A large, richly decorated 4-manual Wurlitzer organ console sits superimposed on a mountain lake with a forest in the background.

We’re working on an exciting documentary film project about the history of the Organ Grinder restaurants in Portland and Denver. Take a look at our Blog to see our progress, or check out our Facebook Group which has a lively community. We want your stories – especially if you were a fan/patron or staff!

A man raised about 20ft off the ground by a bucket truck waves as he leans on the original Organ Grinder restaurant sign (the portion that looks like a monkey) on 82nd Ave. in Portland in 1973.
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Welcome and Introduction

“Guess What’s Coming” – Those were the words on the new sign outside the first Organ Grinder restaurant in Portland as it was nearing completion in 1973. It’s a very appropriate phrase, as something new is coming – a documentary film project which seeks to tell the whole story behind the rise and fall of…

The Grinder that Never Was
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The Grinder that Never Was

Early in the planning stages for the first Organ Grinder, the founders used an architecture firm which specialized in restaurants and hotels. The design was very conventional – a rectangular building, with the entrance and kitchen at the front, and the organ at the back. No towering windows showing off the pipes to the street,…

“The Calm Before the Storm”
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“The Calm Before the Storm”

Yesterday, we returned to the Architectural Heritage Center in Portland, Oregon. The AHC had just unearthed a set of slides from the architecture firm Martin, Soderstrom and Matteson (now Soderstrom Architects), originally co-founded by Will Martin, the architect who designed the Organ Grinder building. The slides feature the Organ Grinder building in 1973 around the…

Bonus Feature – The Eclectic Sounds of the Mary L. Collins Organ – Jonas Nordwall
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Bonus Feature – The Eclectic Sounds of the Mary L. Collins Organ – Jonas Nordwall

As part of the documentary project, Jonas Nordwall sat for an extended interview. Jonas is the Organist and Artistic Director of Music at First United Methodist Church, Portland, Oregon. He was also very well known as a performer at the Organ Grinder restaurants. At the end, he gave us a demonstration of the Mary L….

From Trauma to Tunes
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From Trauma to Tunes

This morning we were joined by Bret Goss in front of an abandoned Walmart at an undisclosed location. (Why? Read on…) Bret had a harrowing “Home Alone” story to tell, when, at the age of six, he was accidentally left behind at the Organ Grinder after a large family celebration (each group leaving thought that…

What a Concept!
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What a Concept!

This week, we visited the Architectural Heritage Center in Portland, Oregon to view the Will Martin archives. Will Martin was the architect who designed the unique Organ Grinder building. Will is most famous for designing Pioneer Courthouse Square in Downtown Portland. Among other items, we found this concept drawing of the Organ Grinder exterior, rendered…

A Family of Fans
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A Family of Fans

Today we interviewed Brad and Debbie Avakian. Brad and Debbie were high-school sweethearts who would often gather up a car load of friends to drive all the way across town to enjoy the Organ Grinder together. They are also the parents of Nathan Avakian, who was thrilled as a child to experience the Organ Grinder…

Bonus Feature – The Egyptian Theatre’s Wonderful Wurlitzer
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Bonus Feature – The Egyptian Theatre’s Wonderful Wurlitzer

Located in Coos Bay, Oregon, the Egyptian Theatre is home to the last remaining Wurlitzer pipe organ in Oregon which is still playing in its original location. This short film features a demonstration of the historic instrument, with interviews of Paul Quarino, an original and long-time Organ Grinder performer who is now a caretaker of…

Jonas Gets Interviewed
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Jonas Gets Interviewed

Behind-the-Scenes photo from yesterday’s interview with Jonas Nordwall, one of the original Organ Grinder performers. Not only did Jonas expound on a wide array of topics, he also gave us a demo of the Mary L. Collins organ at First United Methodist Church in Portland. Jonas and his son Christopher with Rose City Organ Builders,…

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