Little Otsu is an independent publisher based in Portland, Oregon. We focus on publishing and selling illustrated books & paper goods. We now have a LO storefront in Portland! We're located at 3225 SE Division Street (across the street from Pok Pok).
We also had a storefront in San Francisco’s Mission District from 2002 to the end of 2010 and currently have a dedicated section within SF's Rare Device at 600 Divisadero Street (corner of Hayes).
Little Otsu started as the publishing division of the San Francisco store Otsu, founded and run by Jeremy and Yvonne since 2002. We had already been working with artists through hosting art shows, carrying their handmade goods, and making our exclusive artist t-shirt series. LO began in 2004 as an extension of that, serving as a way to collaborate with like-minded artists to make unique and useful print products using alternative materials like soy-based inks, recycled, and tree-free papers.
We both made zines in our “youth” on opposite coasts and had considered making a magazine before we decided to open a store. LO was a new outlet for our dormant love of publishing and as we worked on more projects, it became obvious to us that it was the direction we needed to move in. With our new focus, we moved from 16th Street to a new shared space with McSweeney's on Valencia and re-launched our operations as Little Otsu. LO headquarters still had a retail component where we carried all our paper goods along with a selection from some of our favorite small companies and that's what we continue to do now in our Portland store. We value well-made, handmade, and fairly-made goods.
For five years Yvonne & Jeremy ran the SF Storefront together with occasional help from friends and in November of 2007 moved to Portland, Oregon (where we had a second store from 2004-2005 in the original vegan mini mall just down the street from our current location). We ran the SF store remotely with our store manager Kirk and then Amara when he moved to the East Coast, with lots of help from Alexa, Anna, and Crystal. We lost our sub-lease on our Valencia Street space in 2010 and closed our doors on December 26th. We started a new SF retail endeavor in March 2012 when we set up our own dedicated section inside of Rare Device's new location at 600 Divisadero Street. And in October 2014, we opened a new retail store in our SE Portland neighborhood!
Yvonne & Jeremy do all aspects of the business including the buying, selling, bookkeeping, order fulfillment, and publishing duties (like product design, ideas, editing, art direction, layout, project coordination, marketing, publicity and sales). When we’re not shopkeeping, working on a LO project, or filling orders, we’re most likely… researching the lives of our Aunt Bonnie & Uncle Jim, reporting on Portland vegan food news, watching (hopefully) good movies, listening to Bob Dylan records, and ultimately still talking about work.
If you’re wondering what “otsu” is, it’s an antiquated Japanese word meaning… strange; quaint; stylish; chic; spicy; witty; tasty (it depends on the context). We found it in Yvonne’s dad’s old Japanese-to-English dictionary and liked the word and then figured the meanings worked for what we were doing. We asked Satomi from Deerhoof it it seemed ok and she said sure since it's a pre-war term and not really in use anymore. It’s also the name of a city in Japan, the capital of Shiga. We didn’t know that before we named our store, but hope to visit some day (we hear Lake Biwa is quite nice). Little Otsu came from a pet name our first intern Kate had for our store Otsu and it was a natural fit when we were trying to come up with a name for our publishing brand.