KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — The horses and buggies that once filled an 1889 barn in Kennebunkport have been replaced. Now, the red barn in Cape Porpoise is filled with gourmet caramels, small-batch maple and honey peanut butter, heirloom aprons tucked into mason jars and all manners of curated gifts.
“In the years we have owned it, this operation is the best,” said owner David Betses, who rents out the barn in the heart of this village to Liz and Bruce Andrews, owners of Farm + Table. “There has never been anything more perfect for that barn.”
A giant barn door is rolled back to let the afternoon sun in. Fastened high on the worn, wooden walls are painted whales for sale. Boxes of black lava caramel, marble and wood cutting boards and pottery in all shapes and sizes are nestled on tables made of 200-year-old barn board from Alabama. An old scale and farm sink hold craft soaps and hand-poured candles.
“We knew we wanted a barn, and this was the icing on the cake,” said Liz Andrews, a California native who worked for years in the wholesale gift industry and dreamed up a farm-to-table gift emporium.
The couple, who moved here from South Carolina, were vacationing in Kennebunkport on their 25th wedding anniversary when they decided to make good on their dream. They wanted to live in Maine and run a gift shop featuring handmade products from artisans they love. Only hitch? It had to be in a barn.
“We thought we would build a barn,” said Liz Andrews, but when they stumbled across this beauty sitting empty in January 2014, “it became our Plan B. It had to be it.”
On a recent afternoon, groups of locals and vacationers wandered into the gift barn seemingly as charmed by the small-batch items from makers across the country as the setting itself.
The barn, with a soaring ceiling, a pitched roof and straight lines, seemed destined for its new identity. Though only open since April 30th, Farm + Table is fast becoming a destination. Shoppers are snapping up products made by artisans like Peg and Awl in Philadelphia and soap from Primitive House Farm in Saco in record numbers.
“The barn was the perfect canvas for the shop,” said Bruce, a former trader on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. He wanted to retire from his hectic life and help his wife with her vision. They both dreamed of working together on the East Coast.
Bruce’s restored bright-red 1953 Ford truck parked out front with a “FARM-TBL” license plate sets the tone. Since Farm + Table opened, many townspeople are discovering the barn for the first time.
“Some people don’t know this barn exists,” said Liz Andrews. Once inside, they won’t make that mistake again.
“We love telling the story. We are ambassadors,” said Bruce Andrews, pointing to the 1913 grainy photo on the wall by the register that depicts the barn’s past as an active boarding and livery stable.
They keep copies of documents from the barn’s first incarnation such as a price list for transportation to Old Orchard Beach and Fortunes’ Rock. “It’s a perfect canvas for what we do,” said Bruce Andrews.
But the red barn wasn’t always so perfect. When David and Jean Betses purchased it in the late 1990s, it was in rough shape. “Its turnbuckles had been released, the barn was sinking into its middle,” said David Betses, who expanded the barn’s width by reinforcing them.
He put on a new roof and updated its electrical systems. Other than that, the couple did “as little as possible. We like the visual integrity of the property,” said David Betses.
The back of the barn faces the water. But you wouldn’t know it. Adding scenic windows would have killed its sightlines and lessened its rustic appeal. Driving or walking from Pier Road, the barn pops into view like a friendly landmark.
“We feel like stewards of the barn,” said David Betses, who is pleased he found the right tenants. “They are very talented with a concept that fits this space so nicely and seamlessly.”