Pick Up Your Parcels at this New Washington Avenue Boutique
The Post Supply—which started as an online venture and recently opened a brick-and-mortar store in Portland—offers a curated collection of beautiful housewares, courtesy of two best friends
Many of us daydream about starting a cool business with our best friend, but how many of us actually accomplish it? Katie Bowes and Hannah Haehn are among the lucky few for whom those daydreams turned into reality; their Washington Avenue store, the Post Supply, is truly a shared labor of love. As Haehn says, “I knew Katie had been wanting to have a store forever, but I never would have assumed that we would merge our dreams together. But when we thought of it, we both said, ‘This makes so much sense.’”
The future business partners met when they both lived in New York City a decade ago. Bowes was working in publishing, and Haehn was working for a photography agency when they connected through a restaurant project Bowes’s husband Brad, a woodworker and builder, was working on. Haehn laughs as she recalls, “It was love at first sight. We truly became best friends right then and have, honestly, spoken every single day since. It was a moment when you recognize a true friend that feels like your family.” Bowes concurs: “Totally! And when we moved to Maine in 2015, Hannah threw us the sweetest surprise going-away party with the most thoughtful, Maine-centered gifts, even though it hurt her heart to have to do it. Then she became our number one visitor!”
After moving from publishing to prop styling to merchandising—and relocating from New York City to Yarmouth— Bowes finally felt ready to set up a store of her very own. “Every summer job I had growing up was in boutiques and local small businesses. I had always had that passion for retail,” she recalls. “So I was gearing up to open this store. I even had my business plan written. Then the pandemic hit, and everything felt impossible and like a bad idea and very scary. I shelved all of it.” But a few months into the pandemic, on long walks with her newborn second child, she started talking to Haehn on the phone about her dream. They discovered it was a shared vision. “Hannah said, ‘I have this idea for a store.’ And I was like, ‘Hold up. That sounds a lot like my idea for a store!’ It started very casually, just dreaming of what this could be and why we felt excited about it and why we felt it was important.” Haehn says, “During COVID, I had been working on a concept of a small online store, to keep myself busy and to keep creative projects going. But, you know, I don’t have the background on the product side of things that Katie does. We’ve always had separate swim lanes! We decided to marry our two different business approaches and see what we could shake out of it all. We’ve been so happy with what we could come up with together.”
This balance of talents continued to benefit them as the business took shape. Haehn says, “Katie has always been passionate about being in the physical store, interacting with customers. I am passionate about creating our beautiful photography, working with our photographers and other producers to make something that feels like a beautiful brand identity and visual identity.” Haehn, who lives in California, manages the website, handles social media, and directs the seasonal photoshoots. “We’ve made the decision that it makes sense to do curated, stylized shoots seasonally, giving a real point of view about what the season is for the Post Supply,” says Bowes. “Hannah leads all of that. She puts together the mood board and sources, and she chooses photographers. Then I propose product and we narrow it down together.” Meanwhile, Bowes also gets to live her dream: being in the brick-and-mortar store and helping customers in person. She also manages the employees, keeps on top of inventory, and dispenses advice to visitors: “I feel like I’ve taken on this role recently of tour guide, where I tell people, hey, you need to eat at this restaurant!” she laughs.
The Post Supply launched initially as an online-only business (hence the evocation of the postal service in its name), but Bowes was always on the lookout for the right physical location. A few months after the online launch, she says, “I got a call from a local landlord that I had been in touch with over the years, who owns the building where my husband has his shop. He knew that I’d been looking for something, and he said this space had become available. I took that to Hannah and said, ‘This is the location. We need to jump on it. Let’s just hold hands and leap together.’” Haehn adds, “I’d been to this location with Katie many times before, too, because of the wine store next door and the fact that it’s right down the street from Brad’s shop, so I knew I liked it.” Having a builder just down the street—and in the family—certainly helped when it came to transforming the space. Bowes credits her husband’s company, Joiya Studios, with the design and build of the store, and notes that her friend Kacee Witherbee of Insides Studio served as a design and lighting consultant. The result balances spaciousness with coziness, with pale wood lining the walls and jute rugs spread out on the brick floor. “We just want everyone to feel welcome and cozy,” says Bowes.
The selection of goods (the “supply” part of the name) is purposely eclectic; a customer could walk in looking for moisturizer and end up also walking out with a new planter, some candles, and a dustpan. It’s part of its charm, a way to evoke what Haehn calls “an old general store where you would get your flour and your gingham fabric.” Bowes describes their curation process as asking a series of questions: “What are things that I love, and that Hannah loves, that we’ve seen in the world that we haven’t seen represented here yet? Who are the makers? What are the really special brands that we think people would love?” Tables and custom shelves hold glassware and body care products; a rainbow of candles adorns one wall while towels made of organic cotton cover another. A collection of books beckons. On the day I visit, Washington Avenue is shrouded in a chilly summer fog, and walking into the Post Supply feels like stepping into the living room of a good friend: it smells fantastic, good music is playing on the stereo, and I am warmly greeted. Bowes says, “At a high level, Hannah and I are always thinking about the customer: what would be a balm and a comfort to them?” They’re looking out for their guests, just like good friends do.
KEEP ME POSTED
When it comes to choosing the items to sell at the Post Supply, Haehn says, “I want to have stuff from people that I believe in, and who I think are doing stuff right. We know a lot of the people that make the products that we sell, and we can really vouch for them, in terms of how things are made and how things are done.” Bowes and Haehn both said choosing favorites would be like choosing a favorite child, but here are some of their highlights.
• “Our blurry glass, which is sprinkled everywhere in the store, is very popular,” begins Haehn. “Yes, this is recycled glassware from La Soufflerie, that’s all hand blown in Paris, France. Doesn’t that feel nice in your hand?” asks Bowes as she gathers up glasses from one of the display tables. Haehn chimes in, “They all vary a little, by like one or two centimeters. It’s part of what makes them great!”
• “We should talk about these cards,” says Bowes. “Our friend Ty Williams is from Maine. He’s a surfer, he’s an artist, and
he created this line of cards that’s just sold here at the Post Supply. He doesn’t typically do things like greeting cards. Customers have been coming to us for cards, and I felt like this was like a really special place to pick to do a collaboration with him.”
• “We’re standing by one of my favorite whole sections. We are heavily into books and wanted to create a very large book selection—I mean, it’s a whole wall of our store!” says Haehn. It’s an eclectic assortment, with cookbooks and lifestyle design books rubbing shoulders with art books and a history of Jamaican dancehall reggae. “Bookstores have always been one of my favorite places, so come check out our books,” urges Haehn.
• Bowes picks up an elegant blue glass bottle. “I really love Oracle olive oil. This is such a staple at our house. I also think it makes a really beautiful gift. It’s delicious. And I feel like it’s just that special touch that you have on your table that makes the meal feel a little more celebratory, a little more special,” she says. “Not to mention that it’s a very close friend of ours who makes it, from organic olives grown in her family’s olive groves in Greece.”
• “A real customer favorite is our selection of Danica candles. As you know, these are made right up the coast. We started with, like, three colors, and now we have this whole wall
that every customer goes to if they are trying to do something different with their table,” says Bowes. “I’ve found that I used to only ever buy one color, but now I’m constantly getting fun colors to change it up on our table.”