A New Kind of Country Store
From thoughtful handmade gifts to one-of-a-kind quilts, Smith’s General in Yarmouth has you covered
Dash Masland grew up in Yarmouth, Although she was too young to remember Smith’s General Store herself, she has heard stories over the years about the downtown shop. By all accounts, Ray
Smith “was a wonderful man, and he took care of the town,” she says. “The older generations have fond memories of getting penny candy here, visiting the gas pumps, buying their meat here— everything, really.”
Masland says “here,” but her new shop, Smith’s General, isn’t actually located in the same building as the original. It was at first, but in January 2019, after just a few months in business, she moved her small endeavor into a larger storefront on Main Street. “I originally wanted a studio so I could get out of my house and create my own space,” says the mother of two, who spent eight years working from home, first as a marine biologist and later as a quilter and pattern designer. “But once I had a studio and some quilts for sale, I realized we could invite the whole community in. We could sell a lot of different handmade products, offer a modern general store experience.”
That’s what Smith’s General is now. It’s a gift shop, certainly, filled with soaps and ceramics and textiles. It’s also a gallery for contemporary quilters, artists who are making brightly colored and geometrically bold cotton bedspreads and wall hangings. But Masland keeps coming back to the idea of community—this, she says, is meant to be a “community space, not one thing or another.” “Here is our classroom,” she says as she gestures toward a big wooden table located at the back of the shop, where she plans to host workshops on embroidery, felting, quilting, and indigo dyeing led by artists and teachers from around the country. “We want people to be able to walk by, see our window, and pop in.” So far, it’s working. “It’s been incredible watching people discover the store,” she says. “Some people go right toward the quilts, some like the fabric corners, and some go toward the gifts.”
While you can buy pillows, candles, stuffed animals, mugs, vases, and other pretty gifts at Smith’s General, the standout items are all quilted. For years, Masland worked as a scientist; her brain has the sharp edges and quick motion of a researcher. Yet after she started her family and made the move from midcoast Maine back to Yarmouth, she felt herself suddenly compelled to dig out her old sewing machine. “I kept having this vision of birds in flight,” she says. “I wanted to do something with that mental picture, so I dragged out my machine and made this quilt.” She taps a finger on a sewing pattern. The quilt is named “Flight Effect” and features an interlocking pattern of white arrow shapes and gray V-shapes. The soft solid colors look like geese in flight against a stark white sky. It’s subtle and modern, challenging assumptions about the old-fashioned nature of quilts.
In addition to selling quilt patterns for her original designs, Masland also sells her own work as well as pieces by other craftswomen from her online sewing community. “There’s a massive modern quilting community online,” she explains. “Everyone is sharing, collaborating, and helping one another.” At Smith’s General, she tries to highlight work by other modern quilters who inspire her. Although it’s not hard to find country stores selling traditional quilts, these pieces are different. They use different colors, like pastels and neons or burnt, earthy tones. They emphasize negative space by using bigger pieces of fabric, often feature asymmetry, and tend to favor solid blocks of color over old-school prints like florals or gingham.
While Smith’s General is still the new kid on the block, Masland has high hopes for both her shop and her hometown. “Everyone in Yarmouth really supports the arts and creative endeavors,” she says. “I’m really excited. I feel like I’ve found where I want to be, and I want to be here for a long time.”
Style your house with a modern quilt
- Think outside the bedframe. “Quilts are as versatile as they are functional, and they have moved beyond the bed,” says Masland. “Try a throw on your couch or as a wall hanging to add some color to any room.”
- Baby quilts aren’t just for babies. “The term refers to the small size of the quilt,” Masland explains. “This versatile size can be used as a pop of color on a chair, or easily hung up as a wall hanging.”
- Don’t limit your decor. “Quilts can be used to add color to a space, but also to add subtle texture,” says Masland. The right kind of quilt can fit just as well in a city apartment as a modern farmhouse. Masland advises looking for a handmade linen quilt with “subdued colors and chunky hand stitching for a minimalist look that still provides loads of visual interest.”
- Consider going custom. There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a quilt for your space, including fabrics, quilt block design, and quilting motif. If you find one you like at Smith’s General but it doesn’t quite work, know that many of Masland’s artists are “happy to work with clients to create custom designs.” Shifting just one element of the artistry, says Masland, can “dramatically change the look of the quilt.”