PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Take a walk around Portland and you’re likely to find one or many of local artist Mike Bennett’s wooden cartoon cutouts staring back at you. His colorful, hand-painted characters have become popular fixtures for Portland storefronts since his art gained notoriety shortly before the pandemic in 2019.
His work has also been featured in the many immersive art exhibits that he’s set up in empty retail spaces around town like “Dinolandia” and the ‘Crypto-Zoo: Museum of Mystery.’ But on Oct. 15, Bennett officially opened his own permanent storefront, the Wonderwood Springs cafe located at 8811 Lombard St. in St. Johns.
Fashioned after his signature artistic style and storytelling themes, Bennett told KOIN 6 News the cafe and its adjoining interactive exhibit “Wonderwood: The Scourge of Castle Maplehold” feature medieval fantasy creatures, stories and beverages.
“Wonderwood Springs is a permanent coffee shop experience built on a magical spring that grants its drinkers special powers,” the coffee shop’s website states. “It magically changes locations, staying in a town, village, or hamlet for as long as it feels it needs to. Could be two days, could be two decades. Now, it has found itself in Portland, Oregon. While coffee and themed fantasy drinks are a staple at the springs, there will be food, events, shopping, adventure, and so much more.”
In addition to food, the shop also offers unique drinks like sweet-potato-spiced coffees, Bennett’s own brand of beer made by Gigantic Brewing Company, spicy “fire-breathing mochas” and “butter brew” — a take on butterbeer from the Harry Potter series.
“I want it to be a place for people to write their own stories and make their own art,” Bennett said.
The hundreds of cutout creations placed behind the bar and around the cafe represent a fraction of the space’s viewable artwork. Inside the former Bank of America building next door, which previously housed Bennett’s monster museum, lies the artist’s latest creation.
The 7,000-square-foot exhibit, he said, is similar to a walkthrough storybook or immersive haunted house without the scares. Using immersive and interactive elements, Wonderwood: The Scourge of Castle Maplehold encourages people to stop an evil tree wizard and bring peace back to Wonderwood.
“Noble hero, Maplehold calls for aid!” the exhibit’s website reads. “The royal family has been kidnapped! Embark on a whimsical adventure through the troubled castle town of Maplehold, which has been overrun by Lord Sap, a villainous wizard. Will you make the trek across Wonderwood to rid Maplehold of this scourge?”
The Wonderwood Springs cafe is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wonderwood: The Scourge of Castle Maplehold is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m to 7 p.m.
While the coffee shop is meant to be permanent, its drink menu and adjacent art exhibit will change seasonally. A nautical pirate adventure is already in the works for spring of 2023, and next fall, Bennett promises something truly special.
“I’ve got something really unique,” he said. “A huge evolution of my work.”
Watch KOIN 6 News’ Kohr Harlan visit Wonderwood Springs below: