ROCKPORT — Tucked away off of Route 90, on Mill Street in Rockport, hides a treasure trove of Maine made wonders at Bonnie’s Place.

Starting with just seven crafters in 2011, owner, Bonnie Brooks, now has over 100 crafters from Kennebunk to Fort Kent on display in her cozy store.

“I’m surrounded by beauty every single day I’m in the store, and I have no complaints about that. The talent just keeps getting better,” she said.

Teeming with handmade goods, the store has everything from kitchenware, soaps, paintings, jewelry, children’s clothing and more.

She takes pride in being off the beaten path, and away from Main Street.

“That’s how I advertise it, no leprechaun leaves its treasures in the middle of the road,” she said.

Brooks strives to provide a place where one can buy unique, often one-of-a-kind, Maine made goods.

Bonnie’s Place Maine Made Gifts and Treasures in Rockport. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer

Before opening Bonnie’s Place, Brooks said that she had a job she liked, but a boss that she did not.

“So I quit,” she said.

Brooks had previously owned and operated a seafood wharf in Cushing, which had 14 fishermen who provided lobster for the business. She added that the business had a market to sell to for everything that came onto the wharf, and they sold to many restaurants in the Philadelphia, Pa. area.

She then switched gears into the restaurant business, and for 10 years, she owned Bayview Lobster in the Camden area.

“I love people,” she said.

Having experience owning, and running businesses in state already, Brooks knew that she, again, wanted to be her own boss.

Initially, she wanted to open a nightclub.

“I did all of my homework, and I found locations. It was an education I’ll never forget,” she said.

Brooks said that there were too many rules and regulations, and she realized that it was not going to work out.

Having been on the craft circuit for many years, Brook sought out, and spoke with friends about her idea of opening a store of strictly Maine made goods.

“Seven said yes, and that’s how we started,” she said.

Bonnie’s Place Maine Made Gifts and Treasures in Rockport. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer

With Brooks selling strictly goods made in the state, the state’s Maine Made program connected with her and registered her as a retail store. The program builds recognition for Maine products, their producers, and Maine industries.

“At the time, in order to get the Maine Made tags, you had to be out and visible in more than one place for a certain amount of time,” Brooks said.

She said that crafters were getting in touch with Maine Made, who in turn would reach out to her to connect her with the crafters.

“I would have them come into the store and have an opening. It’d help them get their foot in other doors and get their tag,” she said.

Brooks also has crafters whose work she likes, and will reach out to them to bring their work into the store to sell.

“Some are wholesale, and some are sold consignment,” she said.

Bonnie’s Place Maine Made Gifts and Treasures in Rockport. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer

In the beginning days of Bonnie’s Place, Brooks operated out of her home’s garage.

As more crafters came in to sell, she discovered the no longer had the space, and needed to expand.

In 2016, she had the current space she is located in built. The move brought her down her driveway, closer to the road, and near a small picturesque pond.

“It made me more visible from the road,” she said.

She added that it was far more challenging for people to come up a driveway to a building they could not see.

However, the biggest challenge Brooks has faced came when the pandemic began.

“Two years ago, I was only open for two months,” she said.

Brooks, alongside Bonnie’s Place, is a bookkeeper for small businesses.

“With the pandemic, I do books for small businesses that don’t have offices. All of a sudden, I was a luxury to them,” she said.

With both the store and her bookkeeping business greatly impacted, it has lead her to mark the 2022 year as a deciding factor for her businesses.

She said that how well either business does this year is what decides if she gets to stay in business for herself, or if she will need to seek out a different job.

Brooks added that she has crafters she has not been able to reach over the past few years.

Bonnie’s Place Maine Made Gifts and Treasures in Rockport. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer

The ones she has been able to reach have let her know that they either have none of their stock left, or that they have very little left, with nothing new coming as they have needed to move away from self-employment to different jobs.

If the year, and coming years prove successful for the store, Brooks said that she would like to be able to stay in the building she is currently in. If the need for expansion comes to make room for more crafters, she has the ability to utilize the upstairs space she currently does her bookkeeping from.

“I don’t want to get too big so to speak,” she said.

Currently, it is just Brooks in the store. The customer traffic is quiet enough that she has not had a need to hire someone to help.

She added that she does not want to be on a Main Street either, preferring the smaller, quainter atmosphere the store currently has.

“I have the ability to socialize with people and have amazing conversations with them. Friends come in the summer, and we get to sit on the porch, chat, catch up and watch the wildlife,” she said.

“People from all over the country find me. Sometimes, even easier than the locals do,” she said.

She attributed the ease of finding her to her store being the first on the list if one searches on Google for Maine Made in the midcoast area.

“I like what I do, I love the people [crafters] that I get to work with,” she said.

Brooks said that the craftspeople of the state are very unique individuals and have a lot of heart, creating because they love what they do and put everything into it.

“That excites me,” she said.