ORONO, Maine — It was the day before Thanksgiving, and everything was coming together at the new Maine Maven boutique in Orono.
Cardboard boxes began to arrive from Portland, Greenville, The County and Bangor filled with painted scarves, paper clay ornaments, toys, jams and T-shirts — all crafted by Maine people.
“We don’t even feel that there is a store in Portland that’s doing what we’re doing,” said co-owner Kristen Andresen Lainsbury. “We’re scavenging the entire state. We feel that every geographic area of the state provides a different quality.”
The shop, owned by Kristen and her husband, Jason Lainsbury, opened its doors for the first time last Friday and enjoyed a steady flow of customers throughout the weekend.
“A lot of people in town were just happy to see a new business in town,” she said.
The Lainsburys have been talking about owning a shop for six years but have been waiting for the ideal situation and location.
The couple’s friend Lin White, owner of Park’s Hardware, offered a piece of his store, the garden center, for their boutique. At the center of their favorite community, the hardware store is a special place for the Lainsburys.
It’s where they first met.
Once they secured the location, they visited stores in the area to take stock of the merchandise being offered so they could avoid selling the same items.
“We’re trying really hard to complement what’s going on locally in town,” she said. “We want to provide something different.”
Opting not to step on toes might seem like an unorthodox business model, but their community-based philosophy aims to benefit their boutique by bolstering Orono’s retail sector.
“It’s really about collaboration,” said Jason. “Power is in numbers — look at the restaurants in Orono. Everyone comes to Orono to eat, and it will be really neat when that transfers to the retail businesses.”
Both Kristen and Jason are Maine natives and, being alumni of the University of Maine, are familiar with the small college town.
Kristen, originally from Saco, worked at the Bangor Daily News for 12 years initially as a copy editor and mostly as a lifestyle feature writer. She created “ShopGirl,” which Down East magazine lauded as Maine’s best column in 2008.
She now works in public relations at the University of Maine and will continue her career there as Jason, a stay-at-home dad, runs the boutique.
Jason, originally from Presque Isle, studied business and new media in college and has extensive retail experience.
The Lainsburys run the business entirely off their iPad, using a point-of-sale application and a credit card processing system called Square Up. And all of their advertising has been done through social media such as Twitter, Facebook and their blog.
Maine Maven’s hours are limited right now. They plan to be open 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
“We live a mile away,” said Jason. “[Customers] can call or e-mail us if hours don’t work for their schedule, and we’ll come down to open the store.”
Maine Maven is located at 31 Mill St. in Orono. Information: www.mainemaven.com.