The doors to the Smiling Cow at 41 Main St. in Camden will reopen Saturday, April 17, an event that will mark the store’s 70th year. Owner Meg Quijano plans to hold a celebration with prizes and refreshments from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The Smiling Cow was founded in 1925 in Boothbay, where Quijano’s grandmother, Margaret Hawkey, opened her first shop. The Camden shop was opened in 1940 by Quijano’s parents and is the only Smiling Cow store still in the family. Meg Quijano bought the Camden shop from her mother, Margaret Fisher, in 1980. This was after Quijano’s father had died.

When the Smiling Cow first opened in Camden, Quijano’s father, Henry Fisher, received a visit from two ladies who owned the Village Shop just up the sidewalk. They told him there wasn’t enough room for two gift shops in town. That has since been proven to be untrue.

The name for the shop, the Smiling Cow, originated when one of the Hawkey girls claimed a certain cow on her grandfather’s farm laughed whenever she stroked its head. The same girl liked to repeat silly jokes and the “smiling cow” became a byword in the family.

Over the years, the Smiling Cow store became a fixture in Camden. In 1974, the Fishers discovered that the wooden pylons that supported the shop were rotting from all the exposure to the Megunticook River. The town condemned the shop, and the Fishers hired Maine Coast Construction for the repair job, which represented one of the first construction projects for that company.

Henry Fisher wanted returning customers to see the shop just as it had been the previous summer, so the  wooden shelving and stands were carefully laid aside to be put back when the construction job was complete.

Quijano said she loves being on the pulse of what her customers want, and takes pride in being fully involved in the business. She strives for a low key, friendly atmosphere with a personal touch. Quijano has heard customers say they visited the store as children, and have returned again and again with their children and grandchildren. Quijano’s granddaughter Yelana Randall has waited on customers in the store since she was old enough to stand on a stool.

Quijano did not meet her husband at the shop, but Paul, a New York resident, remembers purchasing a balsam pillow every year at the Smiling Cow to remind him of his Maine summer.

One year, the store’s shopping bags were produced without the usual logo so staff and customers improvised and started drawing cows on the plain bags. The practice has now become a tradition and the shop displays the most interesting drawings on its Wall of Fame.

The Smiling Cow has a core group of employees who return season after season; in one case, a family has a third child who wants to work in the shop. The shop employs approximately 12 to 15 people.

Quijano is now ordering products and preparing to stock the shelves. Wares include anything to do with lobster, moose, blueberries and lighthouses, Maine post cards, books, toys, kitchen ware and blueberry pottery. Quijano orders Maine-made products, as well as custom items made for the shop. Homemade fudge is always a popular item.

On the back deck, visitors can enjoy free coffee or tea and take in the view of Camden Harbor.

For more information, sign up at the shop for a monthly newsletter, join the Smiling Cow on Facebook or send e-mail to