From the Editor: the other side

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Articles - October 2013
Monday, September 30, 2013
1013 EdLetter
// Photo by Eric Näslund

As I write this, Feast Portland, the city’s flagship food and drink festival, is one week away. This “celebration of Oregon bounty” features butchery competitions, infused vodka tasting panels and an all-star culinary lineup: Thai food guru Andy Ricker, the Portland Meat Collective’s Camas Davis, Bon Appétit restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton and many others.

Here at Oregon Business, we love pork belly and kale salad as much as the next person queuing up for a $5 “farm to cone” at Salt & Straw. But in this issue, we say goodbye to all that. Instead, we spotlight another side of Oregon food culture: the convenience store industry, a retail category best known for candy, cigarettes and nacho-cheese sauce of dubious origin.

As writer Jonathan Frochtzwajg discovered, the convenience store sector is booming, with homegrown chain Plaid Pantry ranking as one of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies in the country last year.

The popularity of “c-stores” throws a wrench into Oregon’s foodie machine. But the industry is also paying attention to national culinary trends, with some stores starting to incorporate healthier or locally procured food-and-beverage options, such as organic produce and, in the case of a Bend chain, beer growlers and kombucha on tap.

In a web exclusive, Frochtzwajg also explores the convenience store as a possible solution to food deserts, with the local c-store morphing into a neighborhood market providing residents in areas devoid of grocery stores with critical access to real food.

Along with the grittier side of food culture, we pay homage this month to small manufacturers who make less-than-glamorous bolts, brake pins and scuff boards — the kinds of products that keep the state’s construction, transportation, food processing and power-production fields running smoothly. As writer Christina Cooke reports, these small manufacturers are also an economic driver, with Portland manufacturers employing 11% of the metro area’s workforce.

If there is a theme to the October issue, it’s Oregon’s yin and yang: Behind every sexy mobile app startup is a stoic materials manufacturer, and behind every Feast Portland is a new Plaid Pantry waiting in the wings. It’s a duality I’m well aware of. For lunch today, I indulged in poached organic chicken and rice from the renowned Nong’s Khao Man Gai food cart — “cutting-edge cuisine,” raves Travel + Leisure — followed by M&Ms culled from the desktop stash of our own in-house convenience purveyor: Oregon Business associate publisher Betsy Hand.

Linda Baker

 

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