for days. It’s neighborhoods like this that make me so glad I live in Portland and even more grateful my office is located on this thriving street!