Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Super Shopping in Maine

by Ki Hackney

It’s easy for some of us New Yorkers to forget
that there are other gem-quality summer resorts besides our beloved North and South Forks of Long Island, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. One of these jewels is the Rockport-Camden stretch along the east coast of Maine.

Heading North, about 2 hours above Portland, is the hamlet of Rockport with its cozy harbor sprinkled with sailboats. Rockport is home to the Maine Media Workshops, formerly known as Maine Photographic Workshops, (877-577-7700 or www.theworkshops.com), where, last summer, I was privileged to take a crash course in Photoshop and returned this year for photographer Sally Mann’s lecture. Rockport is also the increasingly year-round residence/office for photographer Joyce Tenneson and home to Timothy Whelan’s fabulous photographic books (rare and current) and prints store (207-236-4795).
Camden's harbor filled with boats of all shapes and sizes.
Stopping and smelling (and photographing) the lush white Camden Hydrangeas.
A hop skip and an intersection up Route 1 (past Leonard’s clothing store for women or the Belted Galloway cows at Aldermere Farm, if you prefer a scenic shortcut) is Camden.

Built on the hills surrounding the lively harbor, Camden is a bit like mixing rolling hills, a more rugged coastline, magnificent water views and lots of white clapboard houses with Sag Harbor, except that white hydrangeas seem to outnumber the blue variety ten to one.

Shopping is a pleasure in this fashionable, old-fashioned town. There are the usual sweatshirt and trinket shops, two colorful little ice-cream shops, and the not-to-be-missed baseball cap, fowl weather jacket, T-shirt and canvas tote bag store in the middle of town that does the embroidery/monogramming on site: Camden Custom Embroidery (207-236-8626). There are some original and authentic stores, as well.
Camden Custom Embroidery, 207-236-8626 or www.camdenembroidery.com.
We started at the top with the Anderson family and Lily, Lupine & Fern, their wine, beer and cheese emporium (207-236-9600), which Mama Bunni says, “deals in everything romantic,” as she prepares a summery bouquet for a young couple in the tiny flower area in the back.

It’s 95 degrees (yes, even in Maine) and the family’s Cairn terriers are nearby, napping. In addition to shelves packed with wine, including the latest, tastiest rosé varieties, the shop offers coffee, an assortment of fine cigars and a few chocolates.
Mama Bunni prepares a bouquet for a young couple while her daughter works the cash register at Lily, Lupine & Fern, 207-236-9600 (for the store) or www.lilylupine.com  (for the flowers).
Across the street, we headed back to the Boynton-McKay Food Co. (207-236-2465) for some iced espresso, and my husband could not resist a couple of pastries. Back across Main Street, we stopped at Starbird country antiques and decorative accents (207-236-8292). Caroline Sutherland no longer makes the signature needlepoint pillows, but she ferrets out a pretty interesting selection to sprinkle throughout the store. We were fascinated by the selection of old lures, many of which are large, painted wood fish, plus a marvelous dragonfly.
Starbird, 207-236-8292.
Further down the hill, we went to Fabrics de France (207-236-3515), specializing in interior design fabrics and the exclusive East Coast representative of Toiles de Mayenne (which, ironically, means Maine), the 200-year-old family fabric business based in an agricultural region west of Paris. Lots of other fabrics can be ordered, including those from one of my favorites, Manuel Canovas. Most of the work is custom – window treatments, upholstery, slipcovers, table linens, duvet covers, bedskirts, etc., but owner Yves Vitasse makes sure to stock plenty of items to purchase on the spot – colorful pillows, oversized kitchen towels, tea cozies, napkins, table clothes, pillow covers, and special gifts from tea pots to antique Limoges china.
Fabrics de France, 207-236-3515 or www.fabricsdefrance.com.
Back to the heart of town, I had to pay a quick visit the local grocer, French & Braun (207-236-3362) a family marketplace with a little of everything. Glad it’s still there.

A few doors away is Stonewall Kitchen (207-236-8979 or nationally at 800-207-JAMS), one of the great sources of homemade specialty foods, cookware, tableware, kitchen equipment, etc. You can taste many of the preserves, sauces, condiments and toppings, which is a lot of fun. I snapped up a bottle of Curried Mango Grille Sauce right away. Delish.

The prepared gifts for friends and hostesses are imaginative, including the company’s own peanut butter and jelly wrapped, bow- tied and ready to go. A major feature of Stonewall Kitchen is the plethora of tasty products they produce for Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa, some of which are gathered into bountiful gift baskets.
Stonewall Kitchen, 207-236-8979 / 800-207-JAMS or www.stonewallkitchen.com.
A wall of products from the Barefoot Contessa available at the Stonewall Kitchen.
Heading north through Lincolnville, with even more grand old houses, most of which seem to face the water and have at least a view through the tree-tops if not a panoramic vista, are my last three stops. Walk through the red barn doors at Deer Meadows Antiques (207-236-8020), and you are greeted by a gracious former New Yorker, Irene Cossman.

That particular day, Irene was both pleased and saddened to say good-bye to two signed, early 19th century Smith Ely Hitchcock chairs, but her eyes brightened the new owners promised to take her out for tea during their visit next summer.

At Windsor Chairmakers (800-789-5188), my husband watched the craftsmen in the shop, who admitted that the chairs look authentic, but that some of the methods have been updated. We loved the tables and chests in tiger maple. They are knockouts.
Deer Meadows Antiques, 207-236-8020.
Windsor Chairmakers, 800-789-5188 or www.windsorchair.com.
My husband Carl takes a breather on Windsor's grounds.
It might have been in the upper 90s, but we had to see Swans Island Blankets (207-338-9691 or 888-526-9526). All the wool blankets (we particularly liked the summer weight white ones) in softly colored stripes or checks, bright solids or basic gray, blown and black mixes are a breath of fresh air. And everything is hand-loomed or produced on the premises, even the dyes. In addition to blankets, Swans Island makes throws, pillows, clothing items, and has recently begun producing organic, herbal (from their gardens) skin-care products.
Swans Island Blankets, 207-338-9691 / 888-526-9526 or www.swansislandblankets.com.
Exhausted and feeling encouraged that quality still counts, we headed back to our very special, yellow Queen Anne bed and breakfast to learn that the owner, Maryanne Shanahan, another ex-New Yorker, and her beau, Bill, a professor and artist who is currently applying his talent to Maryanne’s gardens, will be married at her very personal Hawthorn Inn (207-236-8842) on November 10. What a day!
Making a stop at the Riverhouse and Camden Ice cream stands; The Riverhouse Hotel foot bridge that leads into town; Preparing for the rain that never came with a selection of ice cream-colored rain boots from Maine Foothills, 207-236-6662.