Personal touch wreathes family business

Posted Nov. 26, 2008, at 9:20 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Amid the commercial hustle of the holiday season, Maine Creations is a family business looking to spread the holiday spirit the old-fashioned way: with handmade products and a tradition of personal involvement.

Paul Salisbury learned to create balsam fir centerpieces and wreaths from his father on Mount Desert Island.

“My father used to be the superintendent for a place in Northeast Harbor,” Salisbury recalled. “Every Christmas he and I would bring wreaths to the house he cared for on Park Avenue, and eventually we decided to try making them ourselves.”

The family team soon began selling its wreaths and centerpieces in a number of locations, including one memorable expedition to Florida.

“We drove a U-Haul to Florida and took a plane back,” Salisbury said. “That should give you an idea of how successful the trip was for us.”

Over the years, the Salisburys collected addresses and established a positive reputation among loyal customers. These accomplishments would pay off when the family enterprise became Island Evergreens and annual brochures started to circulate.

In the beginning, Island Evergreens was a side project for Salisbury, who was a news photographer for WLBZ-TV at the time. Salisbury bought a 19th century farmhouse on Sixteenth Street in the early 1980s and converted the barn into a work space. In time, the horse stalls were removed in favor of a computer and heating unit, and Island Evergreens grew to include Maine Creations.

Today, Maine Creations handles an estimated 1,500 orders annually from every state in the United States except for Hawaii and Alaska (due to shipping concerns). The basic wreaths and balsam tips are purchased from Old Mill Stream Farm in Sullivan, and all decoration takes place in Salisbury’s barn.

After 25 years, Maine Creations and Island Evergreens remains a family business in the truest sense: Paul’s chief employees are his brother Dayton, who handles bookkeeping and order processing, and cousin Phyllis, who decorates the wreaths. Paul and Dayton’s mother, who recently turned 100, made soup for the employees every day until she reached the age of 90.

“Customers still call and ask about that soup,” Paul Salisbury said.

He remains optimistic about the future and hopes to keep expanding the business.

“In this day and age, it’s nice to have something to help supplement your income. So far we have seen no effects of the downturn of the economy whatsoever; people have been right there. It reminds me of what happened in 2001, the year of 9-11. I think we covered all of New York in wreaths.

“All in all, we’re a small, family business, just keeping it simple,” he said. “We do extra things, favors that bigger companies can’t. That’s important to people, and we always try to keep the customers happy no matter what.”

For more information about Maine Creations and Island Evergreens or to place an order, visit www.mainecreations.com.

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