Two of the kindest souls I have met, Maya and Dino are the owners of a small boutique here in Portland called Lowell. From the first time I stepped in the door, I was enchanted and knew this was someplace special. Since then, I have celebrated my birthday in this space and made countless trips to peruse it’s wares. My small apartment is furnished with textiles and pieces from Lowell, as well as my daily wardrobe. I have an affinity for objects with stories and an affection for people who care enough to preserve those moments. Below are some photographs I made of Lowell along with an interview about it’s orgin. Enjoy!
TELL US THE HISTORY OF LOWELL:
We had always planned on opening up a store or restaurant together, and to us it seemed natural to mix the two. We reached a point last year where we really decided to go for it, and once we found the space, that really set things in motion. Between the two of us, we have experience cooking, baking, serving, managing a business, making and collecting art. The name LOWELL came from Maya’s grandfather- most of all, we just like the name; he also shared a lot of the values we have for the shop.
DO YOU HAVE A MISSION STATEMENT FOR LOWELL?
We don’t really have a mission statement, but our goal is to offer a venue of unique items, with an emphasis on handmade and one of a kind, obscure and inspirational. An important component of that is giving others an outlet for their art and craft, fostering a connection based on mutual appreciation… and food is an essential part of who we are, and what we want to share with people.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF BEING A SHOPOWNER/CHEF?
Having complete creative freedom, working and interacting firsthand with so many talented and inspirational people, always having something to look forward to and learn from.
WHAT IS A DAY LIKE FOR YOU AT LOWELL?
Our work day usually starts with a trip to the market for ingredients, preparing and cooking the menu, organizing the shop, incorporating new handmade items and older pieces such as folk art from our collection. Once we open our doors, it is spent meeting new people who have just discovered our shop, visits from old friends, sharing the history of the items we have in the store, cooking+ serving lunches, snacks, and dinners. We are both pretty interchangeable in the kitchen and the shop area, and naturally rotate throughout the day to meet the flow of customers and friends.
HOW HAS YOUR CHILDHOOD OR TRAVELS INFLUENCED THIS PROJECT?
We grew up running around in the desert, digging up treasures, building forts. We both had a strong interest in food and cooking from an early age as well. Our parents taught us to have a deep respect , understanding, and appreciation for things, and we certainly carry that tradition on in our own lives and in the shop.
PICK THREE ITEMS IN THE STORE AND TELL A BIT ABOUT THEIR ORIGIN
Ceramic lemon squeezer by Liam Drain, a local potter who makes timeless, well crafted, and useful pieces that are familiar yet modern, they have a great feel to them and we can see them being passed down and appreciated from generation to generation. Hand carved wooden spoons, sourced from a family friend from the Tarahumara, indigenous peoples of the Sierra Madres. These were purchased via the first fair trade agreement established as early as 1960, and then fine sanded and treated with food grade oil to make them more appropriate for culinary use. The spoons have a worn-in feel to them, and the use of gorgeous native wood such as mesquite, little cotton tree, and catclaw acacia make them quite striking. Sterling silver and 24kt golk skeleton figures from Arizona sculptural jeweler Marilu Savage. These are one of a kind, excruciatingly detailed tiny skeletons! We are honored to carry any of Marilu’s work, as it is highly collectible and rare, along with being absolutely amazing. For the true collector!
IS THERE ANYTHING SPECIAL ABOUT THE BUILDING THAT LOWELL IS LOCATED IN?
It was built in 1905 and still has the original glass in the street facing windows, as well as a transom for letting air flow through. The natural light is amazing, on a sunny day we don’t even have to turn on our lights.
WHAT IS THE NEIGHBORHOOD LIKE?
Eliot is industrial, a large steel factory owns and uses many of the original brick brownstone buildings. In the last 15 years, it has seen a lot of progress and has become more desirable for artists and creatives who find inspiration in the old architecture. There is a great mix of people: youth who moved to Portland because they like what it has to offer, multiple generations of Portland natives, eccentrics, steel workers, small families…
WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU SO FAR WITH THE OPENING OF LOWELL?
The amazing amount of support we have gotten from the local community, how quickly word of mouth has spread, most of all the network of people who also desire to do what they love and share it with others.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN PORTLAND?
We moved here 2 years ago. A year before, we had taken a trip up the coast from Arizona, and with plans to go as far as Vancouver B.C. but ended up staying with friends in Portland for the rest of our time, we didn’t really want to leave.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE OBJECT IN YOUR STORE AND WHY?
We have this really awesome antique metal balancing toy, that features a coiled cobra as a stand and two little bears that spin around the top of the snake’s head. The snake has its tongue stuck out and the bears expressions are sort of dazed and excited. One of the stranger things we have in the shop for sure!
HOW DO YOU SEE LOWELL GROWING OVER THE NEXT YEAR?
We are very excited to continue building relationships with artists and excited for installations and shows.
NOTE: Since this interview, Lowell is no longer a restaurant. However, there are coffee and treats to enjoy while you shop!