In this age of rapid development (3-14-16), tour-goers and locals alike are puzzled that this corner storefront—on arguably the hottest tourist drag in Portland—stands neglected. Why has this building in the heart of a high-rent commercial corridor remained vacant for nearly 25 years? According an article by Peter Korn in a November 2007 Portland Tribune, the owners are a family operation that is only willing to lease to proprietors who have cash up front to do all the improvement and upkeep. Nine years later the site still languishes.
Quality Pie once occupied the entire frontage. Known as “The QP” by regulars, this 1950s-style diner was 23rd Avenue’s late-night hot spot. Quality Pie was the quintessential place to people-watch, where New Wave/Punks would come after Satyricon shows to eat day-old pies, seated next to Portland’s finest who were filling up on coffee.
The corner storefront of the building at NW 23rd and Northrup has stood unoccupied since Quality Pie shut its doors in 1992. Fans of lost Portland’s eccentric nightlife have created a Facebook group with 298 members (https://www.facebook.com/groups/59025722653/). QP was where people came together from every walk of life in Portland.
Quality Pie not only was a beloved “coffee spot”, it also baked pies which it delivered to commercial operations citywide. Paul Baker scanned some wonderful pictures family album pictures from the ’50s and ’60s which include shots of his aunt Hilda Langston, a tall brunette. These images are amazing documents that are akin to Mr. Rogers Neighborhood’s segments on production assembly lines. Interior images such as these rarely surface and these early color images give us a window into the creation of the pies.
The first headshop 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.)
“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.
The late Myrtle Casper was a longtime resident of the Slabtown area in Northwest Portland. Her husband Ben Casper owned the Saw Shopwhere the Northwest Portland Library parking lot is located today. Myrtle loved spending her time shooting pool with the guys at the Northwest(now McMenamins) Tavern & Pool on NW 23rd Avenue. After all, what else was there for a lady todo when her husband sharpened saws all day? Myrtle Clara Casper was born in Kansas in 1890.She was married three times, and she spent many of her early years doing housekeeping. She died in 1974 in an apartment above her favorite pool hall at age 83. Ben died four years later at 93 years old.A large copy of this photograph of Myrtle hangs on the wall of McMenamins Tavern & Pool.