The Store at the Shores: First Peek

After three years of “baby steps”, the Searsport Shores campground store (think water hoses, propane tanks and a lovely selection of RV tires) has been transformed into “The Store at the Shores”, a fantastical place full of Maine-made crafts. yummy yarn, foods, jewelry, hoodies, honey, toys, mermaids and sundries.

So many people contributed to the project: long-time camper Jolene came up with the name, Steve painted the floor (and Astrig dusted it with glitter, of course!), Mike built the shelves, Deb painted the signs, and Cheryl researched new products (while nagging Astrig to order them!)

Here’s a sneak peek . .

We’ve got the cutest (and warmest) camping Sox you’ve ever seen: “Glamping”, mermaids, lobsters, honeybees and more – for men and women.

And for those chilly evenings around the campfire, a new selection of “Searsport Shores” t-shirts and hoodies in bright summer colors.

There’s even a little corner in which to sit and knit or spin while you’re thinking about how you might start (and finish!) your Christmas shopping right here at the Shores.

With new Searsport Shores imprinted ornaments arriving next week, what could be better than enjoying a summer afternoon at the Shores while contemplating a balsamy Maine Christmas? Check the blog often for more peeks at the new items arriving daily at the cutest, most magical, little general store in Searsport!

And yes, guys, we still sell RV tires!

Still Playing in the Mud

We’re wet. I know, April showers bring May flowers but enough is enough. Our critters are walking around flooded pastures, our driveway is slick with mud and potholes Wait, this doesn’t sound like a good promotional piece for visiting Maine does it? Let me start over…

The gods have given us ample reason to sit in front of our planning notebooks, big white boards and computers these last couple of weeks. We took advantage of the we weather to attend the Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Augusta. Held in the Civic Center, about 500 of us looked around while we listened to statistics, best practices and lots of advice (OK, maybe we were looking more than actively listening). In our defense, these gatherings are about networking, right? After Steve and I got over the surprise that we’re no longer the “young ones” in the room, we enjoyed catching up with folks we’ve known for decades in the Office of Tourism, from the Arts Commission and so many of the lodging and experience providers we’ve come to love from all over the state. Because Maine is so geographically huge, we often only connect in realtime during these sanctioned gatherings before “the season” kicks into gear. My favorite takeaways were the Maine Wine Trail and Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections who gave bags of chocolate covered almonds as parting gifts…the very definition of sweeet!

Both Steve and I had grandfathers and uncles who worked in lumber/hunting camps in the 1930’s and beans have always been a weekend tradition

While Steve attended a session on Search Engine Optimization, I went to the State Library and museum for an update on Maine’s Bicentennial plans for 2020. The packed room was full of eager participants but the majority of details still feel rather vague. If everything works out, there will be tall ships in Belfast and Bucksport (5 minutes and 12 minutes from the campground), a statewide beanhole bean suppah (every community in Maine will hold a public supper on the same night) and lots more that still exist in the “fingers’ crossed stage”. As I learn more, I’ll share but if you’re really interested, it would be a great idea to follow the progress on the official website and all the rest of the social media outlets. In the meantime, I dropped into a rabbit hole to give you more information about the importance of beans in Maine’s history…the hole was too deep so I climbed back out but you might want to click over to the Maine Folklife Center for a little more information and make it a point to listen to the Good Old State of Maine song recording .

Authenticity is everywhere…what a blessing!

I didn’t sit down today to give you a blow by blow report of our time in Augusta but it’s turning out that way. We left Searsport for the tourism conference early because of a snow storm and because of the extra half hour, I got a chance to indulge in a favorite practice: hunting through the racks at Goodwill. Although I’m pleased to say that the expedition led to a couple of great linen tunics, the real pleasure was waiting for me at the door. You know how it is when you’re standing in a line that doesn’t move quickly and you scan your environment with no particular attention? Well I noticed Leo standing by the exit and without really thinking about it, my mind slipped him into the box of “oh, he’s not quite right” and that was it. But after I checked out I found myself right in front of him and when I smiled and said hello, he returned my greeting with a spark of happiness that caused me to pause and chat. Leo spoke with charm and I could have easily spent the day with him. A native of Augusta, he was fluent in English, French, Greek and Italian because he grew up in the tenement housing of the textile mills. The necklace he wore was made of bear claws and seeds and hand carved wooden beads. He has since lost the majority of his eyesight but even without being able to see, he carved the wooden feather on his walking stick to the point that it’s almost transparent and wood burned it by heating a nail in the fireplace during the winter. In our short time together Leo told me about earning a living by guiding sportsmen in the Northern woods. He told of places where the lumber jacks had abandoned camp during the recession and left the cast iron pots still sitting on ancient ashes. He spoke of salmon and moose and bear with the same facility I talk of campsites and reservations. He and his wife have lived off the grid their entire lives and he showed me the horsetail brush he made to brush out the gunpowder from his rifle. I’m not making this up. Leo was the diamond of my day and that 15 minute chance encounter has enriched my life…I wish the same for you.

Don’t forget about our Free Clean Up Weekend on May 17th

Walk with me 

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It’s been a beautifully warm and dry spring.  In the past couple of weeks we’ve hosted many more guests than we usually see before Memorial Day Weekend. Some years I cringe at the thought of sharing our muddy roads and cold fog with people who have traveled so far to be with us; but this year, the flowers are huge, the grounds are ahead of schedule (thanks to the weather and the crew’s hard work) and the sun has been kind.

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lupine buds and snow on the mountain populate the gravely soil of the boardwalk

When the ocean is sparkling, it’s easy to feel like we’re living in a magical place, and our tagline “tidepools, gardens, goats and honeybees” takes on a life of its own. We plant with the intention of feeding ourselves, growing herbs for flavor and healing, making things pretty and nourishing the soil.

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There is a seemingly effortless quality in how our grounds flourish in the everchanging combination of groomed gardens and controlled wild spaces.  Really, the gardens are a result of carefully feeding the soil with sea weed, compost and worm castings and the hard work of our dedicated team who spend the summer making the park better…  and choosing plants that thrive in our environment.  We find our plants most often the local fire department and garden club plant sales and from our friends at nurseries who grow plants from seed and propagation…we don’t get our plants from the big box stores.

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from the top left, clockwise: lily of the valley (insert scratch and sniff for a touch of heaven), apple blossoms, sweet woodruff, Solomon’s Seal, hostas by the sea, the rec hall door

Yesterday Sue Riley asked me what the gardens were looking like this week and in particular, the state of the lupines.  I don’t need a big excuse to abandon the office and the computer to take pictures of our world…so take a walk with me, the plants would love to meet you…

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Don’t you just love to forage?  We’ve been eating dandelion blossoms with butter and filling our salad bowls with chickweed and tender lettuce…with some pea shoots and garlic greens to make us feel cosmopolitan.  The flowering fruit bushes are looking promising…the quince, blueberries and bing cherry blossoms are abundant this spring.

It’s hard to believe Memorial Day weekend is upon us…if we won’t have the pleasure of your company, we hope that you’re surrounded by friends and family.  If we are lucky enough to have you share our world…make certain you find time to wander through the gardens.  If you’d like us to draw you a mapped trail of some of our favorite plant nurseries (including stops for lunch and cocktails) don’t hesitate to ask.

 

Choosing a campsite

Now’s the time when the reservations start flooding our world…the sun is shining, the tents and RV’s are begging to be opened up and aired out.  In the Spring, most of my morning and evening work hours are spent in front of the computer, answering e-mails, returning phone calls and booking sites.

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RV1and2This is my 23rd summer of this responsibility and I take it as seriously now as I did before I had grey hair and needed glasses.  About two thirds of our guests are either returning campers or have been referred by friends and family.  These folks usually fall into two categories: they either love us and feel like any site in the park would be fine because they know that to the best of our ability all the sites are level, spacious and comfortable OR they have very specific sites in mind and are willing to plan their vacation dates around the availability of those sites.  These are easy bookings because there is a lot of confidence on both of our parts.

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The other third of our guests will be staying with us for the first time.  Like any new relationship, there can be trust issues on both ends of the telephone.  In a perfect world, people will trust me to choose a campsite to the best of my ability based on their vacation dates, site availability and their use of abundant adjectives for ideal site descriptions.  There is a certain amount of compromise required if the only goals are “privacy, oceanfront, July and weekend”…but with a little wiggle room I can usually find something nice.  First, I understand how important this getaway is…when Steven and I travel it’s fiercely important to us too that our time/money is spent as well as possible. Second, almost 100% of our guests understand the atmosphere we offer and want to be part of THIS world, so consideration and friendliness are the norm and not the exception…it’s good to know that your neighbors are wonderful too.  Finally, we don’t try to fill all the sites in the park so when you get here, we’re happy to show you the site we’ve chosen and then offer up any other available campsite.

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As I write this, I realize that maybe another good article would be about the difference between campsites and the reason behind some of our policies…stay tuned, because I’ll ponder this while I work in the garden and get back to you.  This would be a great time to comment with questions I should address in the next posting.  In the meantime, I’ve started a collection of photos of specific campsites that should help first time visitors envision our sites. and a request…if you’ve stayed with us before and have some great pictures of you and your family on a campsite…could I have copies please?  you could either e-mail them to relax@campocean.com or put them on Facebook.  I get so wrapped up in the summer, I forget to get outside and take pictures.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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RV Industry Statistics

Life is Good!

RV Shipments to Grow for Sixth Straight Year in 2015

The RV industry’s shipments will total 361,400 units in 2015, a 3.9% increase above the projected 2014 total of 348,000, RVIA President Richard Coon announced at “Outlook 2015: Good Things Ahead,” the kickoff event to the association’s 52nd National RV Trade Show.

“This is a great time to be part of the RV industry,” Coon told attendees during his presentation. “We’ve recovered from the recession with five consecutive years of growth, and we’re going to make it six in a row in 2015.”

The forecasted total for 2015 is more than double the industry’s 2009 recession low, and results from innovative RV designs, a deep-seated preference of consumers for the RV lifestyle, and an improving economy.

“Key economic indicators have been shifting in the right direction for the RV industry,” Coon said. “There’s still room for improvement in consumer confidence, wages and employment, and home sales, but the economy is strengthening in important ways for our continued growth.”

RVIA forecasts growth in every product segment of the RV market in 2015. Gains are expected to be strongest among conventional travel trailers and fifth wheel trailers. Shipments of towable RVs will rise to 315,200 units in 2015, an increase of 4.1%, with motorhome shipments growing 2.0% to reach 46,200 units in 2015.

“We’ve had a good year in 2014,” Coon said. “Our October numbers were up 30% from September and were the best October total we’ve posted in 38 years. We’re building momentum and there are great things ahead in 2015.”

The RV industry’s resurgence reflects the ability of manufacturers to quickly deliver new features and options that appeal to changes in the marketplace.

“We’ve done a great job getting consumers that right mix of features and price,” Coon said. “We’re going to have to stay smart and fast in the years ahead to reach our potential.”

Coon emphasized that great products are no guarantee of success. “Achieving the kind of sales and profits that are within our grasp will require continued investment in our world class marketing and public relations efforts,” he said. “We need to cement our status with current owners and traditional buyers while reaching out to non-traditional buyers who would enjoy the RV lifestyle.”

What do you think? What “new features and options” have appealed most to you?

Home?
Home?

Maine Indian Baskets

Pack Basket by Gabriel Frey
Pack Basket by Gabriel Frey

Last Saturday Alice and I traveled to Orono (about 1 hour 15 minutes from Searsport Shores) to the Maine Indian Basketmakers Holiday Market held at The Hudson Museum on the University of Maine Campus in Orono.  For one reason or another, neither of us had ever made it to the Market but wow…we were missing something grand!  First of all, the atmosphere is like joining a family picnic and we were treated like welcome guests.  Everyone is smiling, hugging and exchanging stories…there’s music in the background and the only thing missing is the smell of a fireplace and some good food cooking in the background (dear organizers, nice addition don’t you think?)…but I digress…

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Gabriel Frey, Twelfth Generation Passamaquoddy Basketmaker

The Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (MIBA) is made up of artisans of the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Indians. The four tribes are collectively known as the Wabanaki. Each year MIBA holds several festivals where you can meet the basket makers, watch demonstrations, listen to traditional music and buy original work directly from the artist.

Maine Indain Basket made by Molly Neptune Parker
Maine Indian Basket made by Master Basketmaker Molly Neptune Parker

Basketmaking has been an integral part Maine Indian culture for many generations. There are approximately 8,000 Wabanaki left in Maine. Their ancestors have resided in this state for approximately 12,000 years. It was great to hear that there’s an active apprentice program in place to guarantee the traditional basketmaking is not lost…and why we saw so many young basketmakers displaying work alongside their elders. Molly Neptune Parker of the Passamaquoddy tribe held center stage and was clearly cherished.  Her baskets are museum quality and set the standard for others to strive towards yet she was among the most generous and smiling of all the artisans.

Birch Bark Basket
Birch Bark Basket made by former Penobscot Chief Barry Dana

There were baskets of all shapes, sizes and colors, Birchbark baskets skillfully etched with intricate designs made by former Penobscot Chief  Barry Dana. There were sturdy pack baskets trimmed with leather by twelfth generation basket maker Gabriel Frey and the sweet, colorful baskets by Passamaquoddy Dolly Barnes were some of our favorites.

Don’t despair that you may never make it to Orono in December…MIBA Participates in several other festivals throughout the summer where you can meet the artists and purchase fabulous baskets.

In July visit the Annual NATIVE AMERICAN FESTIVAL and Basketmakers Market
College of the Atlantic Campus
Bar Harbor, ME

Basket by Dolly Barnes
Passamaquoddy Basket Maker Dolly Barnes

In August They hold a Market at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village and you can also find them in September at Common Ground Fair in Unity Maine.

For more information be sure to visit their website MaineIndianBaskets.org You’ll also find some great information on the Penobscot Nation Museum located on Indian Island…also a daytrip from the Shores.

And the decorations were hung with care…

At the campground, we’re a mile from Searsport and about 5 from Belfast so we’re just as apt to go in one direction or the other.  When we head South to Belfast it never fails that we pinch ourselves as we drive over the Passy Bridge and hear a little voice that says “wow, I can’t believe that I live here.”

If you’ve visited before, chances are you know Belfast when the sun is warm and pansies or geraniums fill the countless window boxes…life on these streets always feels expansive & festive because you’re never far from the water and many people are on holiday.  In the winter, the atmosphere is intimate…a real village.  We know most of the people we see and the excitement is subdued (think Yankee)…the bite in the air makes us rush past the classic architecture and decorated doors so that we can quickly warm up with a freshly made treat or a bit of retail therapy (and an occasional tidbit of gossip because we know most of the shopkeepers too;)). There’s talk of an upcoming party or what music will be playing close by…less prosaically, lately the conversation often begins with “do you guys have electricity” or “how’s the ice down your driveway?”

Walk with us…

Wreath and Bouys
Wreath and Lobster Buoys greet visitors to The Purple Baboon

The Good Table
The Good Table dressed for the Holidays

Belfast, The Ocean House
The Ocean House

 

Do you remember the rundown version of this building from years past?  It’s been reincarnated as the Ocean House, with renovations completed in October. It’s now the new home of Brambles (previously on the left side of Main St close to the Green store). Soon there will be a new restaurant on the lower level, I can’t wait to try their brick oven pizza!

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Elves working at MM Jules Christmas Shop

 

 

More pictures if you’re so inclined…: