Antique vendors aim to help make Gresham a shopping destination

Among the eclectic mix of eateries and specialty stores in downtown Gresham is an infusion of something not seen in these parts for many years — antiques and collectibles.

In the past 18 months, nearly 10 new antique stores have popped up in the core district. They’re making Gresham a destination for serious buyers and casual collectors and employing an old-school spirit of camaraderie in a new era of business.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Todd Paxson, owner of Foxtrot Vintage in downtown Gresham, uncovered the original fir flooring and a 1930s-era wall mural during renovation for his new antique mall. Signage for the shop was designed by his girlfriend.

One of the newest antique dealers to hang a shingle is Todd Paxson, owner of Foxtrot Vintage on Main Avenue. The Gresham native quietly opened the mall-style venue in November, with 14 vendors carrying glassware, retro toys, household items and antique and reproduction furniture.

Paxson is a Barlow High School grad who lives in the Hawthorne district of Portland with his artist girlfriend. He spent several months renovating the space, which uncovered a hand-painted wall mural he suspects dates back to the 1930s and the original fir floors.

Foxtrot Vintage is a step back in time, from the “industrial” typewriters and office equipment to the glassware and retro kitchen items sought by collectors. An old-time console radio plays tunes from the 1930s and 1940s via an iPod that Paxon hooked up to the cabinet.

It was the “vibe” in Gresham’s business community, Paxson said, that lured him back to his hometown.

“I could have opened a shop in Portland, but I would have blended in,” he said. “Out here, we’re a little different. Portland is known to be hip and cool, and I want to bring that out to Gresham. There’s a great community feel here.”

But antique dealers often live and die on shoppers’ discretionary income, which can lead to fierce competition for business. Paxon said dealers in Gresham view each other as complementary businesses, with different tastes that appeal to a broader customer base.

“We’re all working together,” Paxson said. “Antique malls have waiting lists for vendors any more. And Gresham does have a lot of antique stores right now, but it’s sort of like the more the merrier.”

Beverly Wassinger, owner of All Things Beautiful, originally opened her shop in a strip mall at the intersection of Main and Northeast Division Street in 2011. Though one of the first antique stores to return to town, she felt somewhat isolated and disconnected to the happenings going on down the street.

Six months ago, she moved her store to the Duane Ely Building on Main, in a space once occupied by the Toy Bear. Wassinger agrees with Paxson, saying the cluster of antique stores in her corner of town isn’t detrimental to business.

“Since I moved down here, my foot traffic has tripled,” Wassinger said. “My feeling is that the more antique shops there are, you become a destination. When people go to antique shops, they always ask if there are other stores around. They want to see them all.”

Nestled in a corner of the parking lot near Jazzy Bagels is Grandma’s Store, a nostalgic collection of items that live up to the shop’s name.

Like Wassinger, Grandma’s Store’s owner Margery Hansell moved her business from Boring last year for more exposure.

But unlike Wassinger’s All Things Beautiful, which offers classic artwork and furniture, Grandma’s Store is a whimsical mixture of vintage matchbooks, milk bottles and collectibles found in grandma’s attic. The variety of goods, Hansell said, is why Gresham is rapidly gaining a sound antique reputation.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK -  Grandma's Store owner Margery Hansell moved her business to Gresham last year, after four years in Boring, to increase her customer base.

“This is what will bring people down here,” she said. “We all have something different to offer Gresham. People are going to make it more of a destination to buy.”

Survival in today’s competitive economic market is the worry of every small business owner. But for a shopping district to be successful, Wassinger said, businesses thrive when they support each other.

“Not everybody who goes through an antique shop is a collector,” she said. “But they’ll stop for lunch and shop in other stores while they’re here. We refer our customers to another dealer for something they’re looking for, but we also tell them where they can find great purses or cupcakes. We’re hoping more antique stores open because that will bring more people to Gresham.”

For a taste of nostalgia, check out the offerings of Gresham’s antique merchants.

All Things Beautiful Antiques

130 N. Main Ave.


Chase Me Home and Chase Me Again

289 N.E. Second St.


Foxtrot Vintage

227 N. Main Ave.


Grandmas Store

106 N. Main Ave.


Main Street Mercantile

112 N. Main Ave.


The Victorian House

343 N. Main Ave.


Vintage Station Antiques

40 N.E. Division St.


Contract Publishing

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