BREWER — A treasure trove of products made in Maine and the United States await shoppers at Huckleberries Card and Gift in Brewer. Every corner contains items that range from the sublime, such as beach glass jewelry made in Old Town, and knit and felted hats and bags made in Orrington, to the whimsical, such as the fuzzy bunny neck wrap that can be heated in a microwave or cooled in the freezer to soothe aching muscles — and a cat bed shaped like a gold fish.
The shop, owned by Diane and Lee Stimpson, is located at the Brewer Shopping Center at 421 Wilson St. Though the couple lived in Waterville for many years, Diane grew up in Brewer, and Lee grew up in Bangor. They returned to the area several years ago.
The Stimpsons said they were at the point in their lives when they wanted to try a new venture utilizing Lee’s many years of experience in retail and Diane’s background in Internet technology and business. Huckleberries is the result.
The store opened opened for business last Nov. 30. The couple had hoped to open the store at an earlier date, but renovations to the approximately 2,100-square-foot space took longer than expected.
Diane said the idea for Huckleberries came about because of her interest in a shop in the Waterville area that sold cards for half-price. “I thought the [Brewer] area needed something like that,” she said. But as the idea evolved and grew, she and Lee began to think in terms of quality merchandise made in Maine or with connections to Maine. Thus, greeting cards became a centerpiece of the business.
Huckleberries offers greeting cards from seven different companies, including the Marion Health line, which was founded in Massachusetts by a woman who used to write cards and notes to servicemen overseas during World War II. While the company is still based in Massachusetts, its cards are printed in Maine, Diane said.
In addition, the store also offers greeting cards from Scruffy Productions, owned by Bob Hirshberg of Glenburn. These feature cards with images of the Bangor-Brewer area and other locations in Maine. The images also are featured on pillows, and framed and unframed prints carried by the shop.
Huckleberries also carries photo greeting cards crafted by photographer Carolyn Thompson of Brewer and cards from Borealis Press in Blue Hill, which appeal to the older generation, Diane said.
“It’s a great feeling to see someone standing by a card rack, and smiling, because something they see has struck a chord with them,” Diane said.
One corner of Huckleberries is devoted to products for cats and dogs, a reflection of the fact that the Stimpsons are animal lovers. They have nine cats, most of them rescues or cats they had fostered. Diane is a founding member of Save Our Strays, an organization that provides services to animals in need. She continues to volunteer for the organization.
Currently, Huckleberries is conducting a quilt raffle to benefit Save Our Strays. The store is also a collection site for the Furry Friends Foodbank operated under the auspices of the Eastern Area Agency on Aging in Bangor.
Pet owners can pamper their dogs with a gift Wag Rags made of recycled T-shirts by a student at Thomas College in Waterville.
“He’s taking something that might be thrown away and making it into a product,” Diane said.
Other items include cat toys designed by a cat behaviorist, a line of hand-knit dog sweaters and handcrafted dog collars crafted in Millinocket, and many flavors of dog cookies made in Biddeford and Midcoast Maine.
“We wanted to offer quality pet products made in Maine and the USA,” Diane said. “I love finding crafters who make unique products.”
Diane said it took a lot of research to find just the right the Maine-made products that she and Lee wanted for Huckleberries.
Among the unique items on display in the store are totebags, crafted from juice pouches, that are made by a grandmother and grandson in South China. Some of those bags also serve as shopping “baskets” for customers’ convenience at Huckleberries.
“Other shops offer these [Maine] products,” Diane said, “but few places offer them all in one shop.”
Food stirred up in right here in Maine also is highlighted at the shop. There are chocolates from Veazie; blueberry vinaigrette from Orneville; salsa from Bangor and Presque Isle; popover, cookie, brownie and biscuit mixes from Winterport; pickles and chutney from Auburn; Moxie jelly from Mechanic Falls; jam from Bar Harbor; and maple syrup and candies from Knox.
Perhaps one of the shop’s most unusual items are picture frames and paper weights fashioned from recycled oyster, mussel, scallop and lobster shells, all made in Kennebunk.
Huckleberries also has available a gift-basket service. Customers can choose items for the basket according to any theme, including pets, Maine foods, cooking, housewarming, the hard-to-buy-or, Valentine’s Day, or other special occasion. Or it could be a mix of items according to the customer’s wishes.
Response to Huckleberries has been “very positive,” Diane said. “Customers love the idea of products made in Maine and the U.S.A. They have thanked us for that. They are excited about having so many choices for cards.”
In addition to Diane and Lee Stimpson, Bev Kennedy of Winterport, former owner of Hampden Floral in Hampden, rounds out the Huckleberries’ staff. “She provides our creative element,” Diane said.
Huckleberries will hold its Grand Opening 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, and Saturday, Feb. 1.
“We expect to add more new items soon,” Diane said. “We are always interested in new products.”
Store hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For information about Huckleberries, email HuckleberriesCardAndGift@ yahoo.com or call 989-0865.