Despite recent attrition of old school shops, Sellwood retains its legacy as Portland’s antique district. Rising rents and two friends desire to hold onto the best of Portland, brought Sellwood its newest neighbor, Old Portland Hardware & Architectural.
Since it’s opening in August, Owner Bret Hodgert and team have been dusting off old antiquing stereotypes and restoring curiosity for a new generation.
Exploring the Best of Sellwood, Portland
Stepping inside Old Portland Hardware & Architectural is to travel back in time. The sounds of Squirrel Nut Zippers bounce off wood, metal, and glass.
Looking up, it’s December 31, 1927. Opening night for Portland’s Oriental Theater. An era of decadent design is reflected in one of the theaters original lamps. Just imagine the stories it could tell.
What’s unique about Old Portland is that Bret and his team, make sure to find those stories, and tell them.
That lamp, from the Oriental theater, went straight from the auction to a basement furnace closet. There it hung, auction book rolled up on top, forgotten to the light of day since 1969.
These are the types of stories that get Bret and the Old Portland team curious, sending them on fact-finding missions. It’s also what makes a trip into Old Portland so much fun. You’re looking through stories, history, not just stuff.
We had the chance to talk to Bret while touring Old Portland about these any many other stories.
Why Old Portland Hardware & Architectural is Unique
There are no shelves packed with pyrex or pop culture iconic, casting nostalgia in plastic. Every item in Old Portland has a story, a past life, a purpose and the ability to adapt to its new caretaker.
Bret Hodgert and his devoted team are prop masters of history. They expertly curate, restore, re-envision and rebuild home decor with character. Items that balance function and form. They work on condition but leave in place the patina of time. Antiquing at it’s finest.
“sure we get folks who walk in, look around, ask what will this do for me? People looking for a sale or a bargain. But we also get people who are curious and receptive to stories. Some of our best customers, are people who recently bought a 70’s or later homes and are looking for decor to add character.” “Items like these, have their own history and stories. So when guests come over, your home now is full of good stories.” –Owner, Bret Hodgert
What Antiquing Means Today
“When people go antiquing they are usually not like ‘lets go get an old thing’ they usually have something in mind. Something they collect. Or they might want to go see something they have never seen before. Curiosity seeking. Part of the word antiquing is a general catchall phrase for seeing things that have history behind them and value to them. ” — Owner, Bret Hodgert
Each member of the team has a unique field of expertise, driven by their own curiosity. A passion and craftsmanship that’s clearly reflected in Old Portland’s work.
Take for example the one of a kind, handcrafted desk Bret envisioned and built with old organ pipes. An organ restoration company had been keeping them in storage for a few years. Potential parts for repair. After deciding they were no longer worth the cost of storage, they stopped in to ask Bret if he had any use for old organ pipes.
When other’s see clutter and scrap, Bret sees wood, retaining stories, ready for its next life. He bought the lot on the spot and arrange to take possession of what remained in storage.
Like most of his reinvention projects, the idea to turn organ pipes into a desk woke him at 3 am. “Ah-ha, that’s what I’m going to do!” It’s a respectful process. Letting materials take their time to announce their next fate, rather than forcing them into an expected mold.
Each organ pipe is a different size to hold a different note. A design challenge unto itself. Bret worked the concept for months. In the end fashioning a desk with drawers and shelves to hold wine bottles. Now, the desk sits waiting to bring character to an Oregon Pinot Noir lover’s home and to toast its previous life, playing music in churches.
Why Old Portland Moved to Sellwood
Old Portland has been around for nearly a decade and Bret is a proud stalwart of the Portland scene. Sellwood felt like the right place for two reasons. One, Sellwood’s legacy of antique shops made it a natural choice. Two, friendship.
Appreciation and a measure of admiration can be heard in Bret’s voice as he recalls finding Old Portland’s new location. A customer turned friend, learned Bret needed to relocate Old Portland.
Rather than letting the old battery factory, he owned on Tacoma Street be torn down and turned to a high-priced high-rise, Bret’s friend offered him the location.
Both men were seizing an opportunity, to hang on to what is good about Portland itself. Character.
Old Portland Hardware & Architecture is open 10 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays.)
1667 SE Tacoma St. Portland, Oregon 97202 [503-234-7380]
Thank you to Bret and his team for taking a little time to speak with us and for kicking off our Best of Portland, Sellwood series.
Take a look at a few of the restored curiosities inside Old Portland Hardware & Architectural.