April 01, 2013
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One of the most popular lines we carry is Little Bay Root, whose Portland themed apparel, bumper stickers and other items capture the spirit of the city and the hearts of locals and visitors alike. With imagery that explores everything from our love of bike riding to our fixation with Sasquatch, the locally designed and manufactured label has become sort of a spokes-brand for the city. We recently had a Q&A session with founder Brian Duval, in which we covered a range of topics including the conception of the brand, the story behind the name, and the evolution of the company's product offerings.
Check it out:
When & Why did you decide to launch Little Bay Root?
I started Little Bay Root after leaving my job as Art Director of Norm Thompson Outfitters for 8 years in 2008. I decided that I wanted to create a line of products that reflect the love that locals have for the Northwest. People in the Northwest are very proud and protective of their corner of the country. They connect with locally-made and designed items, a kind of counter-globalism. Beyond that, who else loves the Northwest? The millions of visitors to our area every year…and who doesn't want a souvenir t-shirt to celebrate their trip?
The bonus in starting my own line was that I was taking the client out of the design process and leaving it to the consumer to decide what was the best decision. Client work is not my strong point, so this allowed me to create and the consumer to decide whether the designs were marketable.
What's the story behind the name?
Little Bay Root is a play on words. Staffers of former U.S. President George H. W. Bush used to refer to Portland as Little Beirut because of the protesters he encountered during his visits. Hence, a little less aggressive and more playful name. Welcome to Little Bay Root, aka, Portland.
Where do you print and manufacture your products?
Almost all of our products are produced here, in Portland in efforts to keep the economy local and mutually benefit one another. T-shirt, sweatshirts, totes and more are done at Oregon Screen Impressions in NE. Stickers are produced at Treehouse Stickers in NE Portland and mugs are produced in Hillsboro, at GlassTech.
You design a pretty wide range of product types, how do you decide what you are going to make next?
The market really helps decide what we will do next. Tote bags were huge for a while, when people were racking up totes for trips to the market, but as people have got themselves a good stock of totes int he car now, that line of items has leveled off. The big thing (no pun intended) we see in the marketplace is Sasquatch. People loved him, coast to coast and nation to nation. People will tell us their Bigfoot encounter stories and share the local name of Bigfoot in their area. Did you know that the Skunk Ape is Florida's own version of Bigfoot? You would if you worked for Little Bay Root.
The market is really who tells us what to do next. Listen to the customer. For years, people have asked us for a "Portland Oregon, Old Town" shirt. Also known as the "White Stag" sign. We finally did it this year and it's a huge hit right out of the gate. Our version of the sign is made up of hundreds of words that are linked to Oregon. From the state mushroom to the city's many nicknames. That's what we try to do, take something people want and show them something they never knew they could have.
Do you have a following outside of Portland?
We ship t-shirts all across the country, every day. I think a lot of the exposure is from visitors who pick up a shirt at a Made in Oregon Store or at Saturday Market and want another when they get home, for a friend, sibling, etc. We are expanding our designs to cover more area, including a new Sasquatch Seattle shirt this summer…as well as two Oregon Coast shirts too!
Meanwhile, don't forget to stop by Bridge City to stock up on some of their T-Shirts and bumper stickers!
Bridge City Mercantile was started by Rachel Robichaud after her lifelong dream became a reality in 2012. Rachel is a Portland native and came up with the name Bridge City Mercantile as a homage to the town where she was born and raised. BCM started as an online store and quickly became a Brick and Mortar location. We are currently located in the heart of SE Division shopping district. Our goal is to provide unique gift items while utilizing all the amazing talent we have in Portland.