I had the opportunity to drive out to the Portland International Airport (PDX) on the December 31st to pick up my wife returning from Vancouver, BC. Many people dread a trip to an airport particularly if they are not taking off to some exotic place and I would generally consider myself one of those. I have done enough travel in my time to generally dislike most airports.
But not PDX. Those of you that have had a chance to use PDX know that it is a pleasant airport with decent parking, a manageable size, quick & friendly TSA security and operated efficiently; all of which adds up to make PDX a great airport. But you do not have to take my word for it. Travel & Leisure magazine has named Portland’s airport “The Best Domestic Airport” for four years running and Conde Nast ranked PDX the second best airport for 2016 recognizing it for its local shops.
While in the car, I was listening to Oregon Public Broadcasting that was featuring authors talking about the first adult book the read when they were young that influenced them as a writers today. One of the interviewed named The Heart is a Lonely Hunter as being most influential to her. After describing the book, I decided that I would have to get ahold of the book and read it. Which brings me to the focus of this post.
I was able to pick up the book while waiting at the airport.
I arrived at the airport with time to spare only to discover that the flight had been delayed in Vancouver. Having an hour to kill at the airport , I was able to indulge in one of my favorite, checking out retailers.
I have always found airport retailers hit and miss; mostly miss. Many airports are filled with national chain stores offering nothing unique or local. Service is usually pretty mediocre at best since I guess they figure you will not return as a customer. But at PDX, the shops are mostly local and the service is excellent. Throughout the airport, I found display windows and signs that the Port of Portland, the airport administrator, used to promote their shops.
There are store fronts for Nike and Columbia Sportswear, both headquartered in Beaverton OR. Another shop is a branch of the world-famous Powell’s Bookstore from Portland. Another shop features products from the equally renowned Pendleton Woolen Mills out of Pendleton, OR.. There is Made in Oregon where you can get Oregon postcards & souvenirs along with a great assortment of Timbers, Ducks or Beaver paraphernalia. The Real Mother Goose Gallery spotlights local artisans and crafts people and the wares. One of the magazine stands is actually a Portland magazine and smoke shop, Rich’s, that has been open since 1894. Another retailer is cc McKenzie; “Specializing in outfitting women with an independent, sophisticated, and practical Northwest flair.”
I entered Powell’s on the off-chance they might stock The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Greeted as I entered the store, the employee asked if I was looking for anything in particular.
“I was wondering if you had The Heart is a Lonely Hunter?”
“Ah, a great book by Carson McCullers,” was their response. “Do you want a new or used copy?”
Even though it is a somewhat popular book, I was still impressed that he knew the author right off and that he knew he had both new and used versions in stock.
“I will take a used one if you have one.”
“Certainly” and with that I was guided to the appropriate shelf and offered a used copy in fine condition. “There you go. Is there anything else we can help you with?”
“No, I just want to look around.”
“Fine. I will have the book at the register for when you are ready. To keep your hands free.”
Of course I found several more books to fill my hands during my wandering.
The local retail shops are also joined by a choice of local restaurants including Petite Provence, Stumptown Coffee, Burgerville ,Cafe Yumm and representatives of the Portland Food Carts. For the deli aficionado, Kenny & Zukes and Elephant Delis will take care of you. If you are thirsty, there are the Rogue, Henry’s Tavern and Laurelwood Breweries to wet your whistle.
But the one I am most excited about is the new opened Blue Star Donuts, a far better donut than anything produced by Voodoo. (Sorry Voodoo) After all, Blue Star won the Donut Deathwatch based on taste, texture and swagger.
As with the retailers, I have always found the restaurants staffed with friendly, helpful and quick employees.
So if you find yourself at PDX as a passenger or as a chauffeur, take a wander through the shops. You will not be disappointed.
A little gallery of PDX photos