ROCKLAND—There was a time Ariel Birke, 28, was so unhappy in her job working and designing for a prominent outdoor clothing company, that she would cry on her commute home.
“I felt like I was selling my soul to the devil,” she said. “I was learning a lot, but felt like I was contributing to everything in consumerism I hate.”
Birke changed her life’s direction moving to Midcoast Maine from Lowell, Massachusetts, the winter of 2015 after a visit with her high school best friend, Mack Duke, who lives in Rockport.
“He and his wife showed me around Camden and I knew I had to be here,” she said.
Coming to Maine was a 180 degree pivot from where she started. She grew up in a 1,000 person town in the middle of New Hampshire and when she turned 18, she moved to New York City and went to college for fashion design and design and management.
“I was tired of being the weirdo in my home town and this was the perfect fit for awhile,” she said, smiling.
Like many young people in the Midcoast, once she settled in, she had to cobble together several jobs and work in ones that weren’t a great fit just to pay the rent.
“I worked at a bank for about a minute,” she said. “I knew it wasn’t for me, but I had to work to live here.”
She took a job in retail after that and within two years of moving to Rockport, she saw the opportunity to own her own business on Main Street in Rockland.
Daughters, a vintage women’s clothing and handmade goods shop, opened November 1 as a place for women. Everything in the shop has either been put together by Birke, or has been made by a woman. It has become a welcoming spot for many women in the area, not just to shop, but to hang out on Birke’s comfy couches and shoot the breeze.
“I really have a passion for vintage clothing and items that are well made,” she said. “After my experience in designing for other companies, I really stopped caring for new consumerism. After my time in New York and the outdoor company I’d worked for, I saw the dumbing down of goods and the cutting corners of manufacturing that made for obsoletion.”
Daughters is not a consignment store as Birke purchases all of the vintage items outright.
“When I was coming up with the name for the shop, it reminded me of daughters hunting for something in their mother’s closet,” she said.
All winter long, Birke takes trips around Maine to thrift stores, and when she travels to Florida to visit her mother, as well.
“I really love the hunt; it’s always like winning the lottery for me,” she said. “And I have to hold myself back sometimes.”
Nothing is haphazard in the shop: items are grouped according to color. The shop has a collection of vintage blue jeans like Levi’s, shoes and boots, and accessories.
“My personal aesthetic is toward an androgynous style—a cross between Jane Birkin and Paul Newman—so you’ll see a lot of boy’s jeans like Levi’s and white t-shirts.”
Several areas in the store that feature the handiwork of local artists and crafters.
“We have a community here for women who are incredibly talented in what they make, so be able to have a place to showcase it is something I was really excited about,” she said. “I feel that it lends itself to the nature of ‘vintage.’ At the beginning of the handmade good’s life cycle; it is a quality product, such as beautifully made ceramics, which will eventually become vintage, but its structure will be timeless.”
Follow her Facebook page for future events she’ll be holding at the shop this winter: Daughters
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com