December 7, 2013

Skowhegan pop-up store filling niche

Quirky, hand-made items at temporary store site getting shoppers attention downtown.

By Doug Harlow
Staff Writer

SKOWHEGAN — The executive director of Main Street Skowhegan quickly scooped up a ceramic mug with a ghoulish image and the words Skowhegan Zombieland when he saw it at the new pop-up store in downtown.

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LOCAL: A clay sculpture of the Kennebec Gorge in Skowhegan is among the items for sale by Iver Lofving in the temporary pop-up store inside the Grist Mill in downtown Skowhegan.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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QUICK SALE: Iver Lofving sits inside an Anidrosis Box at his pop-up store in the Grist Mill in Skowhegan, where for two weeks he plans to sell a variety of unusual items. The box was used by locally by Dr. S.F. Conant in the 19th century. It is a sauna-like wooden crate used to help a person perspire. The person then was treated to a rubdown using an ointment of alcohol and opium to soothe ailments.

Staff photo by David Leaming

The director, Dugan Murphy, bought it for $18.

Murphy said he also liked the downtown Skowhegan streetscape pictured on the blue mug and designed by local artist Iver Lofving, whose studio occupies a pop-up shop at the Skowhegan Grist Mill until Dec. 15.

A pop-up store is a marketing concept in which a retailer can market test a product or a service for a day, a week or a month. Lofving has it for two weeks.

Artisans selling handmade knits, hand-crafted wooden items, fabric creations and bead work rented the pop-up during the last week of November and plan to return the week of Dec. 16.

One of the artisans, Mimosa Mack, of Skowhegan, said she and the other women involved in the store did better than expected selling knitted hats, scarves and wooden cutting boards.

She said the experience at the pop-up shop was definitely worthwhile for her and her sister Amanda Slamm, of Solon.

“We sold a lot of the little (wooden) spreaders and spatulas. Those were about $6 to $10 each, but were the majority of our sales,” Mack said. “We sold a half dozen cutting boards and a few of our mineral oil and beeswax paste jars.”

One of the crafters, Peggy Lovejoy, said the women easily made the $100 rent — and more — for the week they were in the pop-up store and had fun meeting people as the holiday season got under way.

“I thought we did well,” Lovejoy said. “It is a really fun thing to do, and we’re looking forward to the next time.”

Lofving, 54, an art teacher at Skowhegan Area High School, is displaying and selling lots of quirky stuff at the store. He calls part of the collection Skowhegiana — like Americana, only with a Skowhegan theme.

Lofving said word is getting around about the pop-up store and visitor numbers have increased each day. He said running the store has been a fun way to meet people while selling a little merchandise.

He’s got old photos and memorabilia, Skowhegan postcards, local paintings of the iconic Skowhegan falls and antique guest guides of Skowhegan from a time when it was a hub of hotels and horse-drawn carriages on elm tree-lined streets.

He’s got images of native daughter Margaret Chase Smith and books about French Jesuit priest Sebastian Rasle, who was killed by English soldiers in 1724 while ministering to Abenaki Indians in what is now Madison. The attack occurred in the midst of a series of colonial wars between the French and the British.

Lofving also has piggy banks, a collection of miniature skidders, and paintings by contemporary artist Milton Christianson. His paintings include scenes of the Empire Grill during the 2003 filming in Skowhegan of the HBO movie “Empire Falls.”

He’s also got an anidrosis box, a kind of 19th-century quack medicine sweat lodge. It is a sauna-like wooden crate used to help a person perspire. The person then was treated to a rubdown using an ointment of alcohol and opium to soothe ailments.

“It cured rheumatism, tumors, ulcers, cancers and skin diseases,” Lofving said of the label on the original box. “I’m always looking around for cool things.”

The box, made and sold by a Dr. S.F. Conant, who ran an Anidrosis Sanitorium on Elm Street in Skowhegan, is for sale at the pop-up for $150 — or best offer, Lofving said.

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