MOUNT DESERT — The Naturalist’s Notebook is not defunct after all.
Bar Harbor restaurant owner Michael Boland has bought the science and nature shop on Main Street in Seal Harbor and plans to reopen it May 28.
In 2008, Craig Neff and his wife, Pamelia, opened the shop that he described as “an exploratorium…that comes alive each summer with nature, science, fun, interactive installations, learning, shopping, creativity, great people and the amazing 13.8-billion-year history of the universe.”
Pamelia died in 2018. Craig opened the shop the next summer but announced last June that the shop would not open for the 2020 season and that he planned to sell the three-story building it occupied.
“I spent the whole day crying on and off at the thought of the Naturalist’s Notebook building getting turned back into something else,” said Jordan Chalfant, who worked at the shop for three years.
Last summer, with the shop closed, she worked as a gardener, and one of her clients was Boland. One day she asked him if he knew anyone who might be interested in buying the building and reopening the shop.
“The Naturalist’s Notebook is my favorite shop of all time; I want it,” she recalled him saying.
Then he asked her to be the manger, and she agreed.
Though known for his restaurants including Havana and Chocolatte, Boland said, “I happen to be a lifelong naturalist and birder, even before restaurants…so the appeal of the Notebook is obvious.
“Plus, I’m a sucker for saving a downtrodden building or closed business. In this case, the building is in fantastic shape, but the business was of course closed these past two years.”
Boland called Chalfant “an amazing naturalist, artist, educator, botanist, birder, the list goes on. Having helped manage the store in previous years was really what sealed the deal.”
Chalfant also has worked as a contract field biologist focusing on botany and ornithology. She is currently collaborating with Maine Natural History Observatory on a field guide to the seaweeds of Maine.
As for the Naturalist’s Notebook, she said no big changes are being planned.
“Of course, the Notebook will always be evolving,” she said. “We are going to have new exhibits and installations and merchandise to keep it fresh and make sure we’re up to date with the new, coolest science discoveries. But the mission is the same and, for the most part, the shop itself will stay the same.”
She said the Naturalist’s Notebook will host weekly programs and classes on topics such as plein air watercolor painting, identifying and preserving wildflowers, birding, keeping a field journal, pressing and identifying seaweed, wildlife tracking and exploring the intertidal zone.
Boland said he wants as many people as possible to know about and enjoy the Naturalist’s Notebook.
“Craig and Pammy created a very, very special place, but it wasn’t well known – almost like an insider’s secret,” he said. “We hope to make sure that the word is spread and year-round residents, summer residents and short–term visitors alike all get into the Notebook and have a fantastic experience like so many before them.”
The shop will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day through Oct. 11, with limited hours in the winter.