It is safe to say that Eugene has its own style, and entrepreneur Melissa Achtien recognized the need for a boutique that offers local college-aged women the opportunity to dress and accessorize to reflect that. Partnering with her co-founder Sheila Jesionowski, Achtien opened gilt+gossamer in the core of downtown Eugene before moving it to its current home at the Fifth Street Public Market. “I was inspired by Sheila’s ability to always find the perfect clothing or accessories for the store,” says Achtien. “It has always been important to me that we provide women in Eugene with a boutique that perfectly captures our boho vibe.”
Currently, gilt+gossamer has two locations at Fifth Street Market; one sells primarily shoes, and the other offers clothes, accessories, home decor, and baby items, with collections from many vendors within the Pacific Northwest. “Shopping at gilt+gossamer gives you access to both independent and local artisans, but you will also find contemporary clothing lines such as Free People, FRNCH, Beyond Yoga, and Lush Clothing,” says Achtien.
A heart of philanthropy runs deep within gilt+gossamer, and the two co-founders are dedicated to supporting local nonprofit organizations. “During Covid we purchased gift cards to local restaurants and small businesses that we then gave out to the people who came into the store and shopped,” Achtien says. “It was our way of helping another business during a time of struggle, and we wanted to show appreciation for those who were still shopping with us.” You can often find gift certificates for the store at local charity auctions as well; Achtien and Jesionowski frequently donate to local nonprofits that are doing good work in our community.
As gilt+gossamer has expanded to its second store, Achtien looks back on her entrepreneurial journey with gratitude. “Although there was so much to learn, I am glad I kept true to what makes the Eugene market special, specifically the boho-type fashion and the right price point,” she says. “My words of wisdom to any aspiring women entrepreneurs are to be willing to put in the work and make sure to always persevere.” Visit gilt+gossamer within the Market District at Fifth Street Public Market where you can shop, dine, and enjoy some wine every day of the week. shopgiltandgossamer.com — Caitlin Vargas
Threadbare Print House
If your clothes tell a story, then the tale of Threadbare Print House & Design Lab has sustainability as the protagonist. Founded in 2010 by Amy Baker, this women-run, artist-driven company has deep roots in the Willamette Valley. “When my sons were young and would be napping, I would be working with my neighbor who was an artist,” recalls Eugene native Baker. “The beginning wasn’t easy as I had to teach myself to screen print, but eventually I grew my business out of my garage and into a commercial space.”
From the very beginning, Baker was committed to growing Threadbare with high standards for the way employees were incorporated into the business, and with environmental sustainability in the forefront. She explains, “We have been committed since day one to using only water-based inks, which create a softer print and are easier on the environment.”
As a thriving entrepreneur for more than a decade, Baker hopes to see more businesses owned and operated by women emerge in the Eugene community. Knowing that failing is part of the process but having the right people around you can make the difference, she states. “I can’t imagine doing anything else than right where I am at with Threadbare. It is truly thrilling and calamitous at the same time, but I love it. I hope that women entrepreneurs know that the best thing they can do is learn to trust themselves in the process.”
Threadbare will offer a unique experience to the local Eugene community in July when they have a booth at the Riverfront Festival. “We will have an interactive booth where you can choose a garment such as a t-shirt, hoodie, or hat, and then choose the design you would like as a decoration,” says Baker. “The cool part is you are the designer and get to walk away with an individual design you won’t find anywhere else.” Visit Threadbare at the 10-day Riverfront Festival in July (eugene-or.gov/4855/eugene-riverfront-festival) or any day of the week online through their website, threadbareprinthouse.com. — Caitlin Vargas
The Washburne Cafe
Just like Central Perk in “Friends,” or even Luke’s Diner in “Gilmore Girls,” Springfield has its very own downtown cornerstone coffee shop in the Washburne Cafe on Main Street. For the last six years, Mindy and Derek Weber have operated Washburne with their business partner, Charlie Hester, although the story doesn’t start there. The co-owners were all born and raised in Springfield, meaning that this group of friends from high school made this project a personal one. Mindy explains, “Charlie really knows the coffee business and we saw the potential that a thriving coffee shop can have for a downtown; it just made sense that we would invest in our hometown.”
Now a pillar for Main Street, the Washburne Cafe has seen a true transformation of their neighborhood. Downtown Springfield has become a destination for families, date nights, and morning coffee meetups. “It is almost an emotional process for me to walk down the street now because I see people laughing and smiling as they are out shopping, eating, or just enjoying a safe and fun setting,” she says. “I love that downtown Springfield was able to keep the historic look in the buildings like ours, with brick that is over 100 years old, yet the overall vibe is still new and exciting.”
With community as its foundational value, the Washburne Cafe wouldn’t be what it is today without support from many Eugene and Springfield partners, like Community Lending Works. The mantra of giving back now lives on as the Webers and Hester host special after-hours events in the cafe for local vendors looking to grow their business, including Women’s Makers, dessert nights, and designated pop-up shops.
Just as the Washburne Cafe has seen Main Street transform, they have been growing and revamping themselves. With plans for an updated kitchen, the cafe is starting to resemble more of a restaurant, with seasonally inspired menus for breakfast and lunch that includes a variety of sandwiches and handmade baked goods like pop tarts, brioche donuts, and, according to Mindy, “the world’s best chocolate chip cookie.” With an inviting atmosphere, delectable food made from scratch, specialty-roasted coffee from Farmers Union Coffee Roasters, and ingredients sourced from local vendors, the Washburne Cafe offers a taste of the Willamette Valley that makes it a mainstay for any season. Order drinks or food online at their website, washburnecafe.com, and pick up in person. — Caitlin Vargas
Blairally Vintage Arcade
Blairally Vintage Arcade is a cultural icon of the video game arcade era, nestled in the heart of Eugene’s vibrant Whiteaker neighborhood (a.k.a. “the Whit”).
Chad Boutin founded Blairally in an old warehouse, converted originally from a photography studio into a true speakeasy. The reimagined space initially included Boutin’s own personal collection of pinball games. Today, fully legal, Blairally is celebrating 10 years of operation. They offer more than 30 pinball games, live music, a dozen craft beers, cocktails, and late night munchies.
“Museums may have the same games, but we have vintage arcade gaming in a public format,” Boutin says. “We are the only arcade in the world that specializes in the late 1970s and the 8-bit video game era, that you can still play for 25 cents.”
The 1980s were the golden age of arcade video games. During that time, technology advancements helped video games transition from black-and-white to color. At one time, there were tens of thousands of full arcades in North America. Today, fewer than 5,000 remain.
Visitors to Blairally in Eugene should expect to be taken back in time to Boutin’s childhood. You’ll get a chance to play classic games like Asteroids from 1979, Pole Position from 1982, and a number of well-kept classic pinball games. In addition to founding Blairally, Boutin is also a game mechanic.
“Very few people know how to work on these vintage games,” he says. The mechanics of the 1970s aren’t around any longer. Pinball will eventually die, but I’m trying to extend that life span as long as possible.”
Thanks in part to Blairally, the Whiteaker neighborhood has experienced a recent renaissance.
“The Whiteaker spent years in the doldrums,” he says. Along with popular night spot Izakaya Meiji Co., local brewery Ninkasi, and other local businesses, Boutin has helped change the neighborhood. “It’s more of a brewery district now, and Blairally is the entertainment capital,” he says.
If you have two quarters rubbing together in your pocket, even if you don’t like pinball, Blairally is the place to play in Eugene, and you will want to get a T-shirt to prove you were there. You might even meet a wizard, “who sure plays a mean pinball.”
Minors are allowed at Blairally Vintage Arcade until 9 pm; facebook.com/blairallyarcade. — Matt Sayre
Comcast Business is a steadfast supporter of local entrepreneurs and small businesses in Eugene and Springfield, including these featured companies. Onward Eugene and Comcast Business have an ongoing partnership to create a thriving local economy. Caitlin Vargas is the Startup Community Director, helping entrepreneurs launch their business. Connect with her about plugging into local resources, mentorship, and the Innovation Hub at linkedIn.com/in/caitlinvargas. Matt Sayre welcomes new employers to Eugene. Connect with him about resources to expand your business to our region linkedin.com/in/mattsayre.