How accurate does Jenn Louis think Portlandia is?
Here’s my tagline on that, “A lot of that’s true and it’s really embarrassing.” It’s flattering and embarrassing at the same time. I think that the thing with Portland is that it is full of ferocious spirits, which I really, really love.
I’m 41 year old, I have four businesses and I work really hard; I’m super ferocious. But I was able to do that without any investors and I could do that in my market here. I think that’s a really special thing that there’s a reason it’s not as cheap as it used to be. I have an employee, a line cook, who I was talking to the other day, and I said, “How much is your rent?” And he goes, “250 bucks a month.” And I’m like, “Where do you live in the house?” And he goes, “I live in the garage.” So he’s 21 years old, he pays $250 a month for rent, he lives in a garage and he doesn’t care. And it’s one of those things where if you live in a house with a bunch of people, you get to do what you love. You know, if you’re a line cook in New York City, you have a much rougher life ahead of you as far as paying rent. My cooks work 40-hour weeks; in New York you work a lot more than 40-hour weeks. In Portland, you pretty much have two days off a week together. I work my staff four days a week. In New York, you are probably working five to six [days], if not seven. The quality of life is different.
We don’t have the diversity, which I really miss sometimes; but that’s very different from living in a larger city like New York. And that’s why I’m really happy that I get to travel. We don’t have the urban density, so it’s a very different market to run businesses in. When the economy fell apart, Portland was hit harder than most cities, and we’re the slowest to come back. We’re a logging city — we don’t have a ton of industry in Portland — but it’s a really lovely way of life. Our farmers market — I don’t know if there’s a better one in the country. I was talking to someone in San Francisco and they said, “Your farmers market is phenomenal.” We have farmers markets year-round; in the summertime, they’re every day and they are in neighborhoods. It’s a nice way of life.
Going back to Portlandia, it is super, super quirky here. It is one of the strangest places that you could imagine. Both of my restaurants, the walls are windows, and so you see what goes by every day — people riding double-decker bicycles, people wearing tutus. I joke that it’s embarrassingly true at times, but it’s a real quirky place to live. Certainly the show is embellished, but there’s never a shortage of laughter. It’s funny.