Mystery Businesses

Where's the sign?

Where’s the sign?

There are secret businesses operating all over Portland. I know, I know that has the sound of the beginnings of a weird conspiritorial rant but it’s probably not that big a deal. These operations do their thing in nondescript buildings that fit the description that the phrase undisclosed location brings to mind. There’s no prominent identification, no signs so it’s hard to tell what’s going on behind closed doors. My assumption is that the businesses have a name but for whatever reason they’re not telling and I don’t get it.

A lack of signage creates an air of mystery around businesses. You’d think any establishment would want to shout out it’s name to excite the world and get people interested in what they do. My limited business sense tells me signage is important. Is this post a cry for appropriate signage or for any at all? That’s part of my complaint. Come on! Opportunities for graphic art designs to come to life are being thwarted here.

Planning this blog post had me curious about the goings on of these places and their low profile. Sometimes it’s a challenge to determine what happens on the inside of a building. There might be clues but that doesn’t confirm anything.

Everything seems to be about name recognition but these places aren’t playing by these rules. I’m not saying the mystery is bad, it’s more perplexing as to why these places don’t introduce themselves. It keeps me wondering. I may also just be curious or nosy but I feel excluded like these businesses are telling me it’s none of my business.

Food Factory?

Good enough to eat.

Good enough to eat.

It wasn’t a rumor but more of a vague memory mentioned in some Kenton neighborhood news release that a bagel company was moving into our area. It’s still hard to tell. I’ve never smelled bagels baking. I do see kitchen equipment on warm nights when they leave the doors open in the back. Still, why not hang an oversized rendering of the food item being manufactured along with the name of the company? Are the people who work there worried that other people would line up outside the building entrance looking to buy the food product being manufactured. Bagels would be popular so a low profile prevents long lines of unsatisfiable bagel shoppers.

I do have to say this is a great neighbor. They are quiet, they keep their odors to a minimum and if they make bagels, I love them and maybe I’ve had eaten their product somewhere in town.

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Image borrowed from the internet.

The building used to be the home of Branom Instruments. The old sign never shed any light on the mystery of what a Branom instrument is. Despite all this being left in the dark stuff, I’m at least glad to see the building back in action.

Warehouse Stories

Tracks of my tears

Tracks of my tears

This is another one of those locations where I’m relieved to have any business there at all, even if I have no idea what it is. The building, on Interstate Ave, was dormant for too long. When we moved here over eight years ago the previous tenant had something to do with car repair from what I recall. It looked like a cool building and I hated to see it vacant. During those empty years there were exterior paint jobs and graffiti attacks and signs advertising for an occupant. After a few too many years, a crew spruced up the space and cars filled the parking lot along with a shed and a canopy. A mural was added, a nice touch, but it offered nary a clue as to what goes on in the building. I spotted large ceramic jars through a window in the back which might be my best guess as to what they produce.

This place can do what they want as long as they keep the cool 3D mural around.

This place can do what they want as long as they keep the cool 3D mural around.

Bring your 3D glasses over!

Bring your 3D glasses over!

Mystery Body Shop

Irregular hours for side jobs.

Irregular hours for side jobs, I think.

It’s not much of a mystery because it’s clearly an auto mechanic/body shop that faces Interstate Ave in our Kenton neighborhood. It doubles as a junkyard due to the bumpers and other car parts piled high behind a tall chain link fence. I’m going to bemoan, once again and ad nauseum, the lack of signage but why not display a spiffy name even if it is a laisser-faire operation. There’s something shady about a place that can’t tell you who they are or bother to come up with a name. That has to be the fun part of starting a business. Their anonymity is part of the deal of living in a neighborhood where we’re surrounded by plenty of other nameless neighbors.

Glass Works?

How to succeed in business,

How to succeed in business.

The industrial gray paint job stands out. It appears fresh amidst drab surroundings on Fessenden Ave. Upon closer inspection I could see it wasn’t a shop. The lack of any sign on the building and the blocked off windows revealed nothing. So, here’s a pro tip. If you want to know something you hang around. I kept walking by at lunchtime and one day noticed some glass blowing happening through on open door. This explained the pile of broken glass outside the side of the building.

That's a pile of glass shards.

That’s a pile of glass shards.

Mystery Biz

No sign of business.

No sign of business.

This was another business I noticed that didn’t identify itself. I took the picture in passing so I didn’t spend any time to figure it out. There could be a sign around the corner but there’s nothing obvious to me. It’s also an odd mix of architecture that might make more sense based on the tenant.

So you may have already asked yourself why this blogger hasn’t gotten off his duff (that’s an old fashioned word for keister) and done some research or reporting, you know like knock on a few doors. Well, I would do that but I’m leaving said door open for a part two to this post. In time I will find out something that takes the mystery out of these operations and I’ll pass on my findings.

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Dark Island

This pipe and this slab.

A spooky pipe on a slab.

One day, I noticed the words “Dark Island” on a sign at the base of a pipe jutting out of a traffic island found at the end of N Argyle Street as it runs into Columbia Blvd. You’d have to use your imagination for this plot of land to feel like an island. It is surrounded on all sides by roads, a sea of asphalt, so I consider it a traffic island. I’m sure there’s a more technical definition for what a traffic island is and what purpose it serves, but to me this is an island surrounded by traffic so it qualifies. On the other hand, I’m not sure what it would take to know how Dark Island is a good description for anything besides the setting or title for a horror movie. The darkness seems to emanate from its drab surroundings, lack of street lighting, weeds and garbage inhabiting the island and the trucks that roar by.

It has to be a "D" to make it Dark Island.

It has to be a “D” to make it Dark Island.

The sign has an official, yet worn look. Its intention may be to add an air of mystery or create a legend around this odd piece of real estate. As any mystery, however minor, appeals to me I’ve been doing some speculating, deep in the dark corners of my mind in an attempt to understand what the sign references. It may draw the line between an in-joke or a more elaborate warning.

Beyond Dark Island may lie the secret.

Beyond Dark Island may lie the secret.

A pipe just like the other pipe.

A pipe just like the other pipe.

Closer inspection led me to believe the pipe on Dark Island has to be connected to the the unnamed and unexplained building across the road hosting a mystery pipe in the parking area. In the back of this nondescript, brown building are a set of mammoth curved pipes behind a wall displaying a danger sign. The noxious smell had me wanting to keep my distance while the warning signs made me nervous, but even more curious.

Not that kind of water slide!

Not that kind of water slide!

I then did something I rarely do. I took the time and effort to reach out to the general public in an attempt to research my Dark Island dilemma. I posted a query on Hidden Portland for the Curious, a Facebook group, sharing a picture of the Dark Island pipe and the building across the way. The response informed me that the building is a sewage treatment plant with the Dark Island pipe being part of an air monitoring system, but I was still left in the dark about the origins of the sign.

What's cooking up here?

What’s cooking up here?

After considering the meaning, if any, behind Dark Island, and doing my initial investigation, I continued writing this blog post on a Max train as I headed to a Doctor’s  appointment in Clackamas. I realized more thorough research lied in placing a phone call to the city. That old cliche,”would it kill you to pick up the phone,” echoed in my ears. With a head full of Dark Island thoughts, I stopped for a cup of coffee and had a laugh about choosing the dark roast. Heading for the hospital, I walked through the Clackamas Town Center Mall parking lot. I noticed a puffy cloud, whip cream like, as it rose above the hillside. There was a JC Penny store, a parking garage, a stop sign and a church. It felt as far away from Dark Island as I could possibly get.

Puffy clouds lighten the atmosphere.

Puffy clouds lighten the atmosphere.

What’s a mystery without a cliffhanger? I promise to make that phone call one of these days. It seems a safe bet that one communication with the Water Bureau will solve this mystery for good at the risk of my sounding like some kind of conspiracy theorist, of course.

Dark clouds surround Dark Island.

Dark clouds surround Dark Island.

 

Punny Business

What the cluck? I mean how could anyone resist putting that phrase on a banner and stringing it above the entrance to a chicken restaurant. This post is focused on puns used by businesses to enthrall, entertain and inspire us to become customers. It seems only fair to consider what a pun is and isn’t. My big, red dictionary, a gift from Mrs. Reser years ago, defines it as the humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest different meanings or applications or of words having the same or nearly the same sound but different meanings. This definition will be applied to see how well these puns work.

While it seems like a good pun may depend on a person’s sense of humor, the idea of puns used by businesses have the potential to be the kind of stuff that would cause viewers of Good Morning America to spit their coffee in hysterics. Puns are big business. They create smiles. They help people remember your business and get people talking about it. Making people happy creates a desire to spend money. Puns will make you rich. Use them to spread joy and good humor throughout the world. Be clever with the language, and the people of earth will laugh along with you and throw money at your feet. Somehow, in all that, I managed some pun free copy. So, brace yourself, a pun overdose is about to kick in.

Puns that Cuss

What the Cluck?

How can you not appreciate a pun that references profanity? It employs bad taste with good humor. “What the Cluck?” is the right message for a banner on a chicken restaurant. It sounds like what chickens actually already say to each other in the barnyard.

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Shih Tzu has always been a funny name for a dog breed and, as I learned from auto-correct, hard to spell without using profanity. I originally left out that pesky silent “h.” The word has a sound halfway between a swear and a sneeze which suits this type of dog well. This sign was spotted outside a Vet’s Clinic at Hayden Meadows where it sure seems like you’ll have a good chance of working with a veterinarian that will laugh with your pet instead of at it.

Dog Puns

Howliday Inn Lettering

In the Central Eastside business district you have a doggie day care facility/hotel with a clever name. I have to digress by saying that I can’t say dog day care, it always has to be doggie for some reason. The business name seems to be a combination of a reference to a Bing Crosby movie and the reaction guests have when their owners drop them off.

Expressoing Yourself

Expresso Yourself sign

Yes, you might end up expressoing yourself especially if you speak with an Italian accent. You may well express yourself better if you drink expresso. A sign at the T.J. Maxx keeps it simple and begs you to buy the sign, take it home and hang it in your kitchen above the coffee maker.

Posies sign pun

A sandwich board outside of Posies goes for the gold. In fact, I just caught the last pun by studying my photo extra hard. The message ends with, “It’s a latte” and it is a lot to take in. To translate, the sign says: “I can’t express how much you mean to me, but I can try. It’s a lot.” By now you know how puns work so you’ve, or I have, figured out that the keywords are words pertinent to coffee shop nomenclature. It’s a colorful sign too. It inspires me to want to drink expresso, coffee and possibly a latte. I’ve never been much of a chai person.

Maxx for the Minimum

If you spend anytime at all at T.J. Maxx you may find strange objects mixed in with bargains. You might try to imagine for them a new owner and where and how this person might use the door knocker in a bikini or the grill cleaning brush with a gorilla sculpted into the handle.  It might seem like it would take a lot of imagination.

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Consider this spoof of the second greatest line to come out of “Jerry Maguire.” Not to be out-shined by all the cute kid antics, Tom Cruise and (don’t forget) Renee Zellweger, was the script with a couple of famous lines. When a mixed-up in love character played by Renee Zellweger delivered the line,“You had me at hello,” no one was able to resist repeating it, spoofing it and mangling it for the rest of the 90’s and possibly beyond. “You Had Me at Merlot.” Is it even a pun? I don’t know. I’ve gone insane. It’s the sign version of a wine bottle upside the head. Nevertheless, it is nice to think that you could buy something like this and hang it in your wine cellar because the joke would never get old.

Mayberry and Gomorrah: An Orbit Obit

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There can’t be two more diametrically opposed places of business that have reached the end of an era. One, a sedate hair care establishment epitomizing small town Americana with the wholesome name of Kenton Family Hair Care, the other a seedy mega complex of sin and debauchery both suffering from the demise of an old school way of life. The first, the way an older generation takes care of their hair, the other, the way an older generation takes care of their, ahem, soul?!?

Hair dryers

Kenton Hair Care had a way of appearing like a business out of Mayberry, the old fashioned hair dryers, the booths with the stylist’s names on them and pictures of children or grandchildren tacked to the walls. It was the type of place I imagined my grandmother visited for her weekly hair set. I was drawn to the hair dryers, so quaint, it reminded me of photo taken of the Violent Femmes in the 80’s for the Campus Voice Biweekly posters that were posted at my college.

NW Staffing check back 2

Clientele was dwindling for years at Kenton Family Hair Care. When the Third Thursday event started they opened in the evenings and attempted to sell quilts and prints of squirrels. I know, I bought one of those prints.  Out of step, perhaps and now, out of time.

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The Town Plaza is a whole other story. As nasty as it was, you could only imagine the appeal it could have had for someone who wanted to indulge their purient interests–a smorgasbord, with a video store, a juice bar called the Sugar Shack, a strip club, a bar and grill named the Pink Marlin and even a burger joint. I can imagine the place, brand spanking new and shiny, briming with temptation, I’m sure Satan himself was there, possilby in disguise, when they cut the ribbon. In the last few years, there seemed to be no trace of activity besides fish sculptures and neon in one of the windows that faced the busy section of Lombard Ave. The strip club may have continued to operate after all the other businesses shut down but it was hard to tell.

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I never saw the parking lot until I drove around to take pictures. Burger Island was only known to me through the remainders of its sign that was never torn down. I saw no evidence of any burgers or relics of an actual burger joint  around the place. The building was purchased by the nearby neighborhood who paid over 2 million in an attempt to rid the area of the activity that occurred within the checker board tile laden building.

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To me it was always a curiosity. Even when driving by with a friend who voiced disgust, I still held on to a slight glimmer of appreciation for a place that made such an attempt of commodifying seediness for those in need. Maybe it was just a matter of the wrong place being in the wrong place.

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End with a more wholesome image.

The Golden Tooth of Hollywood

Golden Tooth 3

This golden tooth caught my eye in the Hollywood District of Portland.  I appreciated the weather vane but it wasn’t until later that I realized the molar was surfing on a golden toothbrush.  I had a minute before I had to be at the nearby Hollywood Theatre so I was only able to take one picture to treasure. I’m also an admirer of the fancy font used to describe this place of business.

My concern is whether the dentist or dentists from this office are more focused on the design elements of the exterior of their facility. Could this possible distract them from bicuspids, molars and cavities? It feels wrong headed to question professionals in the field of dentistry. How much focus is really necessary on design elements once they’re chosen and affixed to a building? Unless they’re falling over, it’s probably easy to go back to thinking about what you have to think about when you deal with teeth, gums and gingivitis all day. Maybe this is more of a subconscious worry about the possibility of encountering a distracted dentist.

Right now it might be better to sit back and admire the striking elements that make up this unusual weather vane and marvel at the swirling font selection of the sign.

Golden Tooth 4

Vane

A couple of weeks later I grabbed this not so great shot from the car that proves that the vane rotates!

Sign Round Up Snarkathon

Here’s a chance to empty the Portland Orbit photograph backlog that also allows me a forum to make snarky comments about street sign graffiti, bumper sticker philosophy and homemade signs.

stay true 2

Stay True

I’m thinking this message on North Lombard is referring to staying true to my convictions. Too bad my convictions aren’t paying me a dime. But it’s a nice message written in admirable penmanship. I wouldn’t be offended by foul language written in this script.

joy1

joy 2

Don’t Postpone Joy

Ah, bumper sticker philosophy! Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy, you want to talk about joy.  I thought that was a Christmas thing. How am I supposed to postpone joy when I can’t muster up any in the first place? I had to look up the definition of joy to get a clear idea of the sentiment of this bumper sticker. Joy resembles the temporary euphoria I get after my second, or third cup of coffee. I noticed the word dismal was included in the dictionary entry as the opposite of joy. That’s closer to how I feel and I don’t have to postpone a thing. It’s better for this bumper sticker to be stuck on the back of a stop sign instead of a car bumper or I would find myself unable to postpone the joy of smashing into any car displaying this message.

pick up the poop

Pick Up Your Poop

I pick up 97.999 percent of the poop my dogs, past and present, have pooped out while on dog walks. The one time I didn’t, I was instantly scolded when I hadn’t realized one of the dogs I was walking had made a deposit. This was back when I was walking two old dogs that were kind and gentle. They didn’t get worked up about seeing other dogs or chase cats, squirrels or flying birds. This meant I could multitask and read the weekly papers while walking them. I had been reading an article about Gene Simmons of KISS, so engrossed was I that I hadn’t paid attention. A guy walking to the body shop where this occurred asked me if I was going to pick up my dog’s poop. Like I said before, man, I didn’t see it happen. I wanted to tell him I was reading a Gene Simmons article but who the hell cares about that.

I haven’t figured out my complusion to read about Gene Simmons every chance I get. He’s repulsive, his hair, his arrogance, his TV show, which I hope is off the air. Besides, I’m still getting over being traumatized by seeing Paul Stanley sing the National Anthem in a New York accent last Fourth of July before a Timber’s soccer game. This whole KISS aura, including their arena football team, has infiltrated me.  The sophomoric response is to consider the “your poop” section of the message.  It really should refer to your dog’s poop but I guess there’s only so much space for messages that people hang in trees.  All in all, Pick Up Your Poop is a good reminder, although I don’t think I need to read it every time I see it.

Please No Litter

Please No Littering

Like the Pick Up Your Poop sign, this sign was also spotted in the Kenton neighborhood. If I had been creating this sign I would have spent at least an afternoon deciding on whether to include a comma in the message.  Using the word please is a nice way to begin an imperative sentence. It doesn’t feel harsh in that do this or don’t do this kind of way. All right, so I’ll figure out a better place for my candy bar wrappers and cheeseburger bag. I won’t toss them on the street under your sign. You win anonymous sign poster because you have manners.

Stop!

  stop danzig

Who is laughing at Danzig? Those who stop at the intersection of N Greeley Ave and N Willamette Ave might see themselves as the culprit and I hope they consider the serious nature of their mirth and realize that someone in this world thinks their laughing needs to end. I’ve seen many a defacement of stop signs that told me to stop this or that, but this one impressed me by looking like a sticker that had been made to be applied to multiple stop signs to stop an epidemic of hilarity that has been foisted upon Danzig.  I can’t imagine someone applying a Laughing at Danzig sticker to the bumper of their car.  That would not go over well in a goth neighborhood.

I ran into another example of this mayhem.

stop apathy

The sentiment is nice, and it’s written in a doom metal font that overshadows it’s message.  It’s hard to read.  Stop is bold and clear, the word apathy is running off the edge of the sign.  I didn’t get into the blogging business to critique street sign penmanship, but it’s common sense. Make your message legible.  I don’t want to have to stop my car or bike, get out and squint my eyes to get the general idea.

I rode through a North Portland neighborhood trying to remember where I had seen a “stop austerity” message.  I couldn’t find it.  I remember it well but it wasn’t where I knew I had seen it.  It had me wondering how often stop signs get replaced.  Certainly times would have to be a bit more austere before a stop austerity sign would get replaced. Stop signs aren’t cheap.

I was at the last stop sign before MLK when I noticed a faint scrawl, possibly written in dust, underneath the stop message. It’s almost not worth showing because even with the most highly sophisticated, forensic-like, software manipulations, I could not get a good image of the “stop working” sign.  It’s probably a sentiment lost on most people anyway.

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Stop working: I tried.

Finally, doubling back to head home, I spied the sign below. Scribbles! I have no idea what’s trying to be stopped here. Sure stop sign manipulations are minimal vandalism and while I can’t condone it, I can be entertained by it. For the most part the message is lost on the people who just want to obey the law and stop at the stop sign. They probably aren’t going to stop anything but their car. For me, I’m done laughing at Danzig.

stop scribble

 I’d stop it, if I could pronounce it.

Are these folks laughing at Danzig? You decide:

http://microcosmpublishing.com/catalog/books/2669/

Inspired Maturity Sign Says #4

o theater level

I went to an art show at a tea shop across the street from the Oregon Theater so the I, Anonymous column that appeared in the Portland Mercury last week made much more sense. I’d heard about the Oregon Theater and I’d always look for it when I drove down Division Street, but I had not considered what to me is a humorous sign.  It reads “Films for Mature Adults.” It made me wonder if they test maturity levels at the door before people are allowed to enter, or if the movie audience is made up of Senior Citizens. It’s a safe bet that they are a mature bunch. That sign had me pondering what a theater for immature adults would show, Adam Sandler movie marathons, maybe?

I know the Oregon Theater is a porn theater, but I love any old theater building and I’m happy it’s an active business. I could see where a few more upscale places have crept in and that it may not be the greatest neighbor, but the building looks cool. When I lived in Alexandria, Virginia I used to go to a theater that showed Adult films but that was because one of the four screens in the theater was dedicated to art movies. Eventually it was torn down to make improvements to the shopping center. I’m hoping this isn’t the fate of the Oregon Theater.  I’ll probably never go to there, not even to fulfill an inkling of curiosity or even to provide content for another blog post. I’m afraid I might not be mature enough.

o theater close up
Here’s the link for I, Anonymous. Please click on the illustration by one of my heroes Kallah Allen

http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/i-anonymous/Content?oid=14138019

Speaking of Division Street, I never miss an opportunity to post a link to this song:

Sign says…#2

It’s nice to consider a dentist with a sense of humor. Sometimes dentists only seem funny when nitrous oxide is involved. And pain associated with the television show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” is the operative word. When you watch it you wonder what you’re watching and how it could possibly be on TV. Then you have to consider why you can’t stop watching it. It’s like channel surfing in a cable television tsunami.

dental marquee

This sign is outside a new dental office on North Lombard Street.  With multiple dental offices up and down Lombard, I consider North Portland, with great pride, to be the dental capital of the whole city.