There’s no denying that these days your father’s old Pendleton shirt is now the hottest item in your closet. There’s also no denying that Tom Erikson, founder of Animal Traffic, and his team know just about every other piece, both vintage and new, that will have you coming back for more. Animal Traffic manages to maintain an eclectic mix of timeless, stylish items that cater to Portland’s needs.E+E: How did you start Animal Traffic, what brought you to this point?Tom: I started down on Division St. at a little tiny shop I was a part of for about six months. It was a collaborative effort with a few other people involved, which brought a lot of conflicting ideas.After awhile, it made sense to get a bigger space to put my own merchandise in. I wanted Animal Traffic to be in the Mississippi neighborhood because there wasn’t much else like it that offered vintage or men’s clothing. This building, which was built in 1931, was originally a ballroom and had been vacant for awhile. I thought it would be the perfect place to open the store. I opened up the shop by myself so it was very minimal and I just wanted to get as much inventory in as possible.E+E: Do you have certain requirements for the clothing you choose?Tom: We are very selective. We try to get to know the people who are selling in order to establish relationships with them. I want to be able to pay people well for what they bring in and it’s nice to have loyal sellers who understand what we are looking for.E+E: Your prices are so reasonable, it’s nice to see that, especially for brands like Pendleton that have become so sought after.Tom: I don’t feel right trying to gouge people on prices. We take nicer pieces that are a bit higher in price at our downtown store, but I still like to keep it in check. Maybe if we were in New York or Los Angeles I might charge a little more; but ultimately, we’re not going to charge people $200 for a pair of jeans...they’re just pants.E+E: What led to the downtown location?Tom: Although the Mississippi neighborhood is my favorite, there are so many people in Portland that don’t even know it exists, or if they do, they never come. I felt we were only seeing a small part of the Portland community.
By having two stores I can have a larger staff between the two which takes the pressure off everyone. We all just rotate and I’m kind of back and forth seven days a week. I love it though, I get to see three neighborhoods everyday - Southeast where I live, Mississippi, and downtown.
E+E: Do you ever get a day off?Tom: I get a day off now and then. I like to take a backpacking trips or go camping. It’s better to head out of town into the wilderness for a few days because if I am in Portland, I’m going to want to go into work. I can’t just hang out around town and not go into the shop.E+E: What do you love about Portland?Tom: I think it is the fact there are so many do-it-yourselfers that are in control of the environment. The experience people have in Portland is due to all the small business owners. People have ideas and are willing to do their own thing, follow their passions, and are extremely creative. That willingness to just follow their ideas is what affects the entire community, the politics and the tourism. They have a very particular experience due to all the cool places around town. Obviously, there are a lot of cities with great shops, but in Portland it is so concentrated. Whether it’s music, bars, food, or clothing - we don’t have national chains up and down the streets. Every area is different and unique.E+E: Do you have big plans for the future of Animal Traffic?Tom: We are selling White’s Boots which are really nice hand made leather boots made in America. We are trying to bring more brands like this into the store; brands that promote American heritage, American workers and American values. There is always the possibility to open additional locations but it is the type of thing we only want to do if we feel really great about it.We really try to do our own thing in our own way and it’s always been my goal to make it a unique store. Nothing is ever 100% original because there are millions of other shops that do similar things, but we always have our own take on it. Animal Traffic4000 N Mississippi AvePortland, OR 97227503.249.4000429 SW 10TH AVEPortland, OR 97205503 241-5427