The blue heron symbolizes feminine grace and power. If they cross paths with you, they remind you to be self-reliant and follow your heart,” said Heather Bass, owner of the home furnishing and gift shop The Blue Heron, which will hold its grand opening from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11, at 15 State St. in Bangor
For the past 20 years, Bangor natives Heather Bass and her mother, Janet St. John, have been dreaming about opening their own shop. This past July, “the universe aligned.” Bass, a therapist, purchased the downtown space across from her private practice office on State Street and they got to work on renovations.
The walls were Pepto-Bismol pink and the floor covered in green carpets. The pair worked together to transform the tired space into an airy, light-filled shop with wooden floors and ceilings of faux antique panels. This week, they unpacked and arranged with care their inventory of colorful, handmade furniture, carpets, wall art and jewelry.
“[The Blue Heron] is about creating a space that feels comforting, warm and nurturing,” Bass said. “Everything here, in some way, evokes feeling, and that’s very much linked to my work as a psychotherapist.”
Wishnests, handcrafted house blessings of pewter and wood made by Alise Sheehan, are displayed alongside a large collection of Story People art — whimsical, colorful wall art that expresses stories through feel-good words and images.
Pear-shaped candles in soft colors perch on the tall windows and striped carpets of hand-hooked wool lead you into the sunny back room, where walls are lined with Dash & Albert rugs of cotton and polypropylene. Customers can leaf through catalogs while sitting on custom-upholstered chairs at the tall, circular table at the center of the room.
“Our surroundings are really important in how we feel and the decisions we make. It’s the sensory experience of sitting down and taking the moment to be present,” Bass said. “We want people to be free to come in and design a living space in color, mixing and matching stripes and floral.”
Walking through the front door of the shop, you’re greeted by an ecofriendly Robin Bruce chair covered in French phrases about friendship and caring. To the left, a tan pillow with the words, “Breath in Good, Breath out Bad,” lays against a red velvety couch.
“There’s no place north of Portland where you can experience whimsical decor,” Bass said. “I hope Bangor is ready for this. It’s such a hub of the coast and northern Maine. People want a place to go. Having grown up here, I just love downtown Bangor and the idea of having a business here.”
The mother-daughter team has previously worked at retail shops together and has always had a strong relationship, even when Bass lived in Alaska for seven years.
“I’d go visit her any chance I could, and we talked on the phone every day,” said St. John, who will be managing the store.
“This has been really fun to work on this with each other and have it be ours,” said Bass. “For years, this was just a pipe dream.”
St. John, who crafts jewelry and cards, has a love for art, which she always has shared with her daughter. But that doesn’t mean they have the same taste.
“I’m colorful, she’s a little more subdued,” said Bass. “She’s Zen, and I’m a little more juicy.”
Bass and St. John selected their merchandise from their own experiences as shoppers.
While living in Alaska, Bass came across Shoestring Creations handmade pine furniture painted in lively colors and patterns by Texan artisan Ralph Garrett. The playfulness of his functional art has been brought into The Blue Heron in the form of cabinets, end tables and picture frames.
Several Maine artisans, including four jewelers, are already represented in the shop, and Bass has a list of Maine artists and crafters whom she plans to speak with about selling their work.
“We sell Maine art, but not in the moose sort of way,” said Bass, who doesn’t sell any memorabilia or artwork with the typical Maine images such as lighthouses, pine trees or black bears.
Perhaps their most treasured pieces of art are the soulful angel sculptures by Squidge Davis of Starflower Farm and Studios in Monroe. The angels’ facial expressions and postures captured Bass and St. John when they visited her rustic studio.
“The home is meant to be a place of nourishment and restoration and encouragement to participate in life in a generous and creative way,” said Davis in a recent phone interview. “Art, since the beginning of time, has tried to serve the function of giving some sort of expression, a real sense of value.”
Davis most recently displayed her large animal sculptures in the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, and she is selective about where her artwork is displayed and sold. She said The Blue Heron was a good fit for her work because they share a similar goal.
“Beauty, value and quality calm everybody down. They make people less frantic about doing and getting,” Davis said. “So a store that really wants to offer a home environment woven with art is performing a service because it allows people to get a sense of what it’s like to be in an environment that simultaneously relaxes and nourishes and inspires. [Bass and St. John] are very sincere. It’s truly a gift that they’re wanting to give to the community.”
While Bass expands her inventory, she will also be thinking about her next renovation — converting a large room connected to the store into a comfortable cafe with coffee and tea, leather seating, simple snacks and WiFi.
The shop merchandise ranges in price from $10 to $2,500, according to Bass, and the average price range is $25-$85. But each shopper, whether they buy a $3 card or an expensive piece of sea glass jewelry, will walk out of the shop with a beautiful package — The Blue Heron bag, stuffed with colorful paper and secured with a ribbon.
“All is hand-selected for the spirit and soul,” Bass said. “Each thing is meaningful instead of just functional. It speaks to the heart.”
The shop will be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday. For information, call The Blue Heron at 992-2115.