I realize I haven't written much recently, partly, okay, largely, due to the fact that we just bought our first home, a 1963 tri-level in Kennebunkport, Maine. It happened quickly -- we were looking for land, but being total suckers for anything mid-century modern, we saw this house on Trulia and said, "what the hell, let's check it out" on a day when we were looking at a nearby lot. It was love at first sight -- a total diamond in the rough. And the beautiful end lot on one and a half acres further seduced us (future chicken coop, honey bees, and a greenhouse in the plans). Two months of pretty much loan approval hell, and it was finally ours.
The previous owners bought the house for its size and location and not its beauty, and being an older couple, there was a lot of deferred maintenance. That's what we're working on now, and admittedly, enjoying playing pickers of mid-century finds at flea markets, antique stores, and trips to NYC. I spend my free time googling mid-century treasures that are much more attainable on the West Coast, teased by such blogs as The Brick House and Laure Joliet. If only I could swap the goods found on San Francisco's Craigslist with those on Maine's! Meantime, as I sit here on this Saturday morning in our Portland rental (we don't move in to the KPT house until September) enjoying the best scone ever, I can't help but reflect on my journey to Maine, starting PGS, and the future.
In 2006, we decided to move to Maine when we believed that times were changing and that people were moving toward being more self sufficient -- growing their own food, making their own goods (in my case, soap-making and spinning wool for yarn). We read books, including James Howard Kunstler's The Long Emergency and World Made by Hand (I have a huge reading list of others, happy to send to those who are interested). We traveled around America deciding where to relocate, and it came down to a tie between the two Portland's. We almost chose the Oregon city (especially after spending time at Powell's Books , one of the best bookstores in America). We loved how Oregonians embraced such movements as living off the grid and the slow food movement, and known for its bikeability, music and film scene, and sprouting independent businesses, the "other" Portland has emerged as the capital of West Coast urban cool. It's also a city filled with mid-century houses! In the end, moving so far away from our beloved NYC, and the sun, is what kept us on the east coast. Hence, Portland General Store of Portland, Maine was born.
PGS was born in the kitchen of my small flat in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. By that time, we knew we were moving to Portland, and it was incorporated in Maine. Etsy was founded around that time as well, and a friend at a local wine store advised that I sell my products there. I decided instead of opening a brick & mortar and dealing with the overhead in a new city and in times of uncertainty, that selling online was the better option. I was full of dreams at that time with little money to back them. I designed the labels myself, made everything in my little kitchen, and upon moving to Maine, naively, though charming as I look back, went door-to-door to local businesses with a sheet of tea-stained paper listing prices to try and get accounts! I landed one, a little shop that sold a lot of local and other handmade goods on Exchange Street (a major shopping street in the Old Port). I was still a sort of Sex and the City kind of gal with new dreams of a different lifestyle, though not really sure how they would unfold. With help from my partner, Troy, totally opposite me, the artsy-fartsy went to 5 colleges and finally graduated from art school (he is a serial entrepreneur and business school graduate), PGS went from being a little Etsy shop to an international brand sold in trendy chain stores, noteworthy barbershops, and numerous small independent storefronts across America. This is it in a nutshell. We were both lucky and forward thinking. Parallel brands at that time were Field Notes, The Hillside, and Leather Head (also an Etsy seller back in the day). I often feel a great sense of fortune and camaraderie whenever I see those brands. Now here we are, with our storefront (yes, five years later was the right time to finally have the brick & mortar -- we're conservative), continuing to improve and grow. As the "nose" behind PGS, I learn both from research and even my customers (just the other day a customer explained the difference between nano and non-nano particle size in titanium dioxide, and a few years back we switched to using environmentally friendly palm oil when we learned how its harvesting destroys the ecosystems of Orangutans). New products such as a pomade and candle are in the works.
Back to our 1963 house, the house that I never imagined would be, where we will be living out our little American dream of this uncertain century. The house that inspires a lifestyle entailing all we came to Maine for while still appealing to our tastes -- we love mid-century modern, rustic, being as self-sustainable as we want to be, living in a walkable city near the sea. We hope to have fondue parties, of course using local cheese, but also garden, make tea using honey from our own bees and making soap with our own beeswax (we currently use beeswax from other Maine beekeepers), and eventually, distilling our own wildflowers for our colognes. We'd eventually like to own a farm, and of course, have a flat in NYC.
Our new house
An early label
Short stint at making teddy bears
Baby #1 is born
Baby #2 is born
New labels, and a new cigar box sampler
PGS photo shoot
First trade show - Elements Showcase, NYC
Participate in POP pop up shop in Portland
PGS headquarters, 2012
Lisa filmed by Moosehead Journey making colognes
PGS featured in Details Magazine