WINTERPORT, Maine — Sandy Negrete of Old Town had always wanted to open her own store, but she wasn’t quite sure what to sell in it.
Then the laboratory technician read a book called the “100-Mile Diet” in a science class and had a brainstorm. The book is about the importance of eating locally-produced food.
“Wouldn’t it be cool to open a store where people could go to one place and get 100 miles’ worth of food?” she remembered telling her daughter, Heather Bowers, who wanted to be in on the new business.
The duo began talking to local farmers and soon expanded their idea to include gifts and other items produced within 101 miles of their new store, to be located on Negrete’s brother’s property on Route 1A in Winterport.
The store, called 101 Miles of Maine, opened May 24. It’s not fancy and is located on a rural stretch of the road, miles from either Winterport village or downtown Hampden. But the store’s humble beginning does not mask the owners’ passion for supporting the local economy, farmers and artisans.
“The store is very much a political statement,” Negrete said, adding that the 101-mile distance from producer to shop will limit transportation costs and use of fossil fuels. “I hope it’s successful. I want to help people have a place to sell their awesome things.”
So far, those things include ice cream from Stone Fox Farm Creamery in Monroe — a top seller — fresh-picked broccoli from the new Dilly Bean Farm in Newburgh, milk from Siberia Farms in Hermon and coffee roasted by Somerset Coffee & Tea in Skowhegan.
Shelves at the shop are also stocked with Maine photography, homemade aprons and bags, organic hair care products made by a Brewer beautician, handmade necklaces and more.
Bowers said her favorite part about running the store so far is that every now and then, new craftspeople and producers come in to see if they can sell their wares. That’s how they met an Orono man named Arnold “Sam” Miller, who makes jewelry and gift boxes out of wood he polishes to a satin-smooth finish. The boxes are decorated by curling ribbons, so delicately made it’s hard to believe they, too, are carved of wood.
“That’s my favorite part — to sit here and have people show up with just amazing stuff,” Bowers said.
She and her mother said they are hoping more tourists and locals driving along 1A will stop when they see the Burma Shave-esque signs on the road outside. It’s a place to find what Mainers are making, at prices ranging from $2 to $500.
An outside area that now features potted flowers from Rideout Gardens in Eddington will have rotating, seasonal items like pumpkins in the fall and Christmas trees in the winter.
“We have great Maine gifts. A lot to share,” Bowers said.
More than just a store, the family’s new venture represents a service: helping Maine artisans and others find a market.
“Every one of these vendors is a person, and we know their story,” Negrete said.