Savor the Good Things in Life at Fika Boutique in Ellsworth

Simple goods and quality materials abound at Melissa and Andrew Bradford's Scandinavian-inspired shop

Owner Melissa Bradford leans against an antique table displaying some of the lovely objects found at Fika Boutique.
The Scandinavian spirit of Fika is evident even before a customer enters the shop, with its dark siding and expansive windows.
The apparel selection at Fika changes with the seasons, but natural fibers and timeless styles are always on offer.
The ample but never crowded aesthetic of Fika Boutique, with its signature mix of home goods and apparel.
Andrew’s mother’s armoire overflows with blankets, pillows, and vases.
Melissa and her husband Andrew Bradford outside the shop that they rebuilt themselves.

On Route 3 in Ellsworth, where the scenery starts to shift from big-box stores to smaller structures and open fields, an old building stood at a crossroad. The longtime home of an off-season Christmas shop for summer tourists had fallen into serious disrepair after the business closed. Most people driving by saw an eyesore at best and a teardown at worst. But Melissa Bradford saw potential in the spot as she drove daily between her home and her hair salon in downtown Ellsworth. 

Melissa had been running her salon, the Alchemist, for nearly 13 years, but she was on the lookout for a new challenge. “I was feeling like I needed another creative endeavor,” she recalls. “I had clients constantly commenting on things I’d be wearing and wondering where I got them. It dawned on me that there was nowhere to get these things in the area. I was doing pretty much all my shopping online, and so my wheels just started turning.” She continues, “I wanted a space that created a real retail experience again, where you could come in, and somebody would actually help you find things or give you advice on what to wear it with. I like to design, whether it’s hair or helping somebody put an outfit together.”

In reimagining the space, Melissa was lucky to have her husband Andrew, a finish woodworker, as an eager collaborator. He agreed to look at the dilapidated building with her. As she recalls, “It was a rainy day. There was water pouring through the ceiling. There were holes in the roof. There was wood rot. There was mold. And yet Andrew said, ‘Let’s do it!’” Andrew picks up the tale: “I said, ‘Why don’t we tear out big windows and vault it?’ I knew she loved vaulted ceilings.” After signing the purchase papers (“Even the guy that came to do the assessment was like, better you guys than me,” Melissa says with a laugh), they began demolishing and rebuilding. “But we had to make all of our own windows because it was the pandemic,” says Andrew. “Everything was outrageously expensive. We couldn’t find help, and we couldn’t get materials.” 

“Andrew was here pretty much all the time doing all the work,” Melissa says. “But while it was a terrible time to do it, it was also the perfect time, because we thought, what else are we going to do right now?”

The building is now practically unrecognizable: the exterior is covered in inky black siding framed by softly waving grasses, and enormous high windows allow light to flood the interior. The transformation astounded locals who had written off the building. Andrew laughs as he remembers, “It’s awful, but accidents were happening outside on a weekly basis because people were paying attention to the building and not to the traffic light. We’d be working in here and suddenly hear a crash.” White walls and light floors further add to the sense of Scandinavian-inspired spaciousness and calm inside. As Melissa says, “When I go into a space, if it’s too jam-packed, I have to leave. It just messes with my head. I didn’t want that here.”

Once the structure had been revamped, it was time to turn to interior design. “All of the furnishings in here are salvaged; nothing was bought from a store new,” explains Melissa. Andrew adds, “This table was from my family’s camp, and Melissa painted the bottom of it. It had been at our camp since the 1920s, and nobody really wanted it, but Melissa saw its potential. Now, all our family members want the table back!” Dominating one wall of the shop is a gorgeous old armoire that brims with linens, books, and throw pillows; Andrew notes that it came from his mother’s house in Bangor as she downsized. “She didn’t have space in their new place for it because it’s so huge. And she kept asking, can you use it? She paid for movers to bring it over, and it cleared that beam by two inches.” Now, it looks like it was made for the space.

Melissa is pleased with how she furnished the shop but is most proud of the goods she has filled it with. “Most of what I purchase for the shop is very simple. It’s things that can be mixed and matched. It’s kind of capsule wardrobe components, and we have some fun little pieces that you can incorporate as little pops here and there,” she says. “It’s timeless, it’s classic, it’s not fast fashion. It’s made of quality materials that aren’t going to be destroyed after two times of washing them. There’s linen, there’s cotton, there’s hemp—clothes that are being ethically created, not in a sweatshop. We love that.”

Along with her emphasis on quality materials, she feels strongly about inclusivity in fashion: “I want anybody from any walk of life, any size, any age, to walk through the doors and feel comfortable and feel like they can find something. So I’ve got a lot of one-size-fits-all. Of course, I’ve got a lot of things other than clothing,” she says. “Maybe you’re at a time in your life where you’re not buying a lot of new clothing items. Well, there are all sorts of things you can enjoy. Everybody loves beautiful hand cream or a lovely candle.” 

Taking the time to light that candle or meditatively rub in that hand cream is where the name she chose for her shop resonates. In Sweden, fika is both a verb and a noun; it usually means a sweet treat alongside a hot cup of coffee, but more abstractly, it represents pausing and savoring. And while it’s hard to imagine this entrepreneurial businessperson slowing down, she does relish her downtime. “When I’m not working, I have such an appreciation for slow living,” says Melissa. She hopes that a sense of calm and ease comes through in her shop. “One of the nicest things we hear from customers is that the space has a peaceful feeling; when they come in, they feel like they can take their time,” she says. “I think, when you’re doing things from the heart, you can speak without words. I think it touches people who are on that same wavelength.”

Take It Easy

In Swedish, the word fika is associated with pausing one’s work and taking time to appreciate the good things in life. For the Swedes, this often means coffee and cake, but at Fika Boutique in Ellsworth, it comes through finding delightful objects for the home or for oneself. “I chose many of these products from women-owned small businesses. They’re made with ethical, sustainable materials, and many of them are made in Maine,” explains Melissa. Here are a few of our favorites for slowing down and taking it easy.

  • A large table showcases an assortment of scented candles (with evocative names like Coastal Boho and Tan Lines) from Sea Love of Kennebunkport. “Sea Love made a special Fika candle for us. And they sell like crazy, everybody loves them,” says Melissa.
  • The recycled wool blankets draped strategically over chairs and stacked high in Andrew’s mother’s armoire are from TBCo, a Scottish B-Corp company that uses recycled wool and other fibers that would otherwise clog landfills to create soft rainbows of color for snuggling up in. 
  • Once you’re snuggled up in a blanket, what you really need next is a hot beverage in a nice mug. Rockland-based Good Land Pottery mugs fit the bill with their organic shapes and textures, while Fika also carries a tasteful assortment of ceremonial cacao drinks to fill them. If you need to leave your blanket fort, Good Land also makes reusable to-go cups.
  • Womenswear fills most of the clothing section, but there are a few items that will appeal to male visitors as well. “I live in baseball hats, so I have a wide range,” explains Melissa. Andrew continues, “Our electrician had a guy working for him—a very quiet guy, very understated—who came right out and said, ‘I really like that hat.’ If that guy can find something, we must have an excellent range!”