PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s been 20 years since the famous phrase “Keep Portland Weird” was coined, and with plenty of people relocating to the Rose City in the time since, many transplants don’t know where the slogan originated.

In the late ‘90s, Terry Currier — owner of the Pacific Northwest’s oldest record store Music Millennium — noticed that a lot of national chain stores and big box retailers were opening in Portland. As a small business advocate who had worked in the area since the ‘70s, Currier wanted to start a campaign encouraging people to support the city’s independent retail stores.

He had considered naming his campaign “Keep Portland Unique,” but he decided that it didn’t have a ring to it. It wasn’t until 2003 that a friend in Austin, Texas, a city that had already launched a ‘weird’ movement of its own, encouraged Currier to start a similar slogan in Portland.

Then, Currier asked a Music Millennium employee to create the “Keep Portland Weird” logo that was later seen all over businesses, bumper stickers and magazines around town.

Although the phrase started out as a way to promote independent retailers, Currier says it held a different meaning for the Portlanders who felt that their city had been overrun with garbage, homelessness and drug abuse — and therefore didn’t need to get any weirder.

“The great thing about keeping Portland weird as a slogan is it means a little bit different to every individual that hears it and you can have your own interpretation of it,” Currier said. “It was an interesting talked-about subject. I would have never thought that it would almost become the unofficial slogan of this city, but here we are 20 years after the fact and it’s still going out there.”

The many iterations of “Keep Portland Weird” has kept the phrase alive. Currier says the local electrical union had “Keep Portland Wired” as its motto, while a nearby beer company used the slogan “Keep Portland Beered.”

There’s also the Instagram-worthy “Keep Portland Weird ” mural outside of Dante’s nightclub in Old Town, which is a hot spot for tourists who can’t get a closer look of the original sign outside of Music Millennium.

Currier doesn’t deny the impact of the “Keep Portland Weird” movement he spearheaded two decades ago, but he says the city has lost some of what once made it so special.

“Our downtown was one of the best, [most] unique downtowns of any major city in the United States and we can’t say that right now,” he said. “My hope is that downtown rents go down dramatically and that our downtown core is rebuilt up with local entrepreneurship, which will add a very unique flavor to it.”

However, he still believes there are quirky parts of Portland that make the city what it is, like the interesting people and items you’ll see at the Saturday Market and the many musicians creating art around town.

“There is a bit of uniqueness and weirdness to Portland,” he said. “We’re going through a transition right now and it’s hard to say how we’re gonna come out on the other side.”