Reinventing Cargo

By Jack Rubinger

Cargo has reinvented itself from a standard retail model into an international bazaar/small business incubator. It’s an emporium with several new stores all housed under the same roof amidst an extravagantly colorful collage of sights, smells, tastes and touches.

Cargo is now home to Giraffe (modeled after a Japanese convenience store); Bloke Botanical (plants, flowers, pottery); Tasi Jewelry & Gifts; Hello! Goodmorning!; Rx Letterpress; and the Loaded Hips Press. The printing press folks make their goods right in the basement and sell their wares upstairs.

Celebrating five years of success in the same central Eastside business district location, partners Bridgid Blackburn and Patty Merrill, are excited about the future, fostering long-term relationships with resources in India, Thailand and Japan and seeing these start-ups thrive with their support. The two have worked together almost twenty-five years. Cargo is best known for exotic clothing, jewelry, home and decor, textiles and crafts.

Walking around the space, one would be hard-pressed to find anything grey, black or beige. Instead, vibrant purples, oranges, ruby reds pop out everywhere you look. An old school Australian photo booth captures the adventure and excitement of the experience.

“We’ve got all of these voices sharing the message of what they’re doing, all prospering from one another and everyone brings their own following,” said Blackburn.

Is the concept working? According to Blackburn and Merrill, all tenants exceeded projections and numbers in the holiday season.

To continue the momentum and goodwill they’ve established, Cargo is doing a store-wide event May 5 to honor Children’s Day, originally a Japanese holiday. Expect cooking classes, a saké tasting and crafting classes for kids.

“We decided that it makes a lot sense to partner up with complementary small businesses and provide them with an inviting retail space,” said Merrill. “With the high cost of renting, we all benefit from word of mouth, each entity has its own following and yet all make sure sense together.”

In choosing new business community members, the partners sought complementary type of micro-businesses, like Tasi – a local jeweler which Cargo has carried for years. Under this new entity, this is Tasi’s first retail experience

One of Cargo’s most stunning departments is their outstanding collection of Japanese wooden Kokeshi dolls, a traditional art form started by rice farmers. Some squeak, some cry, no two are alike and all make great housewarming or baby shower gifts.

A new clothing department features hand-blocked cotton tops from India. The amazing store display by Amy Miller is also worth noting.

“Patty has been working with vendors from Thailand, Indonesia and India for 20+ years,” said Blackburn. “She’s watched them get married and have children. We create relationships with people and stay in business with them for a long time. They’re not corporate giants. In many ways, we mirror them.”

Years ago, the partners bought a piece of the building, so they have control of their destiny and the resources to pass it all onto other artists and vendors who are just starting.

Cargo is  open everyday from 11 am – 6 pm at 81 SE Yamhill St.  Online at / phone 503.209.8349.

Reinventing Cargo

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top