DAY TRIPPIN IN PDX
I took a much needed day off and headed down to portland for a little adventure. i didn't really have a firm agenda other than to visit rapha and to get voodoo donut (a request from the wife). i had sketched out a few other places to visit but left most of the day open and i'm glad i did. it turned out that my little impromptu trip was just what i needed to decompress and recharge.
one of great things about portland is the proximity to seattle which in turn means there are a plethora of transportation options (plane, train, automobile, or bus are all fairly convenient). today, i chose to fly. leaving a moody, drizzly seattle behind, it was a bumpy ride down to portland, however, i stepped out to mostly cloudy skies that hinted at a sun intent on making an appearance. that would be just fine by me. i hopped on the MAX and headed into downtown portland for my first stop, one of the brands i revere most, rapha.
being a self confessed rapha junkie, this was akin to visiting the holy land for me. as i approached their north american HQ location, my heart started to beat a bit faster. after such a long relationship with the brand, this was my first visit to their office. it's one thing to go on a ride with rapha (when they came to seattle) or to visit with the crew that makes the trip up for starcrossed, but it's quite another thing to visit the office. i liken it to being invited into someone's home. as i pushed the door open, i was greeted by familiar faces, and my heart and breathing instantly returned to normal.
after a tour of the space (including the in house theater!), the coffee and conversation started flowing and an hour-and-a-half flew by in what felt like mere seconds. i checked out the just launched spring/summer '14 range (made my wish list) and took in all the great artifacts hanging throughout the space. and then the most random thing happened. someone i knew from seattle rolled up. talk about a small world!
i could have stayed the entire day (give me a laptop and put me to work!) but i knew that while i didn't have anything to do per se, they probably had stuff to get done, so i said my "until next time," took in one more look around, and headed out for the next stop on my adventure, Voodoo Donut.
I made this my next stop because i couldn't stand the thought of facing the wife and telling her i forgot or didn't have time to get Voodoo Donut. i'm glad i did too because in my loose itinerary, i hadn't accounted for waiting in a long line. i was a bit shocked that there was even a line mid-day, but luckily it moved fairly quickly. once inside though there was a moment of panic as i took in the menu board detailing all the variations. as i inched towards the counter i feared i might not know what i wanted to get but thankfully, i reached a decision just as i heard, "next!"
with the two things i really wanted to accomplish complete, i had a bit of time between my next stop, stumptown coffee. now you're probably wondering why the heck am i prioritizing a coffee stop above all the other places i could be going. and you're also probably thinking, "aren't you from seattle where there's coffee on every corner?" well yes, but my visit to stumptown wasn't about refueling. thanks to a certain someone, i was heading to stumptown's roasting facility to get a peak into where all the magic happens! i was so excited because stumptown is my bean of choice at home.
as i was making my way towards stumptown's salmon street location a sign on the left hand side of the road caught my eye -- river city bicycles! oooohhh! i checked the time, realized i had a few extra minutes before my appointment so i detoured for a quick visit. i had heard a lot about river city and had an image built up in my head as i approached the entrance. and as i set foot into the store i was slapped in the face by the hand belonging to mr. anti-climactic. the first thing i saw were dense racks of endura brand clothing, a stack of items that appear to be on sale to the right, and display cases of oakleys. this is not what i had envisioned -- after all, they stock rapha, kings/queens of taste/style/substance. i took a breath and stepped further in and started making my through the store. things started looking up when i saw all the vintage bikes hanging from the ceiling. as i made a loop i also saw the new lemond frames hanging from the ceiling. by the way, they're MUCH better looking in person. while the store felt a bit chaotic for what i tend to like, there were some gems to be found. i'm glad i stopped, if nothing else to see those vintage bikes. conscious of time, i resumed my journey to stumptown.
as i walked to the entrance of stumptown, a familiar smell of roasting beans hit my nose. i took a deep breath and smiled. the annex, as the salmon street location is called, has history and character written all over it. from the artifacts on the left wall as you walk in to the amazing hardwood floors, it's a space that honors the original business that occupied the space while blending in a modern feel for the business that currently occupies the space.
my one-on-one tour was led by Bo, who oversees training for wholesale accounts. he told me how stumptown was conceived and introduced me to one of the most important ingredients at the location -- the people. we toured the roasting area, the cupping room, and the packaging/distribution area and everyone i saw and met were deeply passionate about what they were doing. it's one thing to acquire great beans but it takes people to translate that raw material into the product i enjoy and takes people who believe in the product to effectively sell the vision for stumptown. and it shows. stumptown has recently expanded into los angeles, and bo talked about how that was going. when we got to the packaging area, i was blown away to learn that every single bag of coffee is hand packed and weighed before being shipped/sent to retail. every single bag. now that's hands on.
in fact, throughout the tour i started see a parallel with rapha:
when you care so much about what you're doing, and you truly believe in your brand, its mission, the product, the role your customers play, and how you fit into the overall picture, then no detail is too small. ever.
rapha and stumptown seem to share this same ideology. and i think it's awesome. in this era of disposable/substitutable/replaceable everything, it's reassuring to know there are brands still pursuing a mission built around uncompromising quality and high customer value vs. what feels like the norm --obsessively oriented around maximizing profit at the expense of everything else.
soon my tour was over and it was coincidentally time to head to the MAX station so i could start the trip home. later, as i stared out my window on the plane and with the sun's rays warming my face, ice cube's it was a good day popped into my head. today WAS a good day.