Ripping the City with Chris Yen

The owner of vintage teamwear shop Laundry dishes on his favorite summer eats, go-to Oregon road trip, and Portland’s best-kept secret.

By Dalila Brent Illustrations by Betty Turbo May 9, 2023 Published in the Summer 2023 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: Betty Turbo

Honing in on childhood passions as a grown-up is an experience many adults don’t get to have. Chris Yen is not one of those adults. At his vintage teamwear store, Laundry, the sports lover and Phoenix native is selling the same kind of tees, hats, and jackets he grew up wearing. Before the shop’s recent move to the Alberta Arts District, Laundry opened its doors in the Central Eastside Industrial District in 2017, and Yen later set up shop in Chinatown, in 2019. Though that move came with more space, it also presented its share of challenges, including a lack of steady foot traffic and a lack of peace—Yen says he’s looking forward to “a normalcy here that I haven’t really enjoyed in a few years being downtown.” What’s more, he says, “As much as I still love Chinatown, that neighborhood no longer fit the size of my ambition for Laundry.”

Location change aside, Laundry is keeping the same energy—providing the Rose City (as well as celebs like LeBron James and Odell Beckham Jr., to name a few) with some of the most-sought-after vintage sportswear pieces. “I guess it's been really surprising—no matter where we've been in the city—the types of people who’ve managed to keep finding us,” Yen says, noting that when it comes to vintage “everyone is a potential customer.”

When did you move to Portland, and why? 
My wife and I moved to Portland in 2012. I was a little tired of Phoenix after almost 30 years, and we wanted to start a family. 

Favorite place(s) in the city to clear your mind? 
I always enjoyed visiting Lan Su Chinese Garden. The scenery is beautiful, and they have the nicest teahouse.

Favorite part about summer?
You can wear jerseys and T-shirts every day.

Go-to Portland restaurant to take out-of-towners?
My parents always want to eat at Nong’s Khao Man Gai when they visit. Nong was really on the come up when I moved to Portland. Seeing her grow that business from such small beginnings was inspiring.

Food/drink you hate that everyone else seems to love?
La Croix

Retail stores that are Portland’s best-kept secret? 
A lot of people won’t think it’s a secret, but I’ll say Index. I’m always surprised when someone comes in looking for sneakers who doesn’t know Index.

Favorite book?
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami 

Favorite TV show you’re bingeing?
I binged The Wire most recently. Before that, Narcos. That’s when I grew a mustache.

Eternal playlist song?
“Everything Is Everything,” Lauryn Hill

Favorite Oregon road trip?
I like driving to Cascade Locks. It’s a winding road with a great view of the river.

A local summer dish you love
Nico’s Ice Cream. It’s a really interesting product, with great branding and great people who work there.

Who's your hero?
My wife, Erika, but I want it to be Devin Booker. Ask me again in July.

Best advice you’ve received?
Strike while the iron’s hot.

Worst advice you’ve received? 

Scariest career moment?
Quitting my job and moving to Portland without any employment lined up

What’s your mantra?
Buy the ticket, take the ride.

Best gift you’ve ever received?
A good lawyer 

What excites you the most about the future of Portland?
I’m excited that neighborhoods such as our new home here in Alberta are thriving again. I’m excited to see families out on walks and people eating at restaurants and living the kinds of lives we enjoyed before COVID. 

Three words that describe Portland?
Small-town drama

Three words that describe you?
Old-school Gemini

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