Downtown Camas has undergone a transformation. On NE 4th Avenue you can stroll the tree-lined streets and stop to shop at antique stores and boutiques. In season, beautiful hanging baskets overflowing with flowers decorate the lampposts. There are local eateries with farm-to-table cuisine and a brew pub or two. Things are happening in downtown Camas.
The Old Camas
Camas was established in 1883 as a rough-and-tumble mill town. In fact, the paper mill is still functioning not far from downtown. If you have lived in the area for any amount of time you will likely remember the smell of the Camas mill permeating the air. Fortunately, upgrades have eliminated most of the odors from the Camas Mill. A steam scrubbing system now strips pollutants from the pulping process and incinerates them.
New companies have located in Camas, upscale housing areas have been developed and Camas has become a very desirable place to live, play and retreat to.
The New Downtown
As Camas has changed, the downtown area has also changed and developed. The area around NE 4th Avenue has been revitalized to include trendy boutique shopping, fun and funky antiques, fine dining and services while still maintaining a quaint historic feel. I learned about these changes when I walked down beautiful 4th Avenue on my way to the Camas Farmers Market one Wednesday afternoon.
What I saw were historic buildings, revitalized and fitting well with new brew pubs, high-end boutiques and a 100-year-old hotel with all the comforts of a modern hotel. Downtown Camas has become a perfect place for a romantic getaway or an evening out on the town.
According to Dawn Stanchfield, owner of Lily Atelier, “It’s been really cool to watch the downtown businesses grow. It all started with a bond to upgrade our Camas Public Library and things took off from there.” Dawn showed me how they had doubled the space for their boutique clothing offerings. As we strolled through her crystal-chandeliered store, Dawn added enthusiastically, ”Things have been growing so rapidly several businesses on this street have expanded.”
Fun Things to do in Downtown Camas
I’ll bet you did not know you could go bird watching in the downtown area. Check out the Downtown Camas Hidden Bronze Bird Tour. A bronze bird is located on each block (a total of 13 in all). Stroll through downtown and look for birds of all different types. They are life-sized and native to our area. Print out the bird tour sheet and record your finds, then enter to win a bird-themed gift.
First Friday is for art, shopping and special community events. Camas First Fridays (5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.) take place every month of the year. Stores stay open late and there are art exhibits, family activities and gift basket raffles. Downtown takes on a festive atmosphere as people stroll the streets and participate in fun activities. In October there is a pumpkin pageant and in November it is all about pie with pie tastings, a pie walk dance and, of course, shopping. Follow the Downtown Camas Association Facebook page to find these events and more.
Shopping has become a good reason for people to come to Camas. For example, at Lily Atelier the focus is on the personal touch with shoppers. In fact, the locally owned boutique offers a wardrobe consulting service. Would you not like a “Closet Intervention” ($275) where fashion experts come to your home, help you go through your closet to thin out the unneeded and put together outfits to help you establish your personal look and signature style?
Along my route, I stopped by Arktana, a shop featuring European and American designer shoes. They also offer bags and jewelry, much of it one of a kind. And they, too, offered personalized service, drawing customers from Portland and beyond. So how do people know about Arktana? Owner, Ann Matthews, is skilled at using social media. Sales pop up on Facebook, and she fills her Instagram account with enticing pictures. And shopping in Camas is not just for women. Arktana, for example, has a great line of European-inspired men’s shoes.
Love antique shopping? The two-level Camas Antiques kept my visiting son busy for an hour as he looked through all the interesting collectibles on display.
Stay Awhile and Relax
You do not have to go far to find a place to stay in the midst of quaint downtown Camas. The Camas Hotel, over 100-years-old, is a boutique hotel with beautifully decorated rooms and a variety of lodging options to suit your needs.
The rooms have been upgraded, have top-flight amenities and a kitchenette, a light-filled breakfast room and guest laundry are available. I was impressed with the look of all the rooms with modern color palettes, windows overlooking the downtown scenery and – a big selling point – you will be within walking distance to shopping, a vintage movie theater, events and dining.
While you are relaxing, you will want to find a place to eat. Locals recommend Feast 316, a locally run Pacific Northwest eatery featuring steak, seafood and craft cocktails. Also recommended is Nuestra Mesa, for fresh and authentic Mexican Food. If you are into trying local brews, you can check out Mill City Brew Werks.
When You Go to Downtown Camas
Be sure to watch the Downtown Camas Association’s website for special event information. Camas is closer than you may think. Just take Exit 14 for 2nd St toward WA-500 W/Union St off SR-14, and follow the signs to Historic Downtown Camas.