The first head shop on NW 23rd
was at 1007 NW 23rd Avenue.
In the 1970s Portland was a very tolerant city, teeming with hippies, and in 1973 Oregon was the first state in the country to decriminalize marijuana. I have enjoyed reading Willamette Weeks’s coverage of oldest head shops, although its July 1st 2015 guide to vintage head shops only includes current operations. The longest continuously operated head shop seems to be Pype’s Place, opened by Patty and Don Collins at 4760 N. Lombard in 1976. On various occasions Mike Ryerson told me with pride that he had owned the first head shop on NW 23rd. I never asked him the name of the shop. There are no images in his photographic collection because it was only after he started volunteering/working at The Neighbor in late 1970s that he became a shutterbug.
The Polk City Directories and one Oregonian article are my only sources. In 1971 Mike Ryerson left his respectable job at Montgomery Ward and opened The Index and Shirt Bar at 1007 NW 23rd. The shop was listed under his name in city directories in 1971, 1972, 1973. (There is no listing for Mike in 1974 or 1975, but he reappears after his marriage to Shirley Mason on January 3, 1976 and in 1977 lists The Neighbor as his employer.)
The Sunday Oregonian of June 13, 1971 (page 16) in an article by Fred Mass, “More Young Entrepreneurs…” reports:
“Mike Ryerson 31, married [Lee Dunaway] and father of four children, a lifelong Portland resident, owner of the Index at 1007 NW 23rd Ave., started with $12 and a rented storefront. He says he has since built the mainstay of his business, stenciled T-shirts, ‘into accounts receivable of over 10 grand and a shop inventory of about $3,000.’ He also sells smoking accessories, costume jewelry, candles, and leather vests.”
Mike told me that that the shop had no official hours and that it was a hangout for him and his friends. I am sure that it amused him to no end that our walking tours account is at US Bank—its NW 23rd Avenue branch is the former location of his head shop.