Back, and Forth: More local quirk, the odd but good

Kirby Neumann-Rean/News-Register##Owner Martin Solano refurbished his specialized 1970 VW Rivera bus and has added touches including leaded stained glass by his mother, Janet Gilmore, to go with Rod Axtell’s profile of a VW Bug.
Kirby Neumann-Rean/News-Register##Owner Martin Solano refurbished his specialized 1970 VW Rivera bus and has added touches including leaded stained glass by his mother, Janet Gilmore, to go with Rod Axtell’s profile of a VW Bug.

Timeless and seasonal quirk in McMinnville stood out for me last week.

My new favorite vehicle in town is the blue 1970s VW bus owned by Martin Solano of Reel Hollywood Video on Northeast Adams Street -- the one with the profile of a red VW bug painted on its side.

The profile is both detailed and proportionate. At first glance, it looks like two vehicles parked next to each other. Painted by versatile Mac artist Rod Axtell, it’s a fine tribute to two classic vehicles.

The provenance of the bus is deep in detail, but the critical facts start with Solano’s grandmothers, Judy Grace of Portland and Marilynn Gilmore Spurgeon of Salem. Grace is the original owner of the bus and Spurgeon of the bug. The dents are mostly thanks to his late brother, Ian Phillips, and Solano said, “Those are memories I want to keep.”

Solano rescued the vehicle from the mud at his parents’ Amity property. He has since replaced the air-cooled engine three times.

He added the Axtell painting about five years ago. Look closely also for Solano’s “bare-ass baby” photo, as Solano puts it, a surprise courtesy of Axtell. Other personal touches include the stained glass louvered window by his mother, artist Janet Gilmore

The seasonal piece of quirk: I spotted my first Christmas wreath of the season on Nov. 1. It’s hanging over the entrance to the Stark Building, new home of Two Dogs Taphouse.

As I have mentioned, quirk is about elements of local culture you might not find anywhere else — unique, distinct and reflecting both appreciation of things past and new ways of thinking. Here’s some quirk worth celebrating even though it’s gotten press already:

Last month’s annual Lamppost Scarecrow contest was unlike anything I’ve seen. The same goes for the Harvest Fresh pumpkins. And that annual Totem Shriver carving project is very cool to see.

Then there’s what I call quirk at work, such as the “Shop Inside” signs you started to see downtown this summer. “Shop Inside” is a riff on the McMinnville Downtown Association’s successful “Dine Out(Side)” program. With winter on its way, I say let’s dine AND shop inside.

A larger sign-growth phenomenon is at work downtown in recent months: sandwich-board signs, as they are called, since they hearken to the days when businesses would pay people to walk around, sandwiched between two advertising boards. They’re the temporary fold-up boards, usually three or four feet tall, placed on sidewalks or near business entrances.

The category includes all free-standing, portable signs, not just those of traditional sandwich construction. By my count, the number has risen steeply.

Guess how many can be found in the downtown core, bounded by Baker, Second, Galloway and Fourth? Would you say 20 or 30?

Late last month, I counted 47.

They are mostly found on Third Street, but are spreading to Second and Fourth. Some are even equipped with wheels.

Not all signs have been up at all times, but I counted 41 in one afternoon shortly before Halloween. And since I started writing this column a week ago, at least one new one has appeared.

I know it was far fewer back in June, perhaps 15 or 20. For comparison sake, I wish I had counted them then.

With foot traffic slowing for winter, expect to see fewer sandwich boards over the next few months. But at this rate I predict the count will top 50 by May.

My tally includes several on Second Street for Mac Stage and the Tributary Hotel/okta restaurant, and on Fourth for Retro Arcade and others.

On Third, some businesses or shared buildings feature multiple sandwich boards. There are four in front of Mercantile at Third and Evans, in fact.

The basic principle is to direct people to something a block or so away. Some are tucked into alcoves or other off-sidewalk areas, but most are out on the sidewalk. And in places, they do complicate accessibility.

Not so much quirk as unique and notable:

- Gnarl worth noting:

Root balls that bulge up a foot or two around downtown trees are a typical sight, but there was something unusual about the root ball around the “No Parking Any Time” sign on Second Street, just west of Ford. Well, there was before the trees on that block were cut down last month, to be replaced by new trees in conjunction with sidewalk repairs.

What was odd was how the root ball gradually grew up and around the bottom two feet of the signpost.

That sign, and all the old roots, are gone now. New sidewalk is in place, tree wells are awaiting new trees and the sign is awaiting replacement.

- Watering holes worth waiting for:

Return of the bar at Thistle, on Evans, came a few weeks ago. It was about the same time Two Dogs Taproom reopened two blocks away on Fourth.

Next on the avenue was The Grove, the new wine bar featuring Montinore and Landlines, vintners based in Washington and Yamhill counties. The largest of the now 17 wine bars and tasting rooms downtown, The Grove is a warren in the best sense of the word, with several distinct spaces to sit and enjoy wine.

The décor features nifty topographic imagery. Landlines, after all, refer to elevation levels, not obsolete telephones.

A must-see is the multi-media mural using projection to show changes in light and seasons in a composite panorama of the wineries’ three separate vineyards. This will be a wine bar that blends the intimate with the spacious, a very indoor environment with a sense of the … I’ll just say it … grape outdoors.

And, yeah, the fact that I notice all this stuff is quirky in itself, but it comes from years of living in McMinnville and other vibrant, interesting towns where there is so much good that the odd that is also good really stands out, oddly enough.

Kirby Neumann-Rea, the N-R’s managing editor, enjoys books, craft beer, Celtic music and basketball. he can be reached at kirby@newsregister.com.


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