by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
White’s Farm Mercantile in Stockton Springs is an art gallery where you can purchase paintings, woodworking art and other handmade goods, as one would expect. The unexpected thing is that patrons of the Mercantile also can purchase locally-sourced “groceries” such as eggs, milk, cream, cheese, butter, fresh vegetables, maple syrup, smoked meats and fresh-frozen pork products. Nearly everything in the store is sourced within a 20-mile radius of Stockton Springs.
Stuart White of Winterport, an artist who seems to have been born with wood turning tools in his hands, and Sherry Sullivan of Stockton Springs, who has been an artist most of her life, are partners in the business. They opened the Mercantile on May 18.
The interesting thing, Sullivan said, is that the brick store, when it was built circa 1871, was a mercantile enterprise. She has a vintage photo of the store showing the word ‘mercantile’ clearly painted across the panes of its windows. She knew she wanted that word as part of the new business’s name.
The store features three rooms of artfully and tastefully displayed merchandise, including an eclectic mix of Sullivan’s paintings, White’s turned wood art, food products, furniture and even a few shelves of woodworking tools.
“You can even buy thread here,” Sullivan said, indicating a pile of spools housed in one of White’s turned wood bowls.
White’s woodworking craftsmanship is much in evidence at the Mercantile. He built the store’s glass front display case and the checkout counter. Serving as extra counter space behind the main checkout counter is a “settle” White built. A settle, a furniture staple of the American Colonial period and even before, is a table that turns into a chair by tilting up the top, and its seat, when lifted, provides storage space.
“I always wanted a store — so here we are,” said White who also helps manage White’s Farm in Winterport, and does architectural turning, such as replicating newall posts or staircase or porch balusters.
White said his love for working with wood began more than 40 years ago when at age 12 he turned his first bowl, made of walnut, in his school’s shop class. The bowl took Best of Show in the school exhibit. “It’s a total love of working with wood,” he said. “It doesn’t take much to inspire me and to want to build something.”
White’s wood pieces are functional, whether it’s a burl bowl turned from walnut, cherry, oak, maple, mulberry, locust, spruce or yellow birch, or a slender side table with turned ebony drawer pulls crafted in a style reminiscent of the Shakers.
“I prefer the Shaker style,” White said. His pieces of furniture tend to have clean lines and feature simplicity of design.
One of White’s unique offerings at the store are lamp shades of pine and Spanish cedar, or pine and cherry. The shades accent a pair of vintage jade green ceramic lamps — and that’s another aspect of the merchandise at the Mercantile. Sullivan is a longtime collector of vintage glassware and dishes. Selections from her collection are interspersed with the store’s other offerings, creating a shopping atmosphere offering many surprises, such as a set of vintage square plates with bold floral designs, and other pieces of vintage glassware and crockery.
Sullivan’s paintings, mostly figural, grace the store’s walls and draw the eye upward. Sullivan has been painting since childhood, but her latest interest is in mosaics. She plans to collaborate with White in making pieces of furniture that incorporate mosaic tops.
“Everyone who comes in here likes the store and are happy we are here and carrying healthy foods. We even have regulars who stop in every week,” Sullivan said. The Mercantile’s Facebook page already has collected 600 “likes, she said.
“I think we have created a pretty special store,” White said.
The store, Sullivan said, will be open all year around and in the fall will add take-out homemade soups and stews, simple sandwiches, cookies and muffins to its offerings.
Vendors offering goods at the Mercantile are Nancy Peaseley, pottery; Jodi Renshaw, cards and photography; Debbie Bergman, weaving; Tiffany Palmer, black on white art; books by Maine authors Cathie Pelletier and Deborah Joy Carey; Melanie Landi, soaps made with beer; Giselle Bridges, soaps; Nina Fleming, Buggle, an all natural bug spray; Katie Perrin, eco-friendly cleaning products; Josh Knipping, maple syrup; Fiddler’s Green Farm, biscuit and cookie mixes; White’s Farm, pork chops, ham steaks, bacon, sausage and ground pork; Maine Grains, flour; Aurora Mills, oatmeal; Albie’s, barbecue sauce; Cheryl Wixson, pickles; Central Maine Beef, ground beef; Great Hope Farms, milk, butter and cream; Jim Nichols, fresh vegetables; Pebblestone, bread and granola; Smith’s Log Smokehouse, cheese, salami, bacon and sausage; Bixby Bars chocolate candy; Nancy Tang, dichroic glass jewelry; Lauren Goldreich, jewelry; Alora Blue Walker, jewelry; Bower Bird, hand decorated baby shirts; and Patty O’Connell, note cards.
For information, find White’s Farm Mercantile on Facebook or visit the store at 181 Main St. in Stockton Springs, just off Route1A.