I was looking for a new large purse/small briefcase to carry my new mini-laptop around with me. My first locavore option was to shop for it on our getaway weekend to Quartzsite, Arizona. I thought the huge swap meet would surely have some Southwestern artisan-made bags. Unfortunately, we didn’t stumble across such wares. But as I was getting in line to board the plane, I spied bags in an airport shop that looked like exactly what I was looking for. Surprise, surprise – they were Pendleton Woolen Mills bags, from the 140 year-old, fifth-generation family-owned company back here in the Northwest. I had to board the plane, so my shopping would continue back home.
Our first stop was the Pendleton store at Portland airport. They didn’t have the same bags I saw in Phoenix, so I hit the internet. The Pendleton site itself didn’t have the designs I saw, but I found Pendleton large Dopp bags on eBay and placed an order. On Saturday, I visited the Pendleton store in downtown Portland and found the same bags.
Pendleton Woolen Mills is a Northwest success story. English weaver Thomas Kay came West and set up a woolen products business in 1863. His daughter married into the Bishop family and the company then combined production and retail marketing. They have been producing woolen blankets, shirts, and other items from their mills in Pendleton, Oregon for 100 years and in Washougal, Washington for 97 years. That’s a sustainable business model! They control the entire vertical production and distribution of their items, from purchasing of wool from wool producers to milling, weaving and selling of the finished products.
I generally have avoided wool clothing as I find it scratchy (even cashmere!). But I wanted a durable and attractive bag to take to work beyond. I have several briefcase-sized bags and totes, most of them freebies from conferences. I wanted something smaller that was right-sized and had a shoulder strap. I am pleased to have found just what I wanted, produced by a local company that has found over a century of success.