One of the things I love about Portland is that there are so many ways to meet people through art. Making art, selling art, talking about art. Meeting Chelsea Ingle of Bridge City Kid in the St. John’s neighborhood is no exception. Bridge City Kid is an amazing outdoor retailer dedicated to kids, and participates in the St John’s Art Walk Art Burst program. The Art Walk, started in 2017, pairs local artists with selected St. Johns businesses to serve as mini-galleries. With these quarterly events, they hope to 1.) increase access to and appreciation of the arts; 2.) support and strengthen the artist community in St. Johns and North Portland; 3.) engage the St. Johns business community; 4.) celebrate the diverse cultural communities in North Portland and; 5.) build community by facilitating conversations and connections.
I moved to North Portland this past summer, so I wanted to get involved in the art scene here and in St. John’s. I was partnered with Bridge City Kid for the September Art Walk and my work (prints, original thread paintings, cards..)will be there until next week. There is a new show going up for the March Art Walk, Friday March 2 from 6-8pm. Chelsea has an amazing story around her business and I want to share it with you! I love Chelsea’s enthusiasm for her community, her customers, the product she sells and her commitment to supporting non-profit charities.
Here’s her story…..
Amy: Tell me about how you got here? What was your path to Bridge City Kid?
Chelsea: My retail began as a member of the Nordstrom Fashion Board - a research study group & apprenticeship program. After graduating from Grant HS and a year at PSU, I studied in NYC to major in Fashion Merchandising Management at FIT & complete my Associate's Degree. I held a retail sales job during this time for a swimwear designer named Malia Mills. After two years, I transferred to the Polimoda International School of Design in Florence, Italy; however, my student visa was never acquired so I instead spent the Summer traveling abroad and returned later to finish my Bachelors Degree at Oregon State. Before graduating, I completed an internship in Seattle, WA; volunteering for a non-profit called the Sustainable Style Foundation. After a few months, I left this to open a new shop for Ed Chalfa called Tiger Tiger Clothing Exchange (new name: same owner as Red Light Clothing Exchange). Once I had completed my degree at OSU, I managed ZAZEN; a boutique and Saturday Market booth selling imported women's wear from Thailand. Later on, I held more Management positions in Seattle, Santa Cruz & Portland. Before resettling in Portland, I partnered with a Distribution Company serving Kombucha at music festivals up the West Coast. My final retail position was well-positioned at Portland Store Fixtures that allowed me to conceptualize my store design and prepare for my transition as a business-owner.
Amy: Why are you so passionate about kids and the outdoors?
Chelsea: As a mother of a young boy; I have seen myself wanting to spend as much time as possible outdoors given the health benefits & happiness that it brings. I tagged along with my son as he explored new activities such as skateboarding, learning the sport myself. I feel that this is the most inspiring aspect of parenting; trying new things together. When I was a kid, I enjoyed hiking with my family & time playing outside with my friends. Our children these days have been marginalized through over-stimulation along avenues that do not afford them the simple freedom of being able to regularly play outside. Being playful & free in nature is what brings me the greatest peace in my life and I deeply feel we need to make this more available in the way we raise our children. Having the right gear is essential in overcoming the hurdle of staying comfortable outside by keeping warm and dry, regardless of the weather. Fashion has always gauged my interest as a consumer and this avenue is starting to become more available for children in the outdoor industry. Most outdoor retailers have not offered enough to help families shop with ease and find affordable items for recreation. REI recently chose to remove baby & toddler items from their retail outlets given the issue of too many worn item returns, paving the road for the first outdoor retailer dedicated to kids to open in Portland, OR.
Amy: What’s this about donating all profits to charity??!! That’s incredible. Tell us more about this concept and why you are doing this? What charities do you support and how can we support them too?
Chelsea: Originally inspired by Stephen Green (co-founder of the first non-profit pub called the Oregon Public House) and then seeing Ex Novo open as the first non-profit brewery; I decided that it was possible to make my shop the first retail establishment that donates all profits to charity. We plan to open a non-profit organization once profits are available and can be given to charitable organizations. The outdoor industry is known for its ability to serve non-profits that are aligned with the same values of protecting the environment and affording youth the opportunity to access the outdoors regardless of income. I will be supporting the same organizations; elevating their impact as well helping to fund smaller non-profits that are local to the Pacific Northwest. A few examples are Oregon Wild (protecting public land as designated wilderness areas), Surfrider Foundation (volunteer-led cleanup & advocacy for healthy city streets, oceans and mountains), and well as sponsorship for outdoor camps like ReWild & NW Nature Partners. A link is available on our website that lists organizations that we have already partnered with to learn more and support individually. https://www.bridgecitykid.com/service/all-profits-to-charity/
Amy: How can we find you and buy your amazing products?
Chelsea: We are located in St Johns of Portland, OR or online with free shipping available at www.bridgecitykid.com.
Amy: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a small business owner? What are some of the rewards?
Chelsea: My biggest challenge has been the amount of time it takes to complete a remodel and fill my shop with customers. There is an arduous process of starting a business that I didn't realize would be so time-sensitive. It just takes a long time to build-in the ease for a new shopping environment. There is a common hurdle of trying something new that most people feel uncomfortable with where only time can heal this through engaging more customers to enter the door and make a purchase. Regardless, the most rewarding aspect is that I am selling items for children to engage more with the outdoors and share with my community the vision of a brighter future given the altruistic nature of each purchase.
Amy: What do you love about St John’s neighborhood and community? PNW?
Chelsea: For a long time, St Johns has always been quoted to be a "up & coming" neighborhood. Gentrification is never a good thing, however, the situation is clear that Portland has become so desirable that all areas around the city have been changed to accommodate a growth in population. We were given this location through a good friend of mine who owns the building next door and I moved in at the same time as both of my neighbors (Sabatino Scooters & Bernstein's Bagels). Yet to be fully realized, we share an outdoor space that can really exemplify the strong community that we share as business owners in St Johns. Affording new gear in addition to expensive school registrations can be burdensome for most and I hope to facilitate more ease in participation by offering a discount to participating families. Since the beginning, I have been inspired by the women-owned businesses here - namely Salty Teacup and Anna from ROM shoes; supplying me with fixtures & newbie "sage" advice. The community of new families with interest in the outdoors is strong in St Johns with many schools influenced by nature including the Portland Village School (a Waldorf-inspired Charter school). I hope to continue building my relationship with local schools that encourage year-round outdoor play. Affording new gear in addition to expensive school registrations can be burdensome for most; I hope to facilitate more ease & interest in these programs by offering a discount to participating families.
Amy: What is your favorite camping snack?
Chelsea: My favorite camping snack is cracking peanuts with a cold beer, at the campsite or backyard fireplace.
And there you have it! Go visit Bridge City Kid and all of the amazing shops and restaurants in St. John’s! It’s fun to explore new to you neighborhoods!
Bridge City Kid is located at 8402 N. Lombard St. in St John’s, Portland OR, 97203.