Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

M-A-I-N-E: Little Shops

IMG_2578You may not think of the midcoast of Maine as retail heaven, but for a certain individual (Do you swoon over letterpress and good card stock? Enjoy fondling antique French farm linens? Swerve and stop anytime you pass a general store?) it’s truly a paradise. Visiting my favorite little stores in Maine has become as much a part of my summer trip as gorging on lobsters and marveling over the tides; and this year I even discovered a couple of new finds to add to my list.

My very first stop is always the stationary and home store Rock Paper Scissors in Wiscasset. Although I’ve been stopping at this artfully-curated shop (see photo above) for several years, this summer was the first time I was able to meet the owner and tell her how much I love her style (I’m a groupie). Her talent is not just in how she selects the stationary, pottery, art, books, jewelry and lovely notions to sell (here’s a photo of this year’s haul, which doesn’t include the Japanese toothbrush with charcoal bristles that I bought and which is now officially the best toothbrush I’ve ever owned…I’m serious):
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Her talent is also in how she arranges them into these mesmerizing tableaus…like her selection of ribbons:
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And then there are the shelves of doodads and whatnots behind the cashier’s desk…

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Right across the street is Marston House, an antique shop and bed and breakfast located in a charmingly rickety old home and carriage house. Paul and Sharon are the couple who own Marston House and they spend half the year in Provence searching for French antiques and renting out properties, and the other half of the year in Maine selling their accumulated wares and renting out their carriage house apartments. Clearly Paul and Sharon have it all figured out. There is much that’s desirable in their store because, like Rock Paper Scissors (whose owner worked at Marston as a teenager), it’s all so mesmerizingly displayed. I ended up buying two cushions made from vintage indigo-dyed fabric and filled with dried lavender, and Belle scored some tiny antique doll house plates.

IMG_2587I wish I had bought those green bottles in the top right corner

IMG_2588Vintage French kitchenwares

IMG_2589Stack of ribbons

IMG_2590A collection of vintage cutting boards

Like any good holiday, we spend a lot of downtime lying on the porch and reading. Luckily for us, our favorite used bookstore is a short walk away. The Lobster Lane Bookshop is not like any other bookstore. First, it’s only open on weekends and during the summer months. Second, it’s located in a former lobster cottage that is more like a shack with windows, perched on the water’ edge. The owner took over the business (which is more a labor of love than a business enterprise, most of the books cost only a quarter) from her mother, who for many years spent weekends filling and selling used books out of the cottage next to her summer home. Although the Bookshop is still an insiders-secret, there is a devoted following: Come Saturday morning, bookworms begin to arrive via bike, car, and foot and leave with bags of books on every imaginable subject, from train collecting to Scandinavian thrillers.

IMG_2647The Lobster Bookstore’s most devoted customer. Note the game face.

IMG_2648Big score: a picture book bio of Tom Terrific.

IMG_3237In the category of new finds that are not new, we took a mini road trip one day when the fog rolled in, to the towns of Freedom, Hope, and Liberty (how cool are those for town names?). In Liberty—a village that reminds me strongly of Walnut Grove— we visited two ancient stores: Liberty Tool Company  and Frapoli’s. Liberty Tool Company is located in an ancient building on the main drag and sells what appears to be every tool ever made. Filed, piled, and tucked away in drawers and baby food jars are thousands of bolts, nuts, screws and nails (see photo above). The arrangement reminded me of carefully organized hoarding, and I imagine that someone who loves screwdrivers and wrenches (the way I love stationary) would be in their happy place.

Frapoli’s is a deeply eccentric antique shop just down the street from the Tool Company, and the owner sells all manner of early-Americana tchotchkes, including vintage cast iron skillets in every size that I now regret not buying.

IMG_3306Last, but certainly not least, is the elegantly simple Trillium Soaps in Rockland. Now, this is not just a soap store—the owners also display and sell a select collection of Belgian linens, enamelware, furniture, art, and things for the home (see above and below):

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But when it comes to soap, they are truly artists…
IMG_3300I realize that not everyone (people I’m related to) can understand getting excited over soaps (which I realize are basically little squares that you use to wash your armpits). But Trillium’s soaps are all made by hand, with the most natural of ingredients including mint, grapefruit, lemongrass, lavender, pine, etc. They’re cut from large blocks that are poured in the workshop right behind the register, and packaged in simple white paper pouches that make a wonderful gift from Maine for a friend. Or a gift for yourself because we all deserve armpits that smell like grapefruit and other lovely things.

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