Who says big box stores have all the best Black Friday deals? Every November, shoppers can sidestep the masses — and the sales tax — in favor of a fun and decidedly Portland tradition: Little Boxes. Started in 2011 by Portlanders Betsy Cross and Will Cervarich, the wife-and-husband team behind local jeweler betsy & iya, this inventive program unites boutiques and storefronts for all sorts of merry-making and giveaways.
To join in on the fun (and prizes), download the Little Boxes app (available in the Apple Store and Google Play) and visit any of the participating local businesses. Just visiting the store earns you a raffle ticket, but making a purchase there as well earns you a second code unlocking additional raffle entries.
Prizes in 2018 included a “dream vacation” (valued at up to $2,000, with airfare and accommodations included), and a “staycation” at the upscale Benson Hotel. Some participants also won gift certificates of up to $125 to local businesses like Tender Loving Empire, Paxton Gate, Trade Roots, She Bop, Lizard Lounge and Milagros Boutique.
“We want shopping locally owned stores to feel more like leisure sport and less like an adrenaline-fueled running with the bulls,” Cross said of her inspiration for the idea. With so many participating small businesses, there’s no shortage of sporting chances — and ample opportunities to find the perfect gift for everyone on your holiday shopping list.
Built Oregon, a nonprofit supporting Oregon-based companies and entrepreneurs producing locally made goods, began running Little Boxes in 2017. In 2018, the organization announced it would stretch beyond retail shops, inviting cafes, bars and restaurants to also participate in Little Boxes.
“We’re thrilled to bring Little Boxes into the Built Oregon community to further connect local shoppers and retailers,” said Terry St. Marie, co-founder of Built Oregon. “This event has become Portland’s Black Friday and Small Business Saturday tradition and an alternative to the frenzy at the big box retailers.”