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Transportation Nation

Fashion stores go mobile in Portland

Marketplace Staff Feb 10, 2011
Transportation Nation

Fashion stores go mobile in Portland

Marketplace Staff Feb 10, 2011


Kai Ryssdal: Portland, Ore., clearly loves its food carts. More than 600 of ’em were licensed in the city last year. You can find trucks and trailers all over the place, offering everything from burritos to Belgian waffles. But some new vehicles have rolled into town looking to add something different to the menu.

From Portland, Deena Prichep reports.

Deena Prichep: Vanessa Lurie and her husband opened their vintage clothing store, Wanderlust, last September. And their store is pretty distinctive. It’s run out of a 1969 Cardinal Deluxe trailer.

Vanessa Lurie: It used to have a kitchen, and this was a bed/dining room area, like kind of combo, where things folded up and down. We have a really small dressing room, which used to be the bathroom. It’s in here.

The trailer is full of vintage dresses, antique slips and handmade wallets that match the retro aesthetic. But housing a retail business in a tiny trailer has its drawbacks.

Lurie: My husband cannot fit in here without kind of bending over. He’s 6’2″.

On the bright side, a small trailer is easy to haul around town. You can find Wanderlust parked at local craft sales and next to food trucks at outdoor markets. And Lurie thinks the size is part of the charm.

Lurie: When you’re looking for vintage, people really like to sort of feel like it’s a treasure hunt, and this definitely makes it feel like a treasure hunt.

Erin Sutherland had the same idea as Lurie last year. But she thought a little bigger. Her store, Lodekka, is housed in a 1960s British double-decker bus.

Erin Sutherland: One of my favorite parts of the bus is this spiral staircase. So you come up here, and this chair over there was the original chair for the driver, and I had it reupholstered so that people could sit in it to try on shoes.

Sutherland bought the bus for $4,500. After a hefty remodel, she filled it with racks of vintage clothing, and towed it to Northeast Portland.

Sutherland: This is a wonderful location, because there is a lot of retail that’s directed toward women, but there’s no clothing. So I felt like I would complement the neighborhood without stepping on any toes.

Although the bus has wheels, it’s pretty much stationary, which makes the permitting process a bit more involved.

Sutherland: It’s just a new and very unusual scenario for the city to deal with. So we’re just still trying to work out all the logistics of how to be up to code in every aspect.

But even with these logistical hassles, Sutherland doesn’t dream of having it any other way.

Sutherland: I’ve been asked by a lot of people if I want a bigger store in a building, and I can’t imagine. This bus is my soulmate.

And shoppers seem equally smitten. Robin Carlisle shows off a little black dress.

Robin Carlisle: I’m six feet tall, and vintage and I don’t always make a love connection. But can you see how cute this is? I feel pretty.

Carlisle is also running a business out of a cart; Holiday Hair Studio opens next week, in a 1964 Kenskill trailer.

Carlisle: I say to my clients, “Who else in Portland gets to say, ‘If you need me, I’ll be in my trailer getting my hair done’?”

In a double-decker bus in Portland, Ore., I’m Deena Prichep for Marketplace.

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