SOUTHWEST HARBOR—After coming back to Mount Desert Island every summer for 30 years, Nancy Critchett is ready to plant roots by opening a store with her mother and sister.
“It was the culmination of a perfect storm of events,” said Critchett, explaining how her sister, Debi Estep, decided to move back to Maine from California and her mother, Joan Jones, said goodbye to the last of her beloved miniature horses in Mount Desert at the end of last year.
On May 1, the three ladies will open their store, Tom Cat Tide, at 16 Clark Point Road, and are giving gifts to their first 50 customers as a token of their appreciation. While each of the women has contributed their own art and crafts to the inventory, most of the items within the store won’t be found anywhere else on MDI.
“I really tried to feature heavily on companies that rely on sustainable manufacturing,” said Critchett. “We have a lot of things from recycled materials.”
Those things include courier bags made from men’s suits, bags made with repurposed fire hose that include a tag inside telling which firehouse it came from, journals made from old books and candlesticks made from recycled Maine mill bobbins.
“I love that it has a purpose,” said Critchett, about many of the store’s items. “I feel that we’re recycling resources and doing something good with it.”
There are plenty of items that are new, including felted pillows that look like ocean stones, scented fire starters for campers, hats and cards.
“We’re doing a lot of hats because I realize people on vacation always need a hat,” said Critchett, who lives most of the year in Sarasota, Fla.
Tom Cat Tide gets part of its name from the business that filled the same space for more than three decades, Tom Cat Variety Store. “Everybody calls it the Tom Cat building,” said Critchett. “Everybody loves the nod to the history.”
Not only is the name a connection to the local culture, but the business model is as well.
“I’ve always wanted to come back and start putting in roots,” said Critchett, who attended school on MDI. “I wanted to start a business, but I wanted it to be for the benefit of the community.”
Customers will get to donate to one of four local organizations with purchases of a certain amount. The organizations include the Campfire Coalition, Westside Food Pantry, SPCA of Hancock County and Common Good Soup Kitchen. During her summers on the island, Critchett volunteered at the Common Good Soup Kitchen.
“There’s a need here year–round,” she said. “(Visitors) don’t necessarily see it when they come here on vacation.”
When their door is open, the three owners are looking forward to not only welcoming visitors but also those who reside on the island year–round. Whether customers are in need of the perfect gift or a new accent to their home, they will find a unique variety of choices.
Critchett will be selling jewelry and prints she has made, there will be photos and art by Jones for sale, and Estep repurposed the wood from the building’s stairs leading to the basement into whales. Employing the characteristics of the 80-year-old wood, each whale’s eye is a former nail hole.
In May, Tom Cat Tide will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Once the season is in full swing, the owners hope to expand the hours for townspeople during the evening hours.
“All these fabulous restaurants around us who usually have a 20–minute wait, now (people) can shop,” said Critchett.