For this episode of Meet Microcosm we talk to the newly moved Portland store!
Q: So, Portland store, you just moved to a new location. Tell us what people can expect from the new spot and how it’s different than the last two…
Joe: Well, the store can no longer be compared to metaphors about a clown car. I was honestly amazed to see how much stuff we had shoe-horned into the old store once it was spread out in our warehouse. And prior to that we were in Liberty Hall, which was more like an office than a store. Our setups were just not geared for browsing; they were setup for packing orders. Now we have 600 sq’ of store with all of our stuff nicely spread out and with lots of displays and attention to each little area. We get to show off all our little murals and you don’t have to pick stuff up to find what you’re looking for. Yes, that was fun but people also need to be able to browse. My favorite part is that, because the books were so jam-packed onto the old shelves, people always think the book they just noticed is new, when we have often had it for 2-3 years. But we are still getting in new books regularly—at least as fast as they come out—and we’ve got lots of books that our mailorder catalog doesn’t. What fun. It’s like a diamond hunt. We’ve also got tons of old and new zines and even more shelves for them. It’s still fun. Maybe I just like building shelves and seeing the signs that Matt, Rio, and Pamela paint on them.
Q: Who are you sharing a space with this time around and what’s it like being with them? Do you guys ever have roommate fights (or haughty pillowfights?)
Joe: We share our building now with Printed Matter who does textile screenprinting like our patches, Eberhardt Press who does offset printing like our zines, and Bruce the letterpress guy who we haven’t figured out how to incorporate into our shop yet. The artist Klutch (not to be confused with the comic Clutch) also has a studio in our building for painting. It’s rad to be with people that have aesthetic, ethical, and political similarities to our organization and who work really hard for everything they’ve got. I find it really encouraging to be around other people who are putting in long hours. Sadly there have not yet been any pillow fights. But we haven’t lost hope.
Q: The neighborhood you’re in has some really cool stores, including the Vegan Strip Mall. If someone was coming from out of town, where would you suggest going for a mini tour of the ‘hood?
Joe: We are two short blocks from Sweetpea Bakery, Herbivore Clothing, Food Fight Grocery, Scapegoat Tattoo, and The Red & Black Cafe, all of whom we seem to share a lot of patrons with. I think it’s important to visit each one to see what the deal is. With all of us in tow, and the hardware store in between, virtually all of your needs can be met! You’ve also gotta visit the dog park, to play everybody else’s puppies, which is great, because you can play fetch and rub bellies without having to clean up after them! I really like this neighborhood and we plan to be here for years to come.
Q: Last I heard you have a lot of people coming from other countries to check out the selection. True? What kinds of things do they buy?
Joe: The people from Canada are the sweetest, the cutest are from Australia, but the Europeans really nail it just for being so damned interested—and interesting! Strangely, they are just like you or me. They buy zines though they tend to read a little more and have longer attention spans. So when I see a Canadian or European, I try to point them to the “you must be insane to read over 600 pages” or “things no one is ever going to buy” sections. I particularly enjoy it when you get a friendly person from a country that is primarily non-English speaking but is a huge fan of zines. Because they don’t often have a lot of zines being produced in their native country and the only ones they can get are written in English, they are very excited to load up while in the store. And in that regard, Americans often tend to ask for what you, the shopkeeper, like. People from other countries still have the skill that I hear Americans had in used bookstores before the 1980s, where they could browse a zine for 5-10 seconds and determine if they are interested in it. Fascinating. I think it’s worth mentioning that Japan sends over some visitors who are SO excited about bikes and zines that they buy tons of stuff. Watching out-of-towner’s faces take the magnitude of the store in is pretty funny, too.
Q: What are some of your favorite things you have in you right now?
Joe: That Gabby Schulz/Ken Dahl book Monsters is just so-fucking-unbelievably-good. The new Ariel Gore book Bluebird about happiness is great. That and virtually any zine in the store.
Rio: R. Crumb’s Illustrated Book of Genesis. And a micro-zine about bad ass women called Bad Ass #2 by Mark Todd.
Matt: The Getting Out book on leaving the US is pretty rad, and that new Gristle book rules! Zine Libs is always a favorite.
Q: What have people been buying a lot of lately?
Joe: Two women bought over one hundred stickers yesterday. Other than that, a close runner up is Henry & Glenn Forever.
Rio: The Poor Man’s James Bond 2!
Matt: We sold three copies of Girls Aren’t Chicks coloring book the other day. DIY Submachine Gun was a major victory.
Q: Give us five things you have that might surprise us…
Rio: We have a section for coloring books! All of our shirts are neatly folded and displayed! A jackalope watches over our Cometbus/Doris display! The last two surprises are that we can fit thirty odd people in here (for a change) and they’d all have room to dance.
Q: Finally, who works inside your storebody and what are their superpowers?
Matt can paint on any surface with any material as ink. He can make anything like visually amazing. His work stills beating hearts. Rio retired his lucrative gig as a snake oil salesman to work here. He can find the perfect zine for any customer that walks in our doors. He also fixes shoes. Robin worked in stores before this one and knows how to do mythical things like “help customers” and “interact with the outside world.” Pamela has the patience to spend over an hour painting single millimeter brush strokes onto a canvas because she can envision the final result. Joe can find any pile of trash and conceptualize how it’s practical or even useful to build into something for the store.
(Photo credit: All photos by Elly Blue)