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It's 2:42 a.m.

As we approach spring, we approach our 2 year mark as a business. I founded Maine Micro Artisans in May 2022. This was after a pretty negative experience for me as a soap maker with a store in the Maine Mall. For those of you who don't know, I am not only the owner of MMA but of Bar Soap Company.

I was excited at the prospect of being able to have handmade goods in the largest shopping center in our state. Mainers should be represented in our spaces! This experience soured very quickly. I withdrew from it only a few months in. About a year later I was still searching for ways to expand into retail from e-commerce. At the same time my son's birthday was happening.

My middle child is a young man with autism. Tyler struggles for visibility and belonging in our community. He is a child who will likely live with us the entirety of our lives. I worry for Tyler every moment of every single day. What will his life hold as he gets older? What will his career look like? Will he be seen? Will he have friends? Will he belong?

One late night, deep into worry and coming off a soap making session I was writing/scrolling (much like right now) and I saw the previous tenant here at 18 South Street was leaving. There are very few moments in my life where ideas have hit me with force. I mean it was like the wind was knocked out of me. I was overwhelmed by the grief for the loss of connection we experienced during the pandemic. I was overwhelmed by the worry I feel for my Tyler so constantly. I was overwhelmed by my own hope and desire that my soap could have a retail home.

What if I could use this adorable little space she was giving up to create a handmade shop for my soap that also gave my son, all my children, connection and visibility in their community? My brain was on fire for hours before daylight came. I went after the space, less than 24 hours later and Maine Micro Artisans had a home.

When I started this venture I thought maybe a dozen other folks would sign on with me to promote their work and share the space. I had no idea how to run a consignment shop, but I'm a fast-learner. Boy, did I learn! MMA now consigns with over 185 makers. I had no idea that would ever happen.

Learning publicly has been hard. I've learned some tough lessons with a lot of eyes on me and that's affected me deeply at times. There have been moments I did not think I could continue.

Those moments of embarrassment, exhaustion and worry quickly fade when I am reminded MMA is not just about sales. When my children ask if they can please go see the shop, work at the shop, create something for the shop I am reminded that I have already accomplished the biggest goals. My kids are connected to their community in a bigger way. They walk down here from school and are proud to show their friends. My shy Emma stretches her creative wings here. My son Xavier works here. When Tyler is here with me, people recognize him and acknowledge him. He is seen.

It's not sales, it's not growth that drives 2:00 AM mornings like this one. It's not Mary the small business owner working, it's Mary the mom working now. That's why we will succeed. There is no task too hard. There is nothing I won't give.

As we prepare to expand into the Maine Mall I want people to understand that I chose it for many reasons but the considerations go well beyond foot traffic. Yes the mall is a no-brainer when it comes to foot traffic, but it's not just about that. I chose this Mall for the same reason I chose the Bangor Mall. These iconic spaces belong to our communities. For too long big stores full of cheaply made goods have monopolized our spaces. When you enter the largest shopping space in our state you should find goods that are made here in Maine. You should have store after store of local foods, clothing and goods. It is the dream of a lifetime to take back these spaces for Mainers a little at a time. In Bangor I was so proud to take back that space from Lane Bryant. In South Portland we are lucky to go in on the heels of another Maine small business, Skordo. We'll do our best to honor the beautiful space they created. We're proud to occupy it after them.

The Mall is Tyler's favorite place to go. I will never be able to truly capture the excitement in his reaction when I told him we were opening a store at the mall. But then I saw it, the worry and sadness about South Street. This place, he has been so connected to. This place is where he is seen. That made me think of all our other community members who come here to connect and to be seen. Those who come in to browse what's new and say hello each week. Those who we see when special guests are coming or there is a gift to give. Leaving them behind - leaving this behind didn't feel right.

Not going to the mall is the missed opportunity of a lifetime. These artisans and makers who have supported me for the last two years deserve this. They deserve to be seen on the largest platforms I can give them. This is the pinnacle. Handmade goods from Maine belong in the mall. These makers belong in the mall.

I knew that I couldn't give up South Street and the connection and community we have built here. However I also knew we had to go. Now what? We need this to be an expansion, but how do I make that happen?

I've spent the last week working out a new model for Gorham. This pop-up model keeps our community connected and even provides a more interactive experience. It's a win for the community with fresh new makers each weekend, new things to discover and people to connect with.

It's a win for makers! This provides our maker community with a desperately needed outlet. Makers need spaces and opportunities that move beyond consignment.They also need connection! They need to meet their community and customers. They need and want a chance to show what they're passionate about.

These makers have put in what they can to make this happen, my family is all in and you all know I will give this everything that I have. We will succeed, but we could use your help. There are a handful of ways you can show your support.

  • Come Shopping! The Bangor store is open 7 days a week. It's 4500 square feet of amazing!!! While we work through the move, Gorham will still be open Friday/Saturday and Sundays through March. Easter and spring goods are in full bloom.

  • Buy a delayed gift card to use later! This tiny act has a BIG impact. We're growing on the heels of the slowest season of retail. It's a tough time to grow, but you have to seize opportunity when it comes. Use this link to purchase a delayed gift card and we'll say thanks with 25% extra!

That means if you purchase a $100 gift card, when it arrives you'll find an additional $25 gift card included! These delayed gift cards will ship directly to you and will mail on October 1st. You'll have them in plenty of time for holiday shopping.

  • Take a class! We have an excellent assortment of classes. Classes will migrate back to 18 South Street in April. This space is larger and easier to host classes in. The new model gives us more space and time to get together and get creative

 Your support over these last two years has not only changed our children's lives it has impacted families across Maine. We have put over $335,000 in payouts back into the hands of Mainers. That's $335,000 for the dentist, for groceries, for car payments and mortgages. It's $335,000 that didn't contribute to another executive's yacht, or private jet. These dollars had meaning for Maine. Your patronage and support means everything.


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