THOMASTON—Like so many enterprising crafter/artists before her, Jo Ann Hoppe, an artist and entrepreneur from South Thomaston, has made a career from her hobbies. Refusing to let a pandemic dictate her direction, she’s lifting up a dozen or so local crafters, who are selling their consigned items in her newly opened shop, Blueberry Moose at 166 Main Street in Thomaston.
“I’ve always been artistic, but in 2007, an artist told me I should be showing my stuff at craft fairs,” she said. “So, I started making these rustic-looking signs with Maine town names on them. I thought it was crazy, but I gave it a shot. Meantime, I was working full time as a nurse. And, at one point, five years ago, as I was getting ready to go to my booth at the Maine Lobster Festival, I wanted a teal-colored lobster on my T-shirt to match my shorts. I had lobster stencils, so I quickly stenciled a lobster on a t-shirt and went to the Festival. While there, folks kept asking me where I got my shirt. So, I called my husband and told him I had to go buy more shirts. I bought a dozen white T-shirts and sold out of them as fast as I could paint them. I did lobsters, sea horses, anchors, all nautical themes.”
Originally, while still working as a nurse, Hoppe had opened Blueberry Moose in South Thomaston in 2007, but found it was too tough to keep open due to her hectic schedule. She re-opened it again after retiring, in 2017, this time from a shed on her property, but when COVID-19 struck in 2020, Hoppe found herself unable to keep her retail space open.
Being resourceful, she helped coordinate “Open Air Craft Fairs” in August and September, on the grounds of both the South Thomaston Library and the Jackson Memorial Library in Tenants Harbor. It was clear that she wasn't quite done with owning a shop.
“Coming through Thomaston this past summer, I saw a ‘For Rent’ sign at the Watts Building and finally called to rent it,” she said. “I talked with my other crafters and ladies whom I had I worked with before at the “Open Air Craft Fairs.’ There are a few of them in their 80s, and this is their pin money. A lot of them were dependent on this money from their crafts to supplement their social security. So, it all gelled; I got the space, and together, with local crafters and a few others, I invited about 15 of them to sell their wares on a consignment basis at my shop.”
Hoppe said her goal is to add more Maine Made crafters to her shop, a brand that pertains to a rigorous standard for Maine artists and crafters.
“I’ve helped a few of these ladies to sign up to be members of Maine Made and the goal is to qualify as a Maine Made shop,” said Hoppe. “The community is happy that we’re here.”
Hoppe is the only person who runs Blueberry Moose, so the crafters can stay safe at home while still earning a percentage on their products. Hoppe also plans on hosting “paint parties” starting in January, teaching people how to stencil signs and shirts.
Her shop is open seven days a week, Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“This is what I love to do,” she said. “Every day is a gift.”
Find Blueberry Moose, along with Hoppe’s live tutorials on Facebook.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org