Bubbles & Bean Children's Consignment readies for spring
Camden — Lincolnville residents Andrea Palise and Nick Fernandez said they started Bubbles & Bean Children's Consignment because they saw a niche for high-quality children's clothing, toys and accessories in the Midcoast.
"I started Bubbles & Bean because I knew it was a hole that needed to be filled in our community," Palise said March 18. "A lot of the moms around here drive to far distances to go to a children's consignment store — a good one — and it was very needed in this area.
"I knew it would work, so I said, 'Why not?'"
Palise — a native Texan — said she moved to the Midcoast in 1998 to acquire shipbuilding skills at The Apprenticeshop in Rockland. A rocky economy and a job switch-up later, Palise said the process of opening Bubbles & Bean began in August 2012.
"[It] sort of ended up being the right time, very do-or-die," Palise said.
The one thing that has remained constant has been the store's name, which Palise said is derived from nicknames for her 6-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, respectively.
"That was the first decision we had made," Palise said.
Palise, who was project coordinator for the remodel of the 449 Main St. building in Rockland, said the work experience gave her familiarity with construction strategies and costs, enabling her to transform Bubbles & Bean from a "blank slate" into its current, finished state.
"We put in floors, we built all of these [counters] by hand. We're both a little bit of jack of all trades," Palise said of her teamwork with Fernandez, an ex-welder and carpenter who constructed clothing racks in their Lincolnville garage.
Palise said she "wanted a place where the moms felt comfortable leaving their children to go play. If kids are happy, mommies are happy. That's the key."
As such, the store contains a toy section, and the checkout counter doubles as a chalkboard for impatient youngsters.
Most important to her vision, Palise said, was maintaining a standard of high-quality items.
"I have a mantra, and that is, 'I'm not a label snob, I'm a quality snob,'" Palise said. "I don't want rips, stains, holes [or] smell. I don't care where they come from, as long as they're in good condition."
Fortunately, Palise said, her strategy has worked out. However, for items that don't quite make the cut, she created the Purple Play Rack of play clothes, the proceeds from which benefit a different nonprofit agency each month.
The March Purple Play Rack beneficiary is Five Town Communities That Care. Palise said she has several organizations slated for upcoming months, primarily nonprofit groups that revolve around children's services.
Bubbles & Bean also displays new items, including those by local craftsmen such as artist Christine Buckley of Lincolnville and Heavenly Bean Bags of Belfast.
Palise said the store has a "booming teen section...even though they wouldn't be caught dead in here," which focuses on brands like Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister.
"We just wanted to fill niches. That's the idea, was to fill a niche," Palise said. "Once a mom know about a good place to get quality children's clothing, the word spreads like wildfire."
Fernandez said they have also been working with residents of the local islands in order to provide them flexibility in their shopping hours.
"[It] is hard for the island women to get out this way," Fernandez said.
Palise said she "felt very lucky" the location was available, and described the atmosphere in the Elm Street plaza at "really fun."
"Bob Reny is just one of the nicest people I've ever met," Palise said, adding that the proprietors of neighbor businesses Clean Bee Laundry and K2 Music Store frequently check up on Palise and Fernandez.
Fernandez said he hopes as summer approaches, the four businesses will conduct joint events such as sales and cookouts.
Palise and Fernandez refer to one employee as "a tremendous help" and said they likely will have to hire soon to help ease the workload.
"It's harder than it looks," Palise said.
Palise and Fernandez say they are planning to add a lending library to the store, as well as dressing rooms, and will stock summer clothes even during the winter for use at the YMCA and on vacations.
Fernandez said the store's Dec. 15 opening was challenging for the new business. "After Christmas, it was like somebody lopped us off at the knees...[but] now that the sun's coming out and the days are a little bit longer...business is starting to slowly pick up, and [we're] being noticed."
Palise said she is glad they opened during the winter, as she finds it beneficial to have been through the "variations of seasons."
"Winter's tough, but now we've already been through one," Palise said.
Bubbles & Bean Children's Consignment is open at 83 Elm St., Suite 2, Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and is reachable at 236-2900. Bubbles & Bean also has a dedicated website and Facebook presence online.
Camden Herald reporter Bane Okholm can be reached at 236-8511 ext. 304 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.