Navigator’s Guide Downtown Ellsworth

By Arielle Greenberg
Photographed by Kevin Bennett
From our October 2021 issue

The “gateway city” designation is a double-edged sword: it guarantees foot traffic but means being frequently overshadowed – in Ellsworth’s case, by Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. But new businesses have recently sprung up in historic downtown Ellsworth, as existing businesses expand into new spaces. All this new energy reminds us that a gateway city can be a destination in itself.

Leslie Harlow, at 207mainer

1. 207 main

This crowded little store, which Leslie Harlow opened last November, offers gifts that represent New England, from felted ornaments to linens and household items to all manner of knick-knacks and clothing emblazoned with the original state flag in the shape of a star and pine. What caught our eye recently: Sophisticated, color-contrasted saddlebags from Maine-based Rugged Seas made from recycled lobster bibs. Harlow plans to move this month to a shared space down the street (169 Main Street) with two other retailers, which will be called Trio. 192 Main Street 207-266-0621.

2. Sugar Mags Central

During the pandemic, Sarah Sika Bowden realized that her candy store was a place where families could find much-needed sweetness. His previous space, down the block, was too small to expand into, so Bowden was upgraded in August for his current 3,800 square foot dig. It’s ample space for candy, retro sodas, and all kinds of candy, plus a kids’ play area and pinball room. “But we still keep that hometown, nostalgic, mom and pop, old general store feeling,” Bowden says. 142 Main Street. 207-812-5623.

Amanda Beals helps a client at Poppy and Polka Dot, 97 Main St., Ellsworth
Amanda Beals helps a client at Poppy and Polka Dot

3. Poppy and peas shop

Amanda Beals ‘bright and cheerful store has a girls’ night out vibe, offering what Beals calls “comfortable, affordable, plus size clothing.” After launching just before the pandemic hit, it started doing enough business online to require a larger space and reopened this spring. She tries to fill her shelves with clothing lines owned by women and with philanthropic values. 97 Main Street 207-412-0038.

Bliss owner Susan Nordman, 93 Main St., Ellsworth
Bliss owner Susan Nordman

4. Happiness

Susan Nordman and her husband Scott Mayer ran Bliss in Bar Harbor before expanding to Ellsworth last year. When COVID hit, they chose to regroup in the only Ellsworth store. The eclectic boutique sells items from independent manufacturers around the world: teas, vaporous dresses, and exotic instruments, as well as soaps and creams that Nordman makes herself. “Customers tell me they’re floating,” she says. 93 Main Street 207-412-0589.

Linda Van Der Does, with mastiffs Rhowyn and Holly, in Toko, 95 Main St., Ellsworth
Linda Van Der Does, with mastiffs Rhowyn and Holly, in Toko

5. Kiddo

Linda and Hans Van Der Does opened their children’s toy and gift store this summer, right across from Toko, their adult gift store (which also has branches in Portland and Belfast). With products such as arts and crafts supplies, play kitchen sets, and fancy dress accessories, Linda hopes the store will make children feel included. “It’s a store for kids, not grandparents or parents,” she says. “We want children to touch things and play. ” 95 Main Street 207-667-8980.

Stephanie Hare and her husband Peter Hedstrom, at Share Studios, 6 State St., Ellsworth
Stephanie Hare and her husband Peter Hedstrom, at Share Studios

6. Share studios

It’s not a boutique per se, but stationery maker Stephanie Hare opens her workshop on Friday afternoons for visitors to see and smell her earth-toned textured stationery and other handmade papers, which she sells through his website. When she first started posting her papermaking on Instagram, she had no idea she was exploiting a fashion trend. “It turns out the wedding industry is really into the handmade paper these days,” she says. Now she’s busy filling custom orders at her posh studio, which she moved to her home state from Philadelphia last winter. 6 State Street


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