GARDINER — When 1 Brunswick Trading opened its doors last week, owners Peter and Mary Ann Johnson added their enterprise to the mercantile community of the city’s historic downtown.

The shop, which sells antique and vintage items as well as an exclusive line of Tatuaje cigars, brings together the interests of two generations of the Johnson family.

“Peter Senior has a great eye for antiques,” Mary Ann Johnson said of her husband last week.

The Johnsons, both 72, opened their shop in the Water Street space that formerly housed Alex Parker’s Steakhouse. They kept the bar that was left behind, added a humidor for the cigars they carry and populated the shop with a selection of antiques that lean in the direction of mantiques, like pocket knives. The antiques, including pack baskets, corkscrews and framed prints, come from their collection. The cigars come from Tatuaje Cigars, the highly regarded cigar brand developed by their son Pete Johnson, who owns the building.

The Johnsons wouldn’t have put their business anywhere else in Gardiner.

“Where I grew up in New Jersey,” Peter Johnson Sr. said, “downtown is downtown. There’s a sense of ambiance, of greeting people in the morning.”

There is, he said, a sense of community that’s missing in shopping centers.

John Callinan knows that feeling well. Just over a year ago, his shop, Craft Beer Cellar, opened on Water Street.

“It’s been wonderful,” Callinan, who carries the chief bottle officer title in his organization.

He opened his shop several years after he retired from nearly four decades of working in health care administration and found retirement boring.

Like the Johnsons, Callinan has staked an ownership claim in downtown Gardiner. He bought his building and has made his way through renovating his building with the help of the Gardiner Main Street program and city officials.

Since it opened in November 2015, the shop has started to build a community and a following for the craft beers he stocks.

Callinan said he has customers that have driven up from Boothbay, and a customer from Bowdoinham stopped in recently for the first time on the recommendation of neighbors. And often, if they come to his shop, they have made plans to stop at other Water Street shops or restaurants. There are, he said, times when he sends people to the A1 Diner for a meal, and times when the diner refers diners to him to buy the beer they had with their meal to enjoy at home.

“We have welcomed some awesome businesses in number and type,” Gardiner Main Street Director Patrick Wright said.

Around the time that the Craft Beer Cellar opened, Niche, Inc., a music store, opened on Water Street. Since then other shops have moved in as well. Penny’s Pet Grooming relocated from Farmingdale and Barn Boards and More, which makes custom furniture from barn wood from barns it dismantles, relocated its studio from Hallowell.

“We have added a nice complexity of retail,” Wright said.

Every downtown experiences turnover in its stores and Gardiner is no different. Businesses relocate, change owners, expand and close.

“The nature of small business is that some are going to succeed and some are going to fail,” Callinan said. “My success depends on the street’s success.”

That’s something that Johnson, who hopes to see more shops on Water Street, also acknowledges.

“It’s too bad we lost the hot sauce shop,” Johnson said. “They were becoming a unique part of downtown.”

It’s that kind of quirky shop that matches the philosophy of downtown Gardiner that’s needed, he said. He’s hoping for a store that caters to outdoor recreation, particularly on the Kennebec River, or a store like Renys, which has a location on Water Street, that has broad appeal.

“Clearly,” Callinan said, “we would like to see some permanency.”

Wright said he recently had a conversation with a business owner about the stigma that attaches to a business that goes out of business.

“We need to do a lot more celebrating that an entrepreneur was going to risk time, talent and treasure,” Wright said. “That’s the spirit we want to celebrate.”

Even so, he said, in some respects, downtowns are like shopping malls — they need the right mix of businesses and they need to have a consistent feel and enough stores to keep the shoppers shopping.

“Success breeds success,” Wright said. “The more we can become a destination, the more our businesses can succeed.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.