In the fall of 2022, a garage off Belmont Street started to fill with effortlessly cool-looking thirtysomethings. DJs would spin records while visitors perched on stools and lounged in folding chairs, resting glasses of orange wine on boards stretched against cinderblocks. It evoked the vibe of an artist’s house party — musicians would set up in the corner of the patio while crowds would linger outside, popping handfuls of furikake Chex mix from a food cart parked onsite. The bar was Company, and it became the if-you-know-you-know hangout among Portland’s creative community. “Escaping a dark and rainy night through Company’s hidden door feels like stumbling onto something clandestine,” Matthew Trueherz wrote in a Portland Monthly piece. “The makeshift living room feel of the space does present a bit like a dinner party at your boho riche friend’s house.”
For friends and business partners Jesse Morrow and Elliot Snyder, design goes hand in hand with hospitality. The two creatives comprise Old Friend, a Portland-based design and branding studio that opened Company as a casual, “why not?” sort of project, and the look and feel of the Company space intentionally reflects that. As a result, it makes its regulars feel like they’ve found something off-the-radar, candid, intimate; you’re more inclined to go to your friend’s house party than a random bar, right?
A little over a year later, in early November 2023, the two opened Collector in the Northeast Portland restaurant complex the Ocean, transforming the space formerly home to 24th and Meatballs into a chic-yet-laidback lounge they describe as “New York industrial loft meets beach cabin.” A gallery wall displays art by Snyder made specifically for the bar, photos by Morrow, and knickknacks that the friends have amassed over the years from traveling, estate sales, and thrift stores.
The duo developed an interest in hospitality through their design work, consulting on restaurant interiors. Translating graphic design from the screen into a physical space is an exciting part of the process for Morrow and Snyder, and they wanted to experience being on the other side of a bar project.
“After we work with clients, it’s sort of just like, ‘Okay, we’ll talk to you later... let us know if you need anything’ sort of mentality,” Morrow says. “Our curiosity was: ‘What’s it take to keep going with this and extend it into a space that we would like to spend time in? What’s that hospitality look like?’”
To pull it off, they got some help from their pals. Guero bar manager Ben Skiba, a friend of Morrow and Snyder’s, designed Collector’s cocktail menu. The team’s goal was to offer a well-rounded list of drinks, so Skiba used a variety of base spirits for the bar’s 10-cocktail lineup. On the spirit-forward side, the Italian Jazz Club, Collector’s take on a martini, uses sundried tomato and basil-infused gin. The menu also touches on the citrus-foward side with the Buried Luck, a combination of pisco, rhubarb amaro, passionfruit, and citrus bitters.
The bar also exhibits a good amount of hometown pride, serving and utilizing Portland-made beverages and products. For instance, the espresso martini-adjacent cocktail called the Broken Clock starts with Push x Pull cold brew, pairing it with vodka, Tuaca, and Braulio. A rotating natural wine from local distributors Chausse Selections is available, as is Old Friend lager, a white-label collaboration made by Level Beer, and a rotating tap from nearby Duality Brewing. Since the bar is situated next to micro-restaurants like Friendship Kitchen and Tropicale, and food from the building’s other tenant is allowed into Collector, it will stick to offering snack-y food items like tinned fish and ice cream sandwiches. Nothing fancy — just as they intended.
Collector Bar is open at 2341 NE Glisan Street.