A Browser’s Guide to Deering Center

There’s more to shopping in Portland than the Old Port.

By Jen DeRose
Photographed by Elle Darcy

Commuters along Stevens Avenue know Deering Center as a quiet, verdant neighborhood with its own micro-downtown. Now, that two-block stretch of Stevens is becoming a destination in its own right. In the last three years, a crop of indie shops, a yoga studio, and outposts of SoPo-based Elsmere BBQ and Wood Grill and Rwanda Bean Coffee have joined old-timey fixtures like the Quality Shop bodega and Roy’s Shoe Shop. Bring your binoculars and/or pooch and stroll Evergreen Cemetery (popular with birders) or off-leash dog haven Baxter Woods after you shop.

1. Handiwork

In a brick corner shop formerly occupied by quirky Jet Video (RIP), Handiwork focuses on what owner Jessica Thomas calls “fun and functional pieces,” such as T-shirts screen-printed with Portland landmarks, lanterns made from vintage glass bottles, and Bernie-esque upcycled-sweater mittens. More than 50 local makers are represented, many of whom, like Thomas, live in the hood. Post-pandemic, the space will host classes in knitting, sewing, drawing, and more.

199 Pleasant Ave. 207-613-9639.

2. Rwanda Bean Coffee

Choose from six Bourbon Arabica blends at the Deering branch of this coffee shop and roaster, plus nitro cold brew on draught, smoothies, breakfast sandwiches, baked goods, and Gifford’s ice cream. And feel good about your purchase: half of the company’s coffee proceeds support farmers in owner Mike Mwenedata’s native Rwanda.

463 Stevens Ave. 207-956-6686.

3. Pat’s Meat Mart

Family owned for more than 100 years, Pat’s pairs house-smoked ribs, a dozen kinds of sausages, and all manner of beef, chicken, lamb, pork, and veal cuts with a throwback vibe evident in its cheerful striped awning and checkerboard floor. Grab a sandwich for lunch and the rest of your dinner ingredients from the small grocery. Or reserve a table (dinner only) on the deck of the Treehouse restaurant upstairs.

484 Stevens Ave. 207-772-3961.

4. The Honey Exchange

A 10-year stalwart of the strip, Meghan and Phil Gaven’s shop, in a honeybee-yellow Cape, offers 30 local honey varieties as well as honey-based teas, soaps, and lotions, beeswax candles, beekeeping supplies and classes, and, once a year, bees! On April 26, the Gavens will have more than 4.5 million of them to distribute in 3-pound packages.

494 Stevens Ave. 207-773-9333.

5. Abura

A zen vibe prevails at Amanda Kate Forman’s airy shop and spa outfitted with rattan chairs, tasseled chandeliers, and modular wooden shelving displaying Forman’s natural skincare line. (Abura is Japanese for “oil.”) Behind the painted-white counter, Forman whips up turmeric spritzers alongside the serums, soaks, and scrubs she uses for facials and massages.

502 Stevens Ave. 207-747-4282.

6. Darby Jones

Regal pups decorate the windows of Darby Jones, next door to Abura. Modeled after a favorite childhood toy belonging to owner Laura Chambers, the pooches preside over displays of “desirable nonessentials,” such as hand-printed flour-sack towels, intricate jewelry by Westbrook’s Akakpo & Co., and hand-poured candles by Portland’s Near & Native — a custom driftwood-and-myrtle scent is inspired by Chambers’s native Ireland.

502 Stevens Ave. 207-835-0566.