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Keeping Portland Weird

Every joke you can make about Portland—from its obsession with artisanal coffee and its ludicrous weekend-brunch lines to its touchy-feely local government and preponderance of Etsy stores—is basically true. Portlandia, in fact, is a documentary. But the same quirks that open up Portland to ridicule have made it something of a haven for small businesses—a city where an odd little company can thrive for decades.

In the absence of much major industry, Portland has stayed in a strangely comfortable, low-budget zone for decades. (There’s relatively little conspicuous wealth here, but there’s also not much in the way of conspicuous grinding poverty.) That’s made it the last not-horribly-expensive city on the West Coast. The median rent in Portland last year was $969 a month, or about half what it runs in San Francisco.

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