WINTHROP — Downtown Winthrop was a destination for shoppers on Saturday, showcasing a community’s commitment to buying local that downtown shop owners said has allowed them to flourish through the pandemic.

The Art Walk Shop & Studio, owned by 19-year-old Winslow potter Nick Shelton, celebrated its grand opening as dozens of shoppers stopped into a number of businesses on Main Street. Owners of downtown businesses have reported strong support during the pandemic, even as some sections of the country and state struggle.

Many areas of the country have been dealing with adverse economic effects from the pandemic. The Associated Press reported earlier this month that more than 22 million jobs were lost after the pandemic struck in March, and about half of those have returned.

The Portland Press Herald reported in October that state economists are working to forecast the state’s economic recovery. Some signs have pointed to a better-than-expected recovery in Maine. In the spring, the Legislature’s Revenue Forecasting Committee predicted the state would end its budget year $200 million in the red, but in September that was revised to a $90 million shortfall. State revenue was also expected to drop, about $1.3 billion over the next three years according to the same committee’s August forecast, but sales data through the summer have shown promising spending patterns.

In Winthrop, Shelton’s business at 121 Main St. also held a ribbon cutting for its grand opening. Shelton said work began on the business before the pandemic set in, so restrictions and other effects were not really a factor in deciding to open up. Shelton gained an interest in pottery after earning badges in the Boy Scouts and traveling to Egypt as part of a trip from the Make-a-Wish foundation after being diagnosed with cancer as a child. Now, his pottery stands in his own shop with numerous other local craftspeople.

Shelton said being a young business owner is “kind of scary,” but he was encouraged by the number of shoppers cycling through downtown Winthrop on Saturday.


“Today has been the busiest,” he said. “It feels good that this many people want to come out and support local businesses.”

One of those artists is Pat Pepin of Augusta. Pepin, who is also a musician, said she began turning her attention to crafts when her gigs were canceled. She said her booth in the Art Walk Shop, which has knit hats and lamps made of musical instruments, is the first she’s set up. She said she was drawn to the community of artists in the store, as well as the community that is being so supportive during the pandemic.

“It’s all made in Maine by local people,” she said. “It’s the community, friends and neighbors; you’ve got to look out for each other.”

Kristina Stewart of Winthrop was doing some shopping at the shop on Saturday. Stewart, a real estate agent, said locals are probably feeling cooped up, leading them to explore and support shops in their community.

“There’s this resurgence here,” she said. “I think there’s a strong community spirit.”

Across the street, Pickle’s Potions and Lotion, a skincare products shop run by Kristin Mutchler, opened its doors during the pandemic. Mutchler opened in August about a year after quitting her job as a teacher to focus on the business. Mutchler’s skincare products are popular at craft shows, farmer’s markets, but the pandemic shut down most of her in-person events.


“Last year we did 70 shows for the year, which is a lot,” she said. “They used to follow us to different markets. At least now we have this space.”

Mutchler, who makes all of her products herself, said her online sales nearly doubled in March, right when the pandemic began to affect businesses. The growing nature of her business forced her to look for a brick-and-mortar lab space, which eventually grew into the storefront.

“I don’t know if people are all stuck at home and worried about their skin more, but it really took off,” she said.

Mutchler, a Wayne resident, attributed her brand’s growth in Winthrop to the supportive community that prefers spending money locally, rather than at large retailers.

“I think that this area … they love the fact that their local community has things to offer,” she said. “They don’t want the town to fizzle out. I think they like the idea of not going to the big box stores and supporting corporations.”

Also Saturday, The Vault, an antiques mall in the basement level of Main Street’s Freckle Salvage Co., was dealing with lines out the door for most of the day. Owner Nicole Stanford said this was the second iteration of The Vault, which happens once a month and brings in antiques from multiple dealers, as well as a food truck and some vendors on the street.


“People are just looking for something to do and feel safe,” she said. “We just want to feel good and do things.”

Stanford said a lot of businesses in the salvage and vintage community have reported success over the summer. Early on in the pandemic, she was forced to adapt to the pandemic, moving to curbside pick up and live sales on social media while her store was closed.

“I’m not going to fail,” she said, adding that she cried some days during the pandemic. “I worked too hard.”

Stanford, like other business owners, said the boon in Winthrop is just locals wanting to support locals. Further, she said locals often feel safer in smaller local shops than in big box stores.

“I’m sure Target will be fine, I’m sure Amazon will be fine,” she said. “A lot of people vowed to try to do all of their shopping locally because they know that we are the ones that really need it.”

Stanford said local businesses teamed up to make a pamphlet with numerous restaurants and businesses from Winthrop to Belgrade in hopes to drum up more total business during the pandemic.

“We have people coming up from southern Maine and from New Hampshire and we’re giving this flier out,” she said. “Hopefully, they’ll have lunch in the area and stop at another shop. If everybody grows, it’s good for everybody.”

Winthrop Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce director Barbara Walsh said the recent influx in business, including the opening of My Sisters Pizza, and the number of visitors to Winthrop on Saturday were a sign of the town’s “tremendous potential.”

“There’s a lot of excitement right now in town,” she said.

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