Envisioned as a “dynamic creative workspace, gallery, and immersive retail experience,” Benchmark recently celebrated its grand opening on NW Lovejoy Street just south of NW 23rd Avenue. Co-founders Ian Mazie, Ben Boutros and Rob McCallum, who have roots in the A&O industry, designed the 1,100-square foot, multipurpose space for events, retail, and gallery installations.

Benchmark will host a series of exhibitions, artist talks and after-hours community events that offer local creatives and enthusiasts opportunities for cross-industry networking. The space will be open Thursday through Sunday for meetups and conversation. A rotating selection of local artists, makers and vendors is featured.

“Portland’s such a creative hub,” Ben Boutros says. “The creative companies we have here attract so much talent to the city. We want Benchmark to be a space that supports and inspires interconnection between all the different creative practices.”

We caught up with the Benchmark team to learn more about how they plan to use the space to build community and cultivate creativity.

Tell us a bit about your individual roles in the business of Benchmark.

Mazie: My background is in production and logistics, working a lot with artists and brands, so I’m probably more on the business side of things. Ben makes furniture, made all the fixtures, has done a lot of film, our products and things like that. And Rob, his strength, he does incredible design work, he has great relationships with people and he really, he’s like the…

Boutros: …the connector.

What was the idea behind Benchmark?

McCallum: Even though Portland has an incredible creative community—not just in apparel but the food industry, music industry, movie industry—it’s all separated. Everyone’s in their own pockets. We wanted to create a hub for the global creative community that’s here in Portland, where they can come, engage, support each other and get inspired.

Boutros: As creative entrepreneurs ourselves, we found that the market scenes and things like that weren’t very conducive to creating a community and really providing a platform to show what the creatives here can do. So we wanted to create a space that gave that platform, and that elevates people’s products and services and creativity within this community.

What is it about Portland that has inspired you to open Benchmark here?

Boutros: I think there’s a number of reasons we wanted to open Benchmark in Portland. Adidas, Nike, Under Armour…they bring and attract a lot of talent from across the country and across the globe. There’s such a pool of creativity in Portland. I also think the environment is a big factor. The access to nature, the inspiration that comes with that. You’ve got the mountains, you’ve got the ocean, and you’ve got a metropolitan city. All of that inspires creativity and the idea of being able to create and make in sustainable ways.

McCallum: But even though you have an incredible creative community here, it’s all separated. Everyone’s in their own world. We’re used to going to places where people come together and are inspired by the space, where you end up engaging and meeting people that you probably would never have before. That’s one of the things we found that was missing here in Portland.

You’ve been partnering with the Portland Art Museum in a number of ways. Can you tell us about the “Stay the Course” bags. How did that project come to be?

Mazie: This particular idea came from the Black Lives Matter banners that the Museum had displayed in their courtyard, which kept getting torn down. They asked us what we thought about recycling or upcycling those banners. We thought, hey, let’s turn them into a bag kit and call it a “survival kit.” And the name Stay the Course…It has a message, it’s upcycling, it’s all the things that we would want in a project and a collaboration—not just making something cool, but something cool that has all these different layers of stories behind it.

What are the best ways to connect with you or visit Benchmark?

Boutros: Our opening hours will be Thursday to Sundays, 11 to 6 in the winter months. And then we’re open by appointment on the other days.

Mazie: Part of the reason the store’s laid out like this, and it’s not just product everywhere, is that we really want to have a community space and space for collaboration. So we’re closed Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and on those days we will often be in here working with other people, working on our own businesses, helping some of these smaller brands shoot their product and do things of that nature.

Boutros: Hit us up an email, hit us up on Instagram. We’re really responsive to working with and meeting new creatives.

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Portland A&O powered by Prosper Portland aims to support the success of Oregon’s 800+ Athletic and Outdoor firms through community, peer-to-peer learning, events, and programming.

Prosper Portland/Portland A&O strives to support emerging A&O/Consumer Products brands by providing opportunities such as assistance with attending wholesale trade shows, education and peer support, and networking events.