TEXT BY SARAH STEBBINS
PHOTOGRAPHED BY DANIELLE SYKES
ABOVE Manager Erica Gammon greets visitors at Portland’s Venn + Maker.
In 2015, Winslow native and Bowdoin grad Michael Fortier wrapped a 30-year career working for Wall Street investment firms and thought, “If I’m going to do anything in Maine besides show up to retire, it’s going to be now.” A lifelong collector, he was awed by the artisan goods he’d unearthed here, and the artisans he saw schlepping their products to craft fairs. In 2017, he opened Venn + Maker with the idea of creating “a more stable environment for good makers to sell.” The name? Venn diagrams were a signature of Fortier’s banking presentations. “It’s a wonderful combination of my two worlds.”
“If you go into old houses in Maine, you find that if you own enough stuff, it all eventually goes together,” says Fortier, whose shop takes a similar maximalist approach. Vintage etched-glass goblets and decanters that appear plucked from your nana’s china cabinet mingle with sculptural vessels bearing abstract carvings by Portland’s Textured Porcelain. On a tiered cart from a former florist, vintage French linen pillows mix with bold velvet-and-cotton grid and color-block motifs Fortier and store manager Erica Gammon designed with Scarborough’s Studio 89.
The baking floor in the 1947 brick warehouse built by the John J. Nissen Baking Company, once the state’s largest baking wholesaler. A maze of offices when Fortier began leasing the space in Portland’s now-hip East End hood, he removed interior walls, a purple dropped ceiling, and green shag carpeting atop brick flooring “full of 50 years of butter and oil.” The result: an airy, whitewashed homage to the original maker space.
Delicately speckled pottery candles and leather-wrapped mugs by Portland’s Ceramica Co.; intricate woodcuts by Portland’s Emma B. Garcelon and linocuts by Cape Elizabeth’s David Connor; shapely rope baskets by Lincolnville’s Scout + Bean; and Scandi-inspired furniture in leather, concrete, and Forest Stewardship Council-certified teak, white oak, and walnut, offered through Fiore Home, which operates a new “store-within-a-store” by the front door and in a freshly renovated room in back.