Find Objects, Both Vintage and New at Viand Mercantile in the Old Port

Jenny Bravo’s one-stop shop for gifts and home decor is approachable, accessible, and eclectic

Jenny Bravo of Viand Mercantile with some of the treasures in her shop.
The watchful mallard duck mascot keeps a lookout.
Rugs old and new play together on the floors.
True one-stop shopping: a thoughtful gift right next to the perfect card to pair with it.
Bravo’s eye for great second-hand paintings ensures that the walls are always well stocked with art.
Barware for the stylish drinker and a change purse for the dill enthusiast.
An eclectic yet cohesive mix greets visitors as they enter the shop. The soaring space on Fore Street once held an Italian restaurant but was completely renovated before reopening as Viand Mercantile.
Bravo keeps an ever-changing lineup of vintage Oriental rugs on display.
A very Viand mix: napkins and brass hair clips rub shoulders with change purses and fanciful doorstops as Bravo’s beloved giant papier-mâché lobster oversees it all.
Viand Mercantile’s shelves are amply loaded but never crowded.
Visitors are encouraged to try out the unusual soaps for themselves at the small marble sink.

Getting the perfect blend of shiny new and older, gently worn objects for one’s home can be tricky, especially if one doesn’t have the time or energy to visit many stores. At Viand Mercantile, her new shop on the edge of Portland’s Old Port, Jenny Bravo redefines one-stop shopping for gifts and home decor. “What makes our shop unusual is that it is vintage and new,” she explains. “While there are other stores that sell both vintage and new, I source globally, and so I have vintage and new products both from home and from abroad.”

Although she is well known for her food styling and photography business based in Westbrook, Bravo has also worked in retail on and off since her teens. “There’s been a kind of throughline in my work. I love to invoke a sense of the comfort that comes with the beauty of home. I’ve used that core anchor throughout each model of business that I have pursued,” she muses. Her latest venture emerged out of her food styling business, in fact. “I had all these props for food styling, and in order to recycle them, I would sell them. And everyone was like, we love these! So, in 2020 that led to Viand Vintage, which was an online monthly drop where I would source vintage antiques, but also sometimes pull from my styling cupboard,” she says. “That became very popular. Then I moved into a holiday pop-up mode where I found a couple of vacant spots on Washington Avenue over the years. The feedback from my customers then was, ‘We love it, but we’d like it more if it were permanent.’”

Bravo obliged her fans by looking for a permanent spot in Portland. “My studio is in Westbrook, and it’s very much on demand: I am there when I have clients and I need to be working in that kitchen. I love going in there, but I knew that with the store, I wanted it to really be an everyday location,” she explains. “I needed a little bit of that foot traffic, a little bit of the tourism, a little bit of the ease of knowing it’s around other things for my customers.” She found exactly what she sought in a large old building with expansive windows and pleasingly worn wooden floors, home to the former Italian restaurant Paciarino, right on the western edge of the Old Port.

Bravo signed the lease in the spring of 2023 and, amazingly, was able to open that fall. “I got very lucky because the landlord decided that he would take on just enough of the renovations for us. He agreed, in our negotiations, to install new floors on this side, to take out all the kitchen equipment, and to paint it a fresh white,” she recalls. “Then we would come in and do the rest, build it up, build it out. That involved taking one of the bathrooms out and adding a little space for an office in the back. And then of course making all the built-ins, and installing shelving, and replacing all the lighting.” Fortunately, she had a secret weapon in her husband, who owns a contracting company and who knew just who to call to solve any problems that arose. After many late nights (and “a lot of tears,” says Bravo, laughing now), they opened the doors in October.

Stepping through those doors (with hand-lettered name and number painted on the glass) reveals a treasure chest of objects old and new. Vintage oriental rugs cover the floors, while antique tables and armoires hold everything from the latest glossy Phaidon photography book to antique vases, and from sewing notions to oyster knives. The back of the main room has a section devoted to amusing and unusual toys for children, while an anteroom holds gardening tools and planters. Watching over it all is the Viand Mercantile mascot painted on one of the windows: a large female mallard duck wearing binoculars and a thoughtful expression. Bravo worked with strategic marketing agency Helm Digital on the design. “One of their designers, Brenna Anderson, is a birder, and she proposed this female mallard, to symbolize strength and resiliency,” she recalls. “We worked on iteration after iteration. We finally came up with this beauty, which has a bit more detail with its hand-drawn feathers. They thought to add binoculars, so that it’s birding back at us!”

The sense of fun and whimsy combined with an underlying devotion to detail that’s embodied by the mallard neatly sums up Bravo’s approach to her shop. “I would say that the store isn’t pigeonholed into any specific style. You can find something fun and funky that makes you laugh just as easily as you can find something that’s stunningly beautiful, hand built by a ceramicist from Portugal or from around the corner,” she says. “I want it to be approachable and accessible. I want everyone to have a beautiful, layered home without having to fit into any specific box.” After running a more solitary business, she is eager to greet visitors to her shop face-to-face. “We want you to feel happy and warm and welcome here. We want you to know about the products, and we want you to feel like anytime you come in, you’re going to be welcomed with a warm, happy smile and greeting. It’s not too exclusive, and it’s not too cool—it’s just fun.”

Mix It Up

Bravo deliberately carries an eclectic mix of objects at Viand Mercantile. “What we sell is very much intentionally chosen so that it can be a reflection of what you like, and so that you’re sure that all of it can work together. You don’t have to squeeze yourself into any specific trend or style. It can be layered however you feel it should be,” she explains. Here are some of our favorite things from their ever-changing lineup. 

  • On the day I visit, Bravo is excited about setting up a new bed display to showcase her incoming bed linens. “We have so many fantastic linens,” she enthuses. Wool duvets from Washington state promise cozy winter nights, but as the weather warms, gauze bedspreads from Swiss company Oona beckon. They’re available in a muted rainbow of rich natural hues.
  • An expansive antique table holds a panoply of kitchen tools, many of which are wooden and European. Sturdy rolling pins cluster in a jar while linen napkins fan across the table’s surface. The tools are beautiful, but as befits a shop run by a culinary school graduate, they’re also useful. Bravo grabs a wooden piece and explains, “I love this! This is called a spurtle, and it’s for stirring oatmeal. You don’t know you need it until you’ve used it.”
  • Tucked in a corner by the enormous front windows, a small working marble sink offers visitors the chance to try out the many delightful soaps and washes Bravo stocks. “It’s fun to give people a sensory experience,” she says. The brands are unusual—“It’s nice to to offer items that people still get excited about because they haven’t discovered them quite yet,” says Bravo. One such find is soap-on-a-rope in the shape of a bunch of grapes, from a small family-run business in the Middle East that has been making soap for generations. 
  • Finally, Viand has the most whimsical and fun doorstops. “They’re wonderful and a little cheeky,” says Bravo. Made ethically by a British company in Sri Lanka, the anthropomorphic doorstops (called “wedgies” because they are meant to be wedged under an open door) feature brightly colored portraits of everyone from Nobel Prize winners to rock stars. They make the perfect gift for the Dolly Parton or Frida Kahlo fan in your life.