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Portland Hemp Works, Portland, Oregon, USA

October 15, 2014

The polka dots capture my eye first. A bright red polka-dotted dress lures me and my friend Chalene into Portland Hemp Works, a cozy storefront on Alberta Street in Portland, Oregon.

The store’s proprietor, Judy, a cheerful woman in a purple shirt, greets us from the back when we walk in. She brings me the softest dresses and skirts to try while Chalene sorts through an array of colorful knotted caps.

Judy and her husband Michael, the store’s co-owner, are currently competing to win a $150,000 small business grant from Chase. They need 50 more votes in the next 24 hours. I can assure you they most certainly deserve them! Click here to vote:

I bought a magically flattering skirt that Judy sewed herself from bamboo fabric. I usually can’t control myself around polka dots, but this skirt is perfect. Judy makes all of the clothes in the shop herself and sells them at lower prices than her competitors. “These clothes are good for the Earth,” she says. “I want this to be affordable for people.”

The store stocks products ranging from jewelry to artwork to hemp lip balm, made by over 20 different local artisans.

A fun side note for me is that Judy and her husband moved to Portland from Astoria, Oregon — my own neighborhood’s sister city on the West Coast! Occasionally when I look up vendors close to home in Astoria, Queens, Google sends me to Oregon instead. Astoria, Oregon is about 90 miles from Portland, and Judy says that it’s gorgeous there. She compares it to Norway and tells us that men used to be kidnapped in bars and taken to sea, where they were forced to become sailors.

Judy and Michael ran their business in Astoria for several years after starting it in Eugene, where they sold their clothes at an outdoor market. They decided to relocate to Portland because most of their customers lived in the city. They opened the shop in February 2014 and couldn’t be happier. “I love Portland!” Judy says.

I’m looking forward to visiting Judy again on my next trip out west. Next time, I’ll stop in BEFORE brunch at nearby Tin Shed — and I might even buy one of those stretchy dresses that allows for no physical imperfections.

Portland Hemp Works
Clothing Store
1524 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211
(503) 791-2914

Note: Published from my phone due to the time sensitive nature of the contest and the fact that I’m still out and about exploring Portland right now. Please forgive any formatting errors.

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