Pedaling Through North Williams: Where to Shop, Eat & Play

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We recently sat down with local mama Stacee Wion (she’s the genius behind SpielWerk Toys) who gave us the inside scoop on her North Williams neighborhood. Stacee has four kids: three boys of her own (ages 16, nine, and six) and a three-year old girl that her partner brings to the mix. Stacee is also the owner of SpielWerk Toys, which provides high-quality toys that inspire engaging, creative play. So take note Portland peeps — we can’t think of a better way to scope out a new neighborhood than with the expert tips and advice from a local mom (and business owner) who’s just like us.

Favorite things about living in the North Williams neighborhood?

I love that my children are a part of my working community. These people are the people I see every day––my business community, our neighbors, my customers, the folks that grew up in this neighborhood, and those just passing through. These folks are a part of my children’s lives every day, and I love that they have become a part of our family.

The ‘village’ feel we have here extends out the length of Williams. We have incredible services here––good coffee, good food, good beer, good chocolate, good yoga, good hair… quite a few printers, a nursery, bakery, charcuterie, wheel worker, bike fixer. Creative people everywhere, making good things with their own two hands. This neighborhood grew up on manufacturing, and it’s coming back strong. In a day and age when communities are spreading further and further away from the folks that provide our services, we have really come to appreciate our North Williams neighborhood.

What makes it a great place for families to visit?

I would be silly not to say that I think SpielWerk helps to make the Williams area a great place for families to visit. We have dedicated quite a bit of our retail space to creative play space for anyone who wants to come in and play. We offer Craft WerkShops, and often host free performances, events, or activities that are fun for kids and parents alike. Very near to us are family-friendly restaurants. We have Cha! Cha! Cha!—affordable, family-friendly dining, Lompoc with a great kids menu, and now a new Hopworks with another great kids menu, and a collaborative kids play area featuring some of our custom toy designs.

What about other shops your kids enjoy?

My kids love to pop into Michael’s place down the hall in the building. Michael owns Tinymeat and make incredibly well made zippered pencil bags that he illustrates and then prints himself in his studio. This guy started out making the now famous Tinymeat vinyl wallets. My guys love to look through all the funny, slightly edgy comic images on these wallets. When Michael is in the shop, he’s usually up above sewing. I love that my kids get to see the full creative process behind their favorite wallets and pouches. They know where they come from.

Best place to spend a rainy day?

I think we would want to come to Ristretto Roasters for cocoas, and then run home to snuggle up together under gobs of blankets on the couch. Rain in the toy store is fun too. With our entire west wall being windows, we have quite a view. The snow and wind storms are the best. We just sit down on those front and center stairs and watch the storm like a movie.

Best place to run and play outside?

We have had quite a lot of fun at Unthank Park. On sunny days we love to walk the couple blocks down to this park and throw a ball around, or even play some bocce ball on the green. Occasionally we get to bring the baseball and bat, if there isn’t already a ball game in session. A couple times we have been able to get a kite flying pretty well in this park. The block around it is perfect for learning how to ride a bike and running into neighbors. Often there are chickens running around the yard down the street, and sometimes they get out and we find them on the street. From here if we have time, we love to walk to Mississippi Avenue, and occasionally across to the Bluffs.

Best free neighborhood activity?

Best free activity would have to be getting to go inside a double decker bus. Yeah, that’s right! Williams has a double decker bus parked right on the street. Lodekka is a full-on dress shop on wheels run by our great friend Erin Sutherland, whom our kids have come to know quite well. There are loads of cool stuff to look at inside. Best yet, there’s the cutest little “trailer that could” parked right outside. Two free kicks for the price of one.

Best-kept neighborhood secret?

Wow. That’s a tough one. I think I would have to say that the hidden gem of the Williams Ave area is the collection of stories you can find about the neighborhood that once was. I have met a few folks from the neighborhood that have shared their personal stories with me. I have learned of bustling jazz scenes, grassroots banks, early German settlers, and even stories from the man who wore the very first pair of Nike shoes––still made with a waffle iron. Rich neighborhood we have here––worth uncovering those hidden gems.

What are the must-see festivals or annual activities?

Pix’s Bastille Day party is definitely not to be missed. Love the Sunday Parkways––hope to bring them closer. And we’ve had great fun at the free concerts at Dawson Park in the summer.

Something exciting that is happening in the community—something you’re looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to welcoming new small business owners to the area. We have quite a lot of developments slated for Williams Ave over the next couple of years. New Seasons is coming in soon, as well as three large constructions right on Williams. One of the developers (of two of the buildings) has expressed his personal interest in securing local business––daily servicers and retailers to the residential community—and I am very glad for that.

Complete this sentence: If you bring the kids to North Williams, don’t forget to bring your____________________.

Pocket change! We accept piggy bank pennies, zip-locked allowance, and would love to count it out with you in exchange for a magical crystal, pirate coin, or hedgehog eraser. Ha! Seriously. This is about learning the skills, and meeting your small business owner. Sometimes we remember to refill our quarter gum machine (natural, of course!), and then you can treat your friends!

Another one would be…. balance bike. There are so many bikes along Williams––it’s a great feeling to be out there with them. Lot’s to see as you cruise up and down and around Williams. And this is how you meet the neighbors! We’ve met many a friend this way.

–Cheyenne Terbrueggen