Maine Sea Bags
"The salt air is great for the soul," says Beth Shissler, co-owner with Hannah Kubiak of Portland-based Sea Bags. The duo recycle sails into eco-friendly bags, taking their inspiration from the Portland waterfront. "There's an authenticity here that you won't find anywhere else," Kubiak says.
Portland's working waterfront is seasoned with old salts and peppered with lobster boats and fishing trawlers, ferries and excursion boats that weave through the islands of Casco Bay. Lobster buyers, fish dealers and multi-generational fishermen tend businesses on the wharves, while steps away fashion mavens seek the latest styles at trendy Old Port specialty shops and boutiques, such as Sea Bags and Rogue's Gallery, and executives vie with tourists for tables at nationally acclaimed restaurants, such as Fore Street, Cinque Terre, and Street and Company.
In the 1970s, artists began renovating the Victorian buildings lining Exchange Street. Restaurateurs and shopkeepers followed, and today, the Old Port Exchange district and adjoining waterfront thrive. Guides from Greater Portland Landmarks lead walking tours, pointing out the 18th- through 21st-century Mansard, Greek Revival, Federal, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Romanesque Revival and Colonial buildings. They regale their charges with anecdotes from the city's history, telling when Commercial Street was underwater and ships unloaded their cargoes at what now are second-story windows above those shops and restaurants.
Pair shopping and dining with a walking tour or a cruise, and it's easy to spend the better part of a day soaking in the Old Port and waterfront's heritage and breathing in that soul-reviving air.