CAMBRIDGE, Maine — A vacant property on Spring Street in Dexter has a new owner, and the former Seaman’s Wall Covering and Flooring building will soon be humming with the sound of sewing machines.
Erda Artisan Handbags owner Sue Nordman is moving her company from Cambridge to Dexter in May, and renovations have already begun in the former Seaman’s property.
“We closed on the building last month,” Nordman said. “The contractors are doing sheetrock and electrical work right now. We’re really looking forward to moving.”
In addition to having more space, Nordman plans to add another four employees to her staff of 11.
Nordman bought Erda last October from longtime owner Patti Dowse, who started the company in upstate New York more than 30 years ago.
It’s been a fixture in Cambridge for around 20 years, but Nordman said a move was “long overdue. Many of our staff is from Dexter, and we also want to be more visible, especially to the visitors going to Moosehead Lake. We’re kind of tucked away in a corner here in Cambridge.”
Dexter Town Manager Shelley Watson said she was pleased about Erda’s move.
“Anytime a new business moves to town, it’s exciting,” said Watson. “Erda is a well-established company, and I’m very happy that they were able to find a suitable place. In addition, it will help our tax base.”
The new Erda will include a factory store, and Nordman plans to ask local craftspeople to display their wares along with the company’s collection of handbags, backpacks, totes and accessories.
“We’re looking at pottery makers and other crafts that would complement our lines,” Nordman said.
Nordman is one of many Maine entrepreneurs who feel that domestic manufacturing is making a comeback after years of decline.
“Our business has picked up significantly during the past few years, especially since we’ve been attending more trade shows,” said Nordman. “Websites are nice, but it’s important to be seen, especially when you’re selling things that need to be seen and touched. Maine products are still in high demand, too.”
Erda is also negotiating with two “major catalog firms,” Nordman said. “If they come through, that’s a game-changer for us.”
Erda products were originally sold mostly in high-end specialty shops, but the company has expanded its reach to boutiques and similar outlets in 34 states as far away as Arizona, California and Hawaii.
Maine stores carrying the Erda line include the Center for Maine Craft at the I-95 rest stop in West Gardiner; the Grasshopper Shop in Ellsworth and Maine Mountain Company Store in Greenville.
One of Erda’s major selling points is its lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects.
“We will fix or repair your beloved bag for life. Just send it back to us for a new zipper, strap, handle or any kind of mending. If it fails within a year, we will replace or exchange it,” Nordman posted on the firm’s website.
For more information about Erda, visit www.erdabags.com and the company Facebook page.