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  • Susan Dickenson

Retail profile: Spaces, Kennebunkport, Maine

While vacationing in Maine this summer, Paul Thompson found irresistible "Spaces."

LATE THIS SUMMER, following an installation at New York's Javits Center and before his return trip to Texas, Spaces, Kennebunkportdesigner/merchandiser Paul Thompson made a visit to Kennebunkport, Maine. While there, he was enticed by a unique home accents and interior design shop called Spaces.

     Thompson first saw the shop when his Kennebunkport friend, Kate Nelligan, who had done some of the shop's graphic design work, took him by for a visit. "I was really happy to see such an upscale store with a great mix of home décor," Thompson said. "Spaces really did have all the elements there and looked great as it was, but I just can't leave well enough alone." His creative juices tapped, Thompson felt he might be able to help the shop reflect a little more of its unique aesthetic.
     He discussed the idea with his friend. "Kate has done product design for many years, most recently with Foreside Home & Garden where she and I met when I was consulting on their merchandising and showroom display. I had told Kate about the retail makeover segments I've done at the ART conferences. I knew that one of the store owners, Anna (Greenglass), was about to have a baby, and I just thought it would be a great place to do a mini-makeover." Nelligan agreed, and called her friend (and Spaces co-owner) Nicki Bongiorno to offer Thompson's services.Spaces
     "The next morning I arrived on my moped and we set out to move and re-plan the overall space," he said. "Creating some additional floor and shelving space was also key as a large delivery from Roost and other vendors was due the next day - timing and planning are everything when you are in a small shop at the height of the season."
     The project began with a repainting of the front entry wall in a high-contrast coral color. "Adding this color helped beef up the entry area. Nicki and Anna had wanted to paint the wall since last year, but we all know what happens with getting projects done."
     The shop had a small children's section, which they moved to an inside wall that was draped with floor-to-ceiling curtains. "This anchored that inside wall for all the children's items, which tend to be smaller in scale. It also left twallhe outside-facing window spaces open for shelving units, thus marrying the floor to the ceiling and opening up the overall look of the shop even more."
     A full-size table was moved to the central floor area and products were pulled from the cash/wrap. "We positioned a pendant lamp over the table that brought even more focus to the items that were for sale. Almost all the product in the shop was moved or re-displayed."  
     The mini-makeover was a success. The project was completed on time, the owners were happy, and both they and their out-of-town visitor were energized and inspired by the results.
     "This (rearranging the shop) is something we do fairly regularly to keep our shop interesting for our customers as well as for ourselves," Bongiorno said. "We love the energy that is created by shuffling things around and offering them in a new way. Anna is about to haSpaces3ve her first baby and is unable to lift and move furniture, and I've been very busy with design work. Paul's presence was integral in giving us the push to give our shop a mini-makeover ... and it's always a pleasure for us to collaborate with someone in the creative field."
     "The best part of any makeover is the relationship with the store owners and employees," Thompson said. "Spaces has great owners and employees, and they're doing everything right. Customers came in during the middle of the semi-mess while we were working and just shopped around us. It was a great day for change, and for retail sales!
     "As I drove away from the shop that afternoon, I thought about how retailing gets people face-to-face, and how the experience of the design service or product sales can change people's lives - even if only a little bit."


ISpaces ownersNTERIOR DESIGNERS NICKI BONGIORNO AND ANNA GREENGLASS OPENED SPACES in August 2008 to provide an "inventive collection of unpredictably stylish gifts and home furnishings" unavailable in their area. The store also offers interior design services, and sells accessories, soft goods, books, barware, tabletop and gifts in its online store.
Having just begun their fourth year, Bongiorno said they've seen a steady increase in sales, are busy with design projects, and feel confident about the future. "We are three years new and continue to experience an upward trend as we get to know our customers, and they have come to appreciate us."
Describe your store: Inviting and uplifting. We are fortunate to have a space that is flooded by light from windows on three sides. We have a mix of tall and short open shelving units along the perimeter, and tables in the center. Our shelving units are simple, modern, white lacquer that allow the merchandise to pop. We group items by common theme and layer accordingly, with books and gifts that complement the story.
What sets you apart from the competition? We're in a small seaside town where most shops cater to tourists seeking souvenirs in a traditional way. We have a more modern aesthetic and a fresh approach to seaside chic. While we carry items with a sense of place, we offer unique products that could be found in a more urban setting, and strive to keep up with design trends while setting a few of our own.
Describe your average customer: Kennebunkport attracts a large tourist population and much of our business is walk-in. About 50% are people on vacation or day-tripping, 30% are seasonal residents and 20% live here year-round.
How do you reach your customer? Marketing is an area in which we are lacking! We too often wait for people to find us through our website. In the past we've emailed to advertise special events and sales. Advertising in local publications has brought minimal results. We are on Facebook and do a reasonable job posting shop news and photos, which are well received by our fans.
Are you exploring the use of any new technology in your store? We are incredibly low tech in our shop. Kennebunkport is a safe place where security is not an issue. If we accidentally left our door unlocked we would likely find everything in its place when we returned. We write sales slips by hand and have a cash drawer. This year we finally invested in a shop computer so that employees could update inventory lists, email clients and add to our website without using Anna's personal computer. While there would be advantages to a more sophisticated technology system, we are happy with our simple, old-fashioned approach and will not likely invest in anything mspaces4ore substantial in the near future.
Have you done anything different to weather the sluggish economy? In the last two years we've made a conscious effort to find products with great style and quality, but with a more affordable price tag. Most merchandise costs less then $75, and we have few items over $200. We've cut way back in offering furniture and have increased our "pick-up" merchandise with price points under $25. 
What's the most enjoyable part of your job? Working together - our business relationship enhances our friendship and vice versa. We are lucky to share common goals, design style and sense of humor. Anna especially enjoys interacting with customers, and I'm excited by the hunt for new products and inspirations for my design work.
Any emerging or hot trends? Our customers appreciate a summer look and are open to bright colors and sea-inspired spaces. We like to incorporate simple graphics and patterns, mixed with a little hippie chic, a touch of ethnic flare and a splash of metallic detail.
Size of your store: 800 square feet
About what percentage of your sales are home accents? 95%
Tradeshows/markets you shop: New York, Atlanta
Who are some of your favorite home accent vendors? John Robshaw, Michael Aram, Roost, Roberta Roller Rabbit

Address: 127 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport, Maine 04046


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