Loco for Local: Orono Boutique Sells Solely Maine Products
Maine Maven: there is no better name for the Mill St. boutique than this. A maven is someone who is an expert in a particular field and wishes to spread their knowledge to others; Jason and Kristen Lainsbury, who split their time operating the store, have used Maine Maven to spread the word on buying local. To this couple, the state of Maine is a passion and helping contribute to the sustainability of the local economy is their goal.
In summer 2010, the couple made a decision to follow a long time dream of owning and operating a boutique. However, they did not want to open another small store that carried overpriced, mass-produced products. Their store, Maine Maven, would be a place where local artists, designers and companies could sell their goods to their fellow Mainers. The store carries a diverse group of products ranging from clothing and artwork to cooking supplies and stationary.
“When it comes to retail in Orono, the more the merrier. Our whole concept is different. We only do one thing: Maine products, and we do Maine products in a very different way than many of the more traditional Maine-made stores. We’re as interest in the people behind the products as we are in the actual products,” Kristin said.
The two full-length glass windows that give outsiders a view of some of Maine Maven’s newest products are bookends to the traditional painted wooden door that leads you in. The general store feel in Maine Maven is an instant relaxer compared to concrete floors and warehouse ceilings of the mega-chains such as Target and Wal-Mart.
When you walk into the Lainsbury’s store it seems like the pine tree scent filling your nose is coming from the exposed wood floors, walls and ceiling. However, take a quick look around and you will notice the many kinds of Maine-inspired potpourri that are filling the air with comforting aromas.
The products they sell are artistically arranged on wooden hutches, desks and tables to give each product a backdrop that matches its back-story. The ‘M’ Sea Bags, which are unique to Maine Maven, are arranged on old-fashioned dressers and stands. Each items tag is placed in the front so that any prospective buyer can read about where these recycled-sail bags come from. This item history comes with every good that the Maine Maven carries.
“I know that I can ask whoever is working about the stuff I’m interested in and they will be able to tell me where it came from and who my money is going to. You can tell how much the owners care about their store and the products they sell right when you walk through the door,” said Allison Richter, a UMaine student and Maine Maven shopper. The University of Maine students frequent the shop due to their school-spirited products, such as the “M” Sea Bag and the Maine Stein Song Shirt.
“The atmosphere is small, friendly, hip and elegant. Right now we are exactly the right size for our needs.” Kristen said.
The store’s hours are the first indication that this store has priorities far beyond making money. Maine Maven is a family-run store, which is why family is the deciding factor in all decisions. The store’s hours, closed Sunday through Tuesday and never open past 5pm the other days, are such due to their young child’s needs and ensuring there is enough family time.
“Doing a few more sales by being open twice as long isn’t worth the tradeoff. We also offer shopping by appointment for our regular customers if they need something outside of regular hours,” Jason said. Making accommodation’s for their customers needs and special arrangements outside of regular store hours is how Lainsbury’s show their customers how much they appreciate them.
Although a store that focuses more on Maine than on Money may not be expected to be doing well in this economy, the Maine Maven added on a small gallery space that will showcase the work of Maine Artists. “A down economy makes people think more carefully about the choices they make, and we’ve found that our customers feel good about buying something locally made — and special — rather than something important and mass-produced,” Kristin said when asked about how they have survived the recent recession.
In a time when giant corporations have run mom-and-pop stores out of business almost overnight, customers find it refreshing to walk into Maine Maven and be greeted by the Lainsbury’s themselves.
It is clear that Maine Maven is a store by the Maine people for the Maine people and that buying local will always remain the stores primary objective. What the future holds for this boutique is a mystery to the public still but that doesn’t mean there is noting in the works. “We have plans for the future, but we’re still working out the details so I’d rather not elaborate quite yet,” Kristen said.