Make Your Place - Wherever You Are

This article was originally posted on the Movers & Makers blog in July 2014. Nearly two years in, we're reflecting on the relevance this post still has - as the business community in Boston continues to grow and evolve, and our sense of place and purpose deepens. - Emily Kanter, Co-founder

July 10, 2014

When we first started to talk about our move out east this coming summer, many Portlanders had a similar reaction: a facial expression that could only be described as a cross between utter disbelief and abject horror.  [ERROR: cannot compute] was plastered across their faces.  And I understood.  Portland is a truly special place, and it has become my home, in all of the best ways possible.  Moving here nearly four years ago to start a romantic relationship with unknown prospects, I was just a little bit nervous.  Portland was a tough place to find a job post-economic downturn, and, well, it rained for 9 months of the year.  But I came to deeply love and appreciate this little western outpost for all of its incredible quirks and charms (yes, even the rain), and simultaneously, Portland’s renown skyrocketed and it became the hotbed of culture, food, and creative lifestyle that it was always meant to be.

So when Caleb and I made the incredibly difficult but exciting decision to move away from our west coast home to get involved with my family’s 40-year-old business and to continue to grow Owl Fox & Dean, I hesitated to tell anyone— at all.  Portland these days draws out a deep, fierce, almost feverish sense of love, pride and belonging in people— myself included.  Portlanders think they’ve literally discovered a secret mecca, and living anywhere else would be akin to insanity.  Sure, you can take vacations to other edgy, cosmopolitan cities (Tokyo, Sydney, Copenhagen and New York are all acceptable locales) but they can’t compare with Portland’s quality of life.  And when I finally told people we were moving to Somerville, Massachusetts of all places, the general response was, “Oh… neat?”

So, with deep love and respect, I’d like to shatter a few gospels of truth that many Portlanders hold dear:

  1. Portland is not, in fact, the epicenter of the known universe.
  2. Neither is it the only city in America where great local food, craft cocktails, cold-brewed coffee and bike lanes exist.
  3. The east coast is not actually a lame conservative hell-hole where people don only polo shirts and khakis and care only about their Wall Street jobs.
  4. There are, in fact, thriving creative scenes in many east-coast cities.
  5. East coasters go skiing, hike mountains, drink IPAs and eat kale chips too.

Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage— over ten years ago.  It has a rapidly growing local food culture, a thriving tech scene, and (like in Portland) you can drive to the ocean, the mountains, or any number of rivers, lakes and woodland trails within an hour of Boston.  The commuter rail will take you there, too.  There’s an incredibly rich history to the area, and some of the best examples of American architecture spanning the last four centuries. Somerville itself is having a revival, and the city boasts a variety of hot new restaurants, bars, craft distillers, co-working spaces, farmers’ markets and festivals.  They care about locally-owned businesses there, too.

I’ll miss the ease and pace of life in Portland.  I’ll miss those giant, sweeping trees that line the streets of Irvington. I’ll miss romping around in Forest Park, and brunch at Grain & Gristle, and the amazing coffee four blocks away at Barista.  Most of all, I'll miss the wonderful group of friends we’ve cultivated over our four years here.  I’ll even miss the rain.  Portland is our home, and we’ll keep coming back.  But every city has its own unique magic and charm, and I am incredibly excited to be building a future in the beautiful land that raised us, and to bring the very best elements of our west coast experience to it.  We can't 'all' live in Portland, but we can make our place wherever we are, and Massachusetts is calling us home.

Portlanders, come visit soon.