A Handmade Tale

The Merchant Company owner LeAnna Fox (left) with business partner Kit Flynn.

Journals hand covered by HMD Designs of Lewiston.

Bottlecaps get a pop of color and new life as cool magnets by Little Eye Designs and Ramona and Beatrice.

You’ll find treasures and loads of inspiration at the Merchant Company.

Vintage treasures from Atomic Salvage.

FIELD TRIP – September 2012

by Veronique McAree | Photography Amanda Kowalski

LeAnna Fox transforms a Congress Street storefront into a delightful oasis for all things vintage and handmade.


A hand-stitched quilt fashioned out of upcycled T-shirts, a Venus-flytrap terrarium, a charming child’s dress hand-appliqued by Roxanne Quimby (philanthropist and former owner of Burt’s Bees)—these are just some of the quirky, lovely, wild wares for sale recently at the Merchant Company, Portland’s new marketplace for independent design.

Founded just one year ago, the Merchant Company showcases the merchandise of more than 80 craftspeople, artists, and collectors in exchange for a percentage of their sales. “The Merchant Company is kind of like a well-run street fair,” says owner LeAnna Fox, a Maine College of Art graduate with a passion for crafting and fashion. “The attraction for shoppers lies in our inventory of unique items. You can find things that are new and novel, and things that you won’t see in other stores.”

As flea markets and online sites such as Etsy and eBay become more popular outlets for handmade goods, the Merchant Company brings the shopping experience to life for the customer. Fox provides a well-presented environment that makes it easy and fun to find treasures, while also ensuring that all the goods remain visible and don’t get lost in the shuffle. “It’s not overwhelming, as it can be online and at flea markets,” says Fox. “And the offerings seem to fulfill the desire on the part of shoppers seeking one-of-a-kind items that speak to their own personal aesthetic.”

Fox curates items that range from clothing and jewelry to housewares and collectables. A few particularly noteworthy items include the RE GO vintage lamps that have been given new life with hand-printed shades, mod Scandinavian treasures from Atomic Vintage, Brooke There’s organic-cotton lingerie, and a line of comfy cotton clothing from Luksin Designs. There are also ample paper goods such as letterpress cards and handmade journals, and customers can choose from a selection of cotton satchels to carry them in.

To be considered as a vendor, all goods must be vintage or “proven handmade,” and they have to be either connected to or made in Maine—a requirement that underscores Fox’s commitment to supporting local artisans. She and her partners (Kit Flynn and Jessica and Todd Russell) carefully review each submission to find the perfect assortment of goods for the store.

Yet the Merchant Company is also far more than just a marketplace—Fox hosts open houses with local live music during Portland’s First Friday Art Walks and features a “Vendor of the Month” on the website. And all of these events and promotions are designed to celebrate the creative, handy community of Portland and beyond.

Field Notes:


Find new and fun ways to explore the outdoors and am totally hooked on camping on Hermit Island.


Everything! Maine hoodies by Bethany, knitwear by Molly Angie, Aimsel Ponti’s fabulous upcycled journals, to name just a few.


Aside from the Merchant Co.? Pinecone and Chickadee and Ferdinand for original gifts, Bliss for the perfect pair of jeans, Longfellow Books to feed my endless book addiction.


I am more artisan than a crafter…although I have vowed to try knitting again. I have been experimenting with printmaking as well as application techniques of acrylic on wood panel with rusted or distressed screws and wire.

Take a field trip to the Merchant Company at 656 Congress Street in Portland, or visit them online at themerchantcompany.net.