Plenty of small towns populate the East Coast, but I’d never experienced artistic living, communal approaches, and buying local like I did in Portland. I knew this would be one of the aspects I missed most.
My infatuation with small towns began with the Portland neighborhood we lived in, which struck me as more a town than a neighborhood.
Sellwood’s main street consists of a local grocery store, a library, a bakery, and numerous coffee shops. The street is lined with boutique stores and restaurants, including our favorite Italian bistro, Portofino.
A bright red caboose serves as a neighborhood landmark – once a bookstore, now a tea shop. And a well-maintained bike path connects the neighborhood as it goes by parks, a small fairground, and a riverfront dock, eventually leading downtown.
I loved wandering through the whitewashed rooms of the Homestead Supply Co, where the owner called customers by name while coaching them on how to care for chickens.
Each time we walked by the Cloud Cap Games store, I jumped a little with excitement that I lived in a place with weekly community game nights.
And when I decided to try distressing furniture, I was thankful for the Goodwill outlet around the corner.
I loved living in Sellwood.
Then there was the enchanting town of Hood River an hour-and-a-half away. You could find us there every berry and apple picking season, after hiking in the Columbia River Gorge, and when East Coast (or Australian) friends visited us.
Another quaint main street drew us in every time we visited, along with food from area farms, locally made wines, and handmade goods. We took pleasure in supporting this community whenever we could.
There’s something special about knowing and loving the community you support each time you make a purchase or deliver a service. Even if you’re not supporting people you personally know, you have the opportunity to get to know those people.
Walking and biking on quiet streets from one place to another enlivened the most basic of days. Grocery shopping became a treat when I got to walk to the local New Seasons. I somehow felt healthier and more whole running errands in such a way. Store employees became neighbors, and neighbors became friends.
Our friends showed us how to walk along a wooded path into downtown Ellicott City, a quaint town founded in 1772. Similar to Sellwood but smaller, Ellicott City’s main street boasts cafés, boutique stores, and local arts and furniture.
One of my favorite Ellicott City spots was Pure Wine Café, where I met with a friend to write while enjoying a warm red wine and THE BEST brussel sprouts side dish ever (can you believe it – delicious brussel sprouts?).
The first time I walked to The Breadery, the girl working there encouraged me to try samples and told me about ordering custom baskets of fresh, regional food from Friends & Farms. When she heard I was looking for work, she suggested talking to Jay, owner of the Country Corner Store two doors up the road. Apparently Jay knows everyone in the area.
If we could have bought a nearby house right then, I think we would have. But we knew better than to make firm plans at that point. We continued waiting and praying and applying for jobs.