A Virtual Walking Tour of North St's History

by Curtis Williams

North St Blog - Whats In a Name Vermont Graphic

We are often asked, where did the name North St come from? Sometimes there is a particular North St in mind, perhaps in Portland, or another city.  There are actually North Streets all over the place!

Naming the company was one of the big early decisions to make. Business registrations had to be filed, a domain name registered etc. I feel fortunate to have picked what I think is a strong, accessible and, dare I say iconic name.

Little known fact - North St was not the original name. At our debut event in 2009 I had a different name and logo, which I then changed to North St Bags a few months later.

North St Bags' namesake is in fact the street I grew up on in my hometown - Montpelier, Vermont. It's a 5 mile long, mostly dirt road along a scenic hillside looking over Camel's Hump and the Green Mountains. It's where my journey began as a rider of bikes, a designer of things, and an explorer of the beautiful and wild places in the world.

Stories behind the bags

Most of our product line is named after streets in Portland, OR where we're based. We take pride in making our products locally, and employing folks from our community, and we wanted to highlight this with our naming convention.

Some are streets of significance to us, like our shop location (or a former one). With other names, we just like how they sound. Read on for more stories of our design and naming process over the years.

North St Bags Blog - Whats in a name Portland Map Graphic

The bag that started it all

The flagship of our line is the Woodward Backpack Pannier. The original concept was a bag that would work well as a bicycle pannier and backpack. I started the design in the basement of my first PDX home on SE Woodward St.

Starting out, I was naming bags after streets where I had lived. North St historians might know that the other bag in development at the time I was calling the Avenue B Backpack - named for a street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan where I lived before moving to the west coast. This was a flap-top backpack pannier design which would later morph into the Belmont and Morrison bags. 

man walking along street wearing version 1 of a North St Bag

This photo was taken in the fall of 2011 during my first professional shoot. (That's me wearing the backpack).


North St Bags Blog - Woodward History

The teenage years

We all go through that awkward growth spurt phase, and our brand is no exception. Our first products went through a few different design iterations as we found more ways to improve.

We launched version 1 of several bags in 2015 and 2016, including our line of Pioneer Hip Packs, which double as Handlebar Bags for your bicycle. Those years also saw the addition of our line of roll-top backpacks, the Davis Daypack and Flanders Backpack. These streets extend all the way over to our neighborinos in NW Portland. 

Other staple products came about such as our Tabor Totes, named after a once active volcano that Portlanders now use for jogging, online dating, and occasionally for luge riding (stay safe, kids!). 

We kept up with the street name convention, but switched from streets in my personal history (I haven't lived THAT many places) to recognizable Portland streets - our ode to this city which we love.

The latest addition

Today in 2023 North St Bags is now officially located in North Portland. We are one block west of the bike superhighways-- N Williams Ave and N Vancouver Ave (the latter being the namesake of our latest daypack design). One of my earliest memories of biking in Portland was seeing Mario Kart mushrooms and banana peels printed in the bike lanes along N Williams Ave. 

Our new address falls on N Flint Ave, which leads us to wonder: What type of bag will get the name "Flint"? 

Thanks for reading! 



Curtis Williams