Sellwood shops provide a getaway from LC campus

Photo by Hannah Ring

By Lani Felicitas

Sellwood, a small, quaint neighborhood in inner SE Portland, is a popular off-campus living alternative for Lewis & Clark students. It is minutes away from campus by car or a short bike commute, and if you really want to, you can walk to school through the Riverview Cemetery.

“It does feel very neighborhood-y so it doesn’t feel very overwhelming, compared to Hawthorne or Division,” Sadie Bender Shorr ’18 said.

Sellwood residents can walk or bike around the neighborhood. Trimet also has the 19 and 70 lines available that go to downtown and North Portland.

“It feels very down-to-earth and less crowded than other business districts in Portland,” Bender Shorr said.

Some also shared the balance of living in a neighborhood with several LC students and young families.

“It’s refreshing to be around people who aren’t students,” Gabriela Nakashima ’18 said. “But it’s also nice to live near a lot of people who go to school so you can carpool together.”

Sellwood is known for its plethora of quirky businesses and non-corporate coffee shops.

“There’s so many coffee shops on 13th,” Director of Student Leadership and Service Harold McNaron said. “In Sellwood, there’s like two coffee shops per block. Spread it out, Portland! I’ve scheduled meetings at one coffee shop. We would get there and be like, ‘oh it’s crowded, let’s just go next door.’”

If you are looking for a place to study besides Watzek Library or Southeast Grind, try going to The Living Room, which offers 10 percent discounts for students.

“It’s a huge place to study,” Nakashima said. “And you will always see other LC folks there.”

The Living Room contains multiple seating options and a big open window that brings natural light into the shop. It can comfortably seat more than 50 people, and according to Will Owen ’18, a lot of its furniture comes from “The Bins,” the Goodwill not far from the shop.

“It’s the perfect storm of a coffee shop,” Owen said, who lives two blocks away from The Living Room. “It’s the cheapest coffee shop I’ve ever been to. I’ve spent like 11 hours straight in there, and spent like less than $10 on six things off the menu.”

According to Owen, everything on the menu costs around $2 because they buy their food ingredients from Winco.

The building that now houses The Living Room and Sellwood Cigar has an unusual history.

“The space itself used to be a mill,” Owen said. “That’s why the WiFi is called The Old Mill.”

Now, the building is shared between Sellwood Cigar and The Living Room.

Adsideo Church, the Sellwood-based Christian church who owns the coffee shop, has many religious crosses visible in the shop that receive mixed reactions from LC students.

“I feel like a lot of folks at LC are offended by Christianity,” Owen said. “But I appreciate The Living Room being a community-driven space. The folks there are not expecting people to buy anything. People are allowed to come in and hang out. I’ve also noticed a lot of disabled people playing board games there.”

If you are interested in The Living Room’s Christian community, the church holds their weekly Sunday gatherings there, as well as Wednesday family dinners and bible study.

Nakashima tends to avoid more popular spots that LC students frequent like New Seasons, Blue Kangaroo Coffee Roasters and The Living Room on weekends and instead discovered what else Sellwood has to offer.

Nearby The Living Room is Wei Wei: A Taste of Taiwan. Nakashima enjoys going to this family owned restaurant on SE 13th Ave located in what appears to be Sellwood’s only strip mall.

“It’s small,” Nakashima said. “It doesn’t fit the aesthetic of Sellwood since it’s right next to a nail salon and convenience store, but it’s good.”

Wei Wei has been open since Nov. 2015. It is both a dine-in and take-out restaurant, with a dessert case, counter seating and window seating for diners to people-watch. They serve generous portions and have a decadent selection of loose leaf teas.

“It’s small, comfortable, modern and clean,” Simone Williams ’18 said via email. “It’s not an overwhelming space. It always seems like there are people inside.”

Almost all online reviews say to check out Wei Wei’s beef noodle soup and their bao, a steamed bun filled with meat or vegetables. Williams also recommends trying their grilled squid and scallion pancakes.

Sellwood also has many stores and businesses for fresh food and produce, but Berry Good Produce is a particular favorite of many LC students. You may have even passed the stand without even knowing it.

“What’s that doing in a rich neighborhood?” McNaron said, wondering why this simple produce stand exists near the Eastmoreland Golf Course. Located on the corner of SE Steele and 28th, it is within walking distance of Reed College and the Woodstock neighborhood.

“It’s a family-owned fruit stand and nursery next to Reed,” Sadie Bender Shorr ’18 said. “It looks a little out of place. It almost looks like a pop-up baseball dug out. It’s almost like a shed, but it sells really good produce.”  

Berry Good Produce is just a small structure with little sections inside, carrying fresh local produce, natural preserves and jams and a small nursery. Emily Reynolds ’18 used to live in an apartment down the street from Reed, and would go to Berry Good Produce a couples times a week.

“It’s more or just as affordable as the Trader Joe’s nearby,” Reynolds said.

She goes to Berry Good for their selection of roots, gourds and baked goods.

“It feels like it’s part of an old garage,” Nakashima said.

According to Nakashima, the fruit stand has been around for decades.

“They have pictures in the store of the previous owners,” Nakashima said. “Over the summer, me and my dad tried asking the grocers if they knew anything about the history but they didn’t know. The one thing I know for sure is that it used to be owned by a Japanese American family.”

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