Skip to main content

Small Business Culture

Earlier in the month Kojo Nnamdi spent an hour discussing the challenges that small businesses have in DC when trying to find affordable retail space. Small business have a tough time, even when they can afford to rent space, because landlords are often more interested in leasing to "credit" tenants who they believe are less likely to go delinquent on the lease.

One of the callers into the show brought up the small business culture in Portland, Oregon. This is something I intended to blog last winter, after I spent 4 days in the city.

(from dennis.tang on Flickr) 

 People in Portland absolutely love small businesses. It's like there's something in the air or the water there. They will go out of their way to patronize a small business in lieu of a chain business. I'm not sure there's another city where Powell's could not just survive but thrive, for example.

I went to one great little coffee shop in downtown Portland (it was not Stumptown, but it was a few blocks away). The owner told me that he is one of 32 coffee roasters in Portland. Not just a coffee shop, but a roaster. A bar owner I met was basically serving glorified homebrew from a hole in the wall pub, and he explained that Portland has dozens and dozens of microbreweries scattered across the city.

This was incredible to me. By my count, DC has 2 coffee roasters (plus another 2 or 3 in the suburbs); and 3 microbreweries (and a handful more in the suburbs), all three of which opened in the past two years.

There are a lot of reasons why DC isn't Portland, or why pretty much every city isn't Portland, for that matter. There's local laws and regulations, local economies, etc. But one key consideration is simply cultural. In DC, people get excited about the prospect of a new Dunkin Donuts at least as much as a new local donut shop. I got myself into a whole lot of trouble when I asked why everyone was getting so excited about WaWa last year.

Arguably this is the result of the "mixing pot" nature of DC. People come to DC from all over the place. So people from the Northeast feel safe at Dunkin Donuts. People from everywhere else feel safe at Starbucks. People like eating at Chipotle because they remember eating at Chipotle back home. I was the same way for a while. I bought foods and drinks that reminded me of back home. I've seen stopped buying them quite so frequently.

Small business culture isn't non-existent in DC. It's pretty good, actually. But the culture in Portland is just out-of-control good. If I could say there's a single thing about Portland that I wish I could have brought back with me - that's what it would be.


austin said…
Visiting Portland is one of the things I look forward to doing when I get back to Tacoma. Pretty excited about staying the in the Northwest these next few years.

Popular posts from this blog

In Praise of Southwest's 'C' Boarding Group

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from someone complaining that their Southwest Airlines boarding pass had been assigned A20 (meaning they would be at least one of the first twenty passengers to board the plane). Apparently this person though they should have been assigned a higher number, less their flight experience be considerably spoiled.

Despite the complaints, Southwest has resisted demands to assign seats on its flights, a decision which I personally applaud. I'll admit that I was skeptical when they rolled out the newest boarding procedure, assigning both boarding groups and a line number; but in hindsight it seems like one of the best operational decisions they've ever made. If nothing else, it effectively eliminated the infamous "cattle call" whereby fliers were getting to airports hours in advance and sitting in line on the floor as if they were waiting for the midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie.

When I was an intern at Southwest Airlines last winter, I…

So You Want to be a Southwest Airlines Intern?

My personal website must have pretty decent SEO - because in the past year, I've received about two dozen emails from aspiring Southwest Airlines interns looking to draw on my experience in search of their own dream internship. In the past two weeks alone a few new emails have already started rolling in...

(from flickr user San Diego Shooter)

If you've found your way here, you might be hoping for the silver bullet; a secret tip that will propel you above the competition. Unfortunately, I do not know any inside secrets. I can only share my experience as an internship candidate about two years ago and, rather than responding individually to future emails I anticipate to receive, I hope that potential interns will find the information posted here valuable.

Understand: Southwest Airlines is a very unique company. The corporate culture at Southwest is truly unlike that of nearly every other company. But you probably already knew that, since it now seems mandatory for every management,…

Mixing Sports and Business

In the last two days I've devoured every article in the Washington Post about the Nationals painful and epic defeat on Friday night in the NLDS. It was a tough way to see the season end, there's no doubt about that.

(from wallyg on Flickr)
These articles make it clear that there are a lot of people emotionally invested in professional sports. I think they sometimes they forget that, ultimately, Major League Baseball is big business. Each team is a major corporation and the league itself is an organization governed by a bunch of executives. The television networks that show the games are under contract with the team owners and the games aren't usually available to those without cable.

This is why it can be so hard to be a fan in this game. It's the multi-millionaire and billionaire owners that call most of the shots. They get to decide how much they're willing to spend on players. They get to decide who to hire as the CEO of the company. They get to decide how much t…