YARMOUTH, Maine — This summer when parents from away flock to Maine for vacation they can leave their kids’ cribs, high chairs and Pack ‘n Plays behind.
Yarmouth native Rebecca Russell Spear this month founded Mainely Babies, the latest addition to the burgeoning baby gear rental industry. The company rents everything from car seats to baby monitors and offers delivery and pick-up at the Portland International Jetport, vacation homes, and anywhere within 35 miles of Portland.
Spear, 31, the mother of two young boys, created Mainely Babies with friend Cari Olson Turnbull after using a couple of similar services on recent trips to Florida.
“I realized I needed gear,” said Spear, a Yarmouth High School graduate who describes herself as a “baby gear hoarder fanatic. … I needed a car seat and all sorts of paraphernalia.”
There are about a half-dozen baby gear rental companies in the state, including Maine Sherpa Babies in Bethel and Ciao Baby Equipment Rentals in North Berwick, but Mainely Babies is the first to focus on greater Portland, Spear said.
“We said if we don’t do it, somebody else is going to do it,” Spear said. “There’s just too much stuff that’s hard to take on an airplane or throw in a car on a family vacation. Then, a lot of hotels don’t offer full-size high chairs. And some kids need full-size cribs, they’re picky, and you don’t want to upset their sleeping pattern.”
Spear said baby gear in Maine has remained largely functional, but in cities like New York and Boston — where most of her customers are likely to hail from — the fashion and status elements are nearly as important. It was crucial for Mainely Babies to offer high-end brands like BOB and Baby Jogger, Spear said.
“When somebody already has a Bugaboo stroller, they’re not going to want to rent a Graco, hundred-dollar model,” she said.
The company sanitizes its rentals with eco-friendly cleaners including BuggyLOVE, which offers an entire line of “organic lifestyle and strollers cleaning” products — yet another offshoot of the unstoppable baby gear machine.
“It’s taken on a life of its own,” Spear said.
Spear and Turnbull have reached out to hotels, rental properties, nannies and wedding planners to help spread the word about the company. They hope grandparents will consider renting when they have toddlers for house guests.
Spear, who authors the blog Mainely Mama, would like to someday open a baby boutique and gear store. But right now she’s focused on getting her first business off the ground and her gear into the hands of parents and kids on holiday.
“We’re a vacation state, so we hope to be really busy over the summer,” she said. “Our goal is to alleviate stress for travelers and make their trip as seamless as possible.”