By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly
Portland is a friendly city, certainly — but we can’t hold a candle to Southern hospitality. Exploring the frontier of what happens when Louisiana charm meets Portland innovation are Tausha Lell and Pat Marken, the proprietresses behind ReBelle’s and Ragin’ Cajun Gumbo — queer-owned businesses that seek to bring the best of the Gulf Coast to the Rose City.
Lell and Marken met 16 years ago at the Festival International de Louisianne in their hometown of Lafayette, La. Soon afterward, they took up ownership of the local iconic collectables shop, Euphoria. However, after that store’s smashing success, the couple found themselves hungry for a place that reflected their creativity, love of community, green sensibilities, and joie de vivre — and the Rose City fit the bill.
Lell and Marken arrived in town last November, and immediately found themselves enchanted by the up-and-coming SE Division neighborhood.
“It’s untapped, and it’s happening — you can smell it in the air!” Lell says with glee.
Only a few months after arriving in town, they opened their first endeavor: the Louisiana culinary outpost of Ragin’ Cajun Gumbo.
Ragin’ Cajun’s bright-red 1967 Santa Fe Shasta cart first lures customers in with the joyful strains of zydeco music streaming through the speakers, then snares them with the scent of authentic Gulf Coast cooking. Their signature dish may be the best gumbo in Portland — the tastes of savory chicken and spicy sausage perfectly playing off each other to evoke hot nights on the Bayou. In addition to the titular gumbo, Ragin’ Cajun also offers a variety of dishes that must be tasted to be believed. Particularly worth a try are Ragin’ Cajun’s own homemade secret-recipe chili, which is available on its own or served over Fritos or Doritos; and the Saturday special of Chicken Lafayette, which brings together chicken and shrimp in a creamy, spicy, deeply satisfying delicacy.
Once Ragin’ Cajun got rolling, Tausha rolled down Division Street to open the duo’s second endeavor: ReBelle’s. The shop is a feast for the senses, presenting an impeccably well-curated collection of high-quality yet reasonably-priced vintage garments and housewares alongside one-of-a-kind art and jewelry from across the country. Numerous couches — and a wine decanter that never seems to stop being passed around and refilled — make it a shop that veritably demands shoppers to come in and sit a spell.
Speaking of spells, ReBelle’s is also home to Lell’s pet project, the custom perfumery, Euphoric Blends. While ReBelle’s keeps numerous house fragrances in stock, Lell also keeps nearly 60 oils at their counter to enable her to craft the perfect personal scent for each individual.
“We can create a custom fragrance for you using a series of questions regarding scent preferences,” Lell says. “Building your own signature scent is like painting a picture — it can take some time to develop a finished product, but the end result is worth it.”
Considering that Lell’s custom fragrances can be smelled on ladies and gents as far away as London and Sidney, the result is unquestionably worth the time — so stop in, stay a while, and enjoy Lell and Marken’s Southern hospitality. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
ReBelle’s is located at 3611 SE Division St. in Portland. Hours vary. For more information, call 337-654-0293 or check out rebellespdx.com.
Ragin’ Cajun Gumbo is open for lunch and dinner and located in the A La Carts Extraordinaire pod at 4926 SE Division St. For more information, call 337-315-9266 or email [email protected]