Oregon

Where We Live: PDX Clocktower Plaza

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- Every year during the month of June, Portland celebrates one of the main reasons Portland's airport is considered one of the best in the nation.

Portland pioneered the idea of marketing our best local products to millions of travelers and showing the world a little piece of where we live.

At least 19 million travelers pass through Portland International Airport every year and one of the first things they see is the clocktower. The landmark celebrates its 30th year in 2018 and anchors the plaza that revolutionized airport retail. 

"It's a connection for people, whether they're home or travelers, to what truly is Oregon," said Vince Granato, Chief Operating Officer of the Port of Portland.

Before the Clocktower Plaza was unveiled at PDX, most airport retail consisted of newsstands and duty-free shops.

Then, businessman Sam Naito had a vision to sell Oregon products to people from around the world.

Inspired by the shipping crates he saw in his Old Town business, Import Plaza, stating "Made in China" or "Made in England," Naito opened the first "Made in Oregon" store at PDX in 1975. 

At the time, the plaza was called Oregon Market. The clocktower opened in 1988 and the concept exploded.

"PDX is a very, very high-traffic location," Sam's son Verne Naito of "Made in Oregon" said. "Millions of people literally walk by our storefront every year."

The airport's growth and traveler-friendly reputation raised the profile of Oregon products sold there, from Moonstruck Chocolates to Oregon wine. Visitors even love the carpet, which despite being replaced in 2015, is still a popular design.

Other advantages for airport retailers is that there's no sales tax in Oregon, which appeals to travelers from other states, and street-level pricing, which means you pay the same price at the airport as you would at a regular store. 

Many original retailers are still there 30 years later, including Nike and The Real Mother Goose, but Clocktower Plaza is still evolving, now showcasing local up and comers like Blue Star Donuts.

"Other airports I think have tried to do a similar thing," Granato said. "I believe that ours is still the best."


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