PDX’s new pop-up program debuts with Orox Leather, Missionary Chocolates
November 29, 2023


When the Port of Portland announced in 2022 that it was looking for local food and retail shops for PDX’s new main terminal, Orox Leather Co. founder Martín Martinez wasn’t planning to apply. Until he heard from the Port directly. A loyal customer of the Martinez family’s downtown Portland store had nominated Orox after PDX asked Portlanders to suggest local shops they’d like to see at the airport.

Inspired by the possibility of expanding his 17-year-old family business, Martín submitted an application. Orox wasn’t one of the 20 concession spots we announced earlier this year. But thanks to PDX’s new pop-up program, designed with women- and minority-owned businesses in mind, Orox’s pop-up will sell the Martinez family’s leather goods as well as products made by Latino American and Oaxacan artisans. "A lot of the businesses in U.S. airports are impersonal,” Martín says. “Our goal is to transmit the soul of the melting pot we have here in Oregon, and the diversity that happens through craft.” 

“We've looked at so many options for how to build this company, and the airport is going to be an incredible blessing,” adds Melissa, whose PDX store will sell her dairy- and nut-free chocolates. “The airport allows us to directly reach the people who want to know about us.”

At Orox, Oaxaca meets Oregon 

Martín and his two brothers, Levi and Kevin, grew up in a family of leather artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico. Their father, José, was a master craftsman who had studied traditional leatherworking in both Mexico and Japan. In 2006, after Martín finished his business degree at Portland State University, he founded Orox with José. “We were thinking about how to make a cultural bridge between our Latino roots and this new reality in Oregon,” he says.

The Martinez family sold their handmade bags, belts, wallets, and other goods at Portland’s Saturday Market before opening a workshop and store in Portland’s Chinatown in 2011, which Martín’s entire family helps run. Many customers, Martín says, first stumble upon Orox while searching for Chinese food: “They hear the sewing machines. They hear us speaking Spanish. They hear the story told by the owners, who are working and making and selling in that space.” 

Now Martín’s looking forward to sharing his family’s story with visitors to Portland who pass through his airport store. "The hope is to have a place where we can tell stories and connect with people," Martin says. "We're reimagining our business as we speak."

Missionary Chocolates: From farmers market to PDX

Missionary Chocolates has been in business since 2008, when Melissa, a naturopath, began making dairy-free, nut-free, vegan truffles for her mother in her own kitchen. She moved into a small storefront on NE Glisan Street in 2011, then joined the weekly Shemansky Farmers Market in downtown Portland, where her stand has now been a familiar presence for a decade. 

Missionary now has a staff of 14, and Melissa has partnered with fellow Portland entrepreneur Josie Hartman to expand into the PDX store. At the airport, she plans to sell a wide array of her truffles, chocolate bars, and other sweets, as well as coffee from Cascadia Coffee Roasters.

Melissa already ships her chocolates around the United States, and visitors to Portland stop by at her store to pick up chocolate on their way to the airport. “Now I can reach clients who don't have the time to come in,” she says. 

PDX’s pop-ups boost small business

Every year, visitors spend $115 million eating and shopping at the airport, and that number is projected to grow once 20 more concessions open in the main terminal. We know you love finding your favorite local businesses at PDX, where we lead the industry in ensuring the diversity of airport concessions: 59% of PDX’s shops and restaurants are fully or partially owned by women or BIPOC entrepreneurs.

But we also know building an airport location is expensive and intimidating, and a lack of access to funding keeps many women- and minority-owned shops and restaurants from opening at PDX. That’s why we’ve invested our own resources into a retail pop-up program in the pre-security area, which will host tenants like Orox for a year at a time. We’ve done everything short of stocking the shelves to ready these spaces for small businesses to grow their brands in their hometown airport. 

The pop-ups are the next generation of PDX’s popular food-cart program, which ended when the Oregon Marketplace closed in 2019. “We’re hoping this gives businesses like Orox the ability to grow brand awareness, experience, and capital to springboard into future opportunities at PDX or elsewhere in the region,” says Abby Carey, PDX Concessions Development Manager.