Set in the hills along the Umatilla River, Pendleton is an old cattle town about 200 miles due east of Portland. Famous for the Pendleton Round-Up, an annual rodeo that has been running since 1910, folks flock there every year to watch the four-day spectacle. Another thing that makes Pendleton special is its concentration of craftspeople who live and work there—it’s a shopping destination for quality handmade goods. Stroll down Court Street in the historic downtown and you’ll see artisans sewing hats or stitching cowboy boots, long traditions that help preserve the city’s Wild West essence.
Pendleton Woolen Mill, a company renowned for crafting intricately patterned blankets, still resides in its original 1909 location. The Woolen Mill and Retail Store sells blankets, clothing and accessories. The famous blankets are still made in Pendleton to this day. To learn more about the process, you can book a free tour of Pendleton Woolen Mills.
Hamley & Co. has been doing business in the same building since 1905. A visit here is certainly a blast from the past as the company still builds handmade saddles using many of the same techniques their saddle makers used a hundred years ago. If you aren’t shopping for a high-end saddle, stop in anyway—the store also sells all kinds of western-style accessories. You can find western clothing, handmade leather purses and wallets by local artist Mary Bonifer, as well as jewelry, belt buckles and boot spurs engraved by Pendleton silversmith Amy Raymond. You might even catch a master saddler at work.
Be sure to stop next door for some food and drink at Hamley Steakhouse, a restaurant and saloon that captures the Old American West. You’ll find a full menu of perfectly prepared cuts of beef and ranch-style comfort food.
Montana Peaks Hat Company designs and makes handcrafted hats using old-fashioned equipment and methods. The owners create custom felt cowboy and fedora hats, each personally crafted to fit each customer’s size and style preference. All materials are made in the USA, right down to the ribbon and satin liners. Their hats and styles are so authentic they have even been featured in westerns.
If you want some boots to go with your new hat, stop at Stapleman’s Boots & Leather, where owner Richard Stapleman builds hand-crafted cowboy or cowgirl boots, as well as shoes. All boots and shoes are customized to fit your size and style, so you can choose what kind of leather, carving, heel and design you want. Stapleman does a series of measurements to ensure each boot or shoe is a perfect fit. While boots are his specialty, Stapleman also handcrafts customized belts, chaps and handbags.
Next door to Stapleman’s you’ll find Rod Retherford Saddlery & Cowboy Art where maker and artist Rod Retherford specializes in customized saddles, saddle bags, repairs and western art. It’s very likely that you’ll find Retherford doing saddle work as you walk in. If you walk away with an art piece you can’t live without, you’ll join the ranks of Retherford collectors, such as Nike co-founder Phil Knight and wife Penny, who were the first customers to purchase his longhorn skull head piece.
Tamástslikt Cultural Institute is an interpretive center located on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, where you can learn about the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla tribes through interactive exhibits. You’ll also find an array of collectibles at The Museum Store, which sells locally handcrafted tribal jewelry, apparel and art.
Your visit to Pendleton wouldn’t be complete without paying a visit to the iconic Rainbow Café, established in 1883. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s a Pendleton staple for its old-school atmosphere and comfort food.
For more information about visiting Pendleton, check travelpendleton.com.