BEST SHOP OWNER

Blake Nieman-Davis
Owner of Blake

If there’s one thing everyone can agree that their closet needs, it’s a good pair of jeans. After all, this wardrobe staple works with everything from suit coats to T-shirts, and the right pair will have you feeling like James Dean. But with so many styles to choose from—so many of which seem impossible to squeeze into or fill out properly—how do you find the right pair? “They say bathing suits are bad,” says Blake Nieman-Davis, owner of the Nob Hill boutique Blake. “But jeans are more of a nightmare for people. There is so much pressure on this one piece of clothing.” He should know. Over the last five years, the store—which stocks some 35 brands of denim, from Ben Sherman to Paige Premium—has transformed the task of buying jeans into a voyage of self-discovery. Nieman-Davis has assured women that having “fat days” is totally normal. He’s counseled men through their I-bike-therefore-my-thighs-are-huge self-consciousness. Indeed, given his passion for his patrons’ britches, it’s no wonder he’s been dubbed the “Denim Doctor.” “It’s very intimate helping someone into the perfect jeans,” Nieman-Davis says of his interactions. “I’m staring at their butts; I’m pulling the waistband.” Ah, just the sort of attention to detail needed to tackle existential puzzlers like: Are skinny jeans really meant for me?

ALTERNATIVE BOOKSTORE

Reading Frenzy

Since it opened in 1994, Reading Frenzy has become the place for anyone looking to find off-the-wall and rare publications. Where else can you pick up first-edition, signed volumes of the literary journal McSweeney’s, or Crap Hound, the store’s own popular clip-art-filled rag? Owner Chloe Eudaly also helped establish the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC), a nonprofit located just upstairs from the shop that functions like a Kinko’s for local indie publishers and zinesters hoping to break onto the scene. And at Reading Frenzy, a lot of them have. In fact, many of the publications on the shelves—including zines, graphic novels, political pamphlets, queer literature, and what is quaintly dubbed “quality smut”—were written and produced at the IPRC by local artists and writers.

GLASSES SHOP

The Eye Studio

If the eyes are, indeed, windows to the soul, then the glasses you choose to perch upon your nose speak volumes about your personality. Maybe you want to tell the world that you’re a nice Clark Kent kind of a guy by donning a pair of Gold & Wood’s classic square frames, which are handcrafted from sustainably harvested wood and polished buffalo horn. Or perhaps the Eye Studio’s funky minimalist aesthetic will draw you toward a pair of bright-red metal frames from French designer Face à Face. The staff aren’t afraid to be candid, either: If those round eye-cheaters you’re thinking about purchasing are indeed better left to Dieter on Sprockets, they’ll tell it to you straight. Given how many fashion-forward spectacles this shop carries—over 500 styles—finding the perfect pair should just be a matter of focus.

SKATE SHOP

Cal Skate Skateboards

botc skateboard
Image: Daniel Root

“We’re still killing it these days,” says Cal Skate’s 36-year-old manager, Paul Fujita (right). Translation: Portland’s still a rocking town for skaters. Opened in 1976, Cal Skate has long been the heart and soul of the city for those die-hards who consider it “Skateboarding, U.S.A.” (What other city is planning 19 skate parks?) While the enormous inventory sets the store apart—it carries 300 different types of boards—Cal Skate also keeps it real by keeping it local (there are plenty of boards designed by Portland-based companies like M&M and Rebel Skates). This support-your-bros, old-school mentality has us predicting that the Lord of P-Town will continue killing it well into the new millennium.