Photo Essay: ‘Sleeping when it was night out kind of felt taboo’

Jason E Kapan
Like a beacon in the dark to tourists and late-night revelers, Voodoo Doughnuts's downtown Portland location is always open.

A night shift worker at Voodoo Doughnuts on his affinity for the late crowd.

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The following photo essay is part of a weekly series ‘Working the night shift.’ OB photographer Jason E Kaplan follows the people who keep the state’s largest city running through the night.

Unlike New York or Las Vegas, much of Portland does indeed sleep.  After the bars close downtown there’s not a lot going on.  Most of the restaurants and eateries (except for The Roxy Diner) close long before the bars do. But on the corner of SW 3rd Ave. and SW Ankeny St., the original Voodoo Doughnuts location offers something no other city doughnut shop does — a 24-hour schedule.  

I stopped by to visit an employee who for years found a home working the night shift at Voodoo. 


Though he mostly works swing shift now, assistant manager Mike Metzner ran the overnight shift at Voodoo’s downtown location for years. When I meet Mike, he is wearing a wild, blonde wig and a sequined blazer.  He acknowledges that he put on the getup for the photos, but says he keeps the outfit at the shop so that he can break it out anytime the circumstances warrant. 


This Voodoo Doughnut shop is small.  Even on a cold night in November people line up outside to wait for space to enter the store.  Founded in 2003 and decorated with relics and oddities, Voodoo stands like a monument to when Portland was weird.  The customers appear to mostly be tourists, waiting to experience a taste of the city’s waning counter culture.  

People here are not just fed doughnuts, but a crafted version of how things used to be in Old Town Portland. Voodoo itself is now more local attraction than rebellious upstart and has become a chain with locations as far away as Orlando, Florida.  


Famous for their Froot Loops and candy-encrusted treats, Voodoo Doughnuts are as much about what’s stuck on them as what’s in them.  


There are so many choices it can be hard to decide how to fill out your dozen.  


Mike says he really enjoyed working the midnight shift.  “Sleeping is something I had to learn to do all over again,” he tells me.  “Sleeping when it was light out kind of felt taboo.” 

Mike tells me it was hard to switch to swing as he had developed a real bond with people on graveyard. “I almost feel like a traitor going to a different shift.”


Mike tells me something I’ve heard from a lot of the people I’ve interviewed working night shift — that “your coworkers become your social life” because most other people aren’t going to be awake and available when you are.  “There’s a solidarity among the crew,” he says.  While swing shift has a lot more customers, nights tend to be heavier on production, though it can get busy when the bars shut.


Talking about his affinity for the midnight crew, Mike calls me over to a corner in the shop.  Rolling up his pant leg, he shows me that the night shift will be part of him forever.

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