Little Otsu is an independent retailer & publisher of quality paper goods based in Portland, Oregon. We like to focus on goods made in the USA, Europe, and Japan from places we have visited or would like to visit. Our storefront in Portland is located at 3225 SE Division Street.
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 revisited SF in March 2012 when we set up our own year-long mini-store inside of Rare Device when they moved to 600 Divisadero Street. And in October 2014, we opened a new retail store in our SE Portland neighborhood! We've had help at our Portland store over the years from Erika, Cielle, Rachel, and Katie, but since the pandemic, we've been back to a two-person operation.
Yvonne & Jeremy carry out all aspects of the business including the buying, selling, order fulfillment, and publishing duties. When we’re not shopkeeping, filling orders, or working on a LO project, we’re most likely… researching the lives of our Aunt Bonnie & Uncle Jim, reporting on Portland vegan food, and watching (hopefully) good movies.
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.