Iconic Portland head shop Third Eye Shoppe will soon close its doors

The Third Eye Shoppe on Southeast Hawthorne will close March 31. (KATU Photo)

Even if you've never been inside the Third Eye Shoppe on Southeast Hawthorne, you may be familiar with it. Chances are you've walked or driven by its eye-catching exterior.

You may also remember its strange and off-beat commercials. Cannabis and hemp activist Jack Herer opened the shop in 1987. At the time, it was a well-known place to buy marijuana paraphernalia. It will close permanently on March 31.

"This place was just up the street from me," said customer Andrew Garrettson, who moved near the shop in 1987. "That was the year I discovered the joys of cannabis."

Cannabis related merchandise wasn't the only kind of merchandise available.

"I tell them it's a hippy Grateful Dead department store," said Mark Herer. "That's how my dad started it back in 1987."

Mark Herer has helped oversee the business since his father died. He cites a number of reasons why sales have declined over the past few years. He blames road construction, the surge of online sales, and ironically, the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Oregon.

"Brand new customers are harder to come by these days," said Herer.

Customers who visit marijuana dispensaries are often presented with the option to buy paraphernalia like pipes or rolling papers. They're less inclined to visit a head shop like Third Eye, which doesn't sell marijuana.

"2016 was a tough year for us," said Herer. "We lost a half million dollars in sales over 2015."

Customers, both new and old, heard news of the closure within the past couple days.

"It's sad to see this particular place go," said Garrettson. "I came down to say goodbye."

"It's places like this that really make a place and a neighborhood feel like a community," said customer Idalina Abdo Vieira.

Herer says recent losses have put the business in debt. However, he also says he's already been offered $1 million for the property by a commercial developer.

"You know I met my wife in this building," said Herer. "It's been a great run. I've been proud, I've been honored, I met most of my best friends in this building."

Herer plans to celebrate in the final weeks the business is open. He says he plans to have a kind of block party for people to come and say goodbye.

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