Approximately 10 months after Brad Sevaldson and Greg Uthoff decided to relocate to Maine and launch a business venture, Birch opened its doors on Main Street in Wiscasset. “Everything just fell into place,” Uthoff said, “right down to the ribbon-cutting.”
On April 1, Birch, a store specializing in home furnishings, custom gifts, accessories, and original artwork, opened its doors. Rain threatened throughout the store’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, but held off until guests could make it inside.
After a brief, heavy rainfall, a rainbow broke out, Uthoff said. Several of the roughly 84 people in attendance for the event said it was a sign, he said.
“This is the right place for us,” Sevaldson said. “We’re so thrilled to be a part of this town. It means so much to us.”
Sevaldson and Uthoff, both originally from the Midwest, lived in Florida for the past 30 years. Collectively, the couple worked for a variety of large retailers, such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Ralph Lauren, in positions focused on visual merchandising, such as display windows and store design, customer service, operations management, and office administration.
“We’ve worked the gamut,” Sevaldson said.
The two vacationed each year in Maine, and each year their desire to make Maine their home grew stronger, they said. Looking at their careers in Florida, they asked themselves if they were really doing what they wanted to do, or if they would rather pursue their dream in Maine.
They chose pursuing their dream, they said. In May 2015, Sevaldson and Uthoff decided to move. They found 72 Main St. for sale in Wiscasset in June, and two months later closed on the building. Despite a slow housing market in Florida, the couple was able to sell their house there in a week.
When exploring the move, the couple looked at different business ventures they could launch to support themselves, such as a bed-and-breakfast or a motel. Ultimately, they chose to stick with what they knew and launched a gift, art, and home decor shop that aims to make shopping a memorable experience.
“We come from the mindset that retail should be entertaining and fun. We want to delight people when they come through the door,” Uthoff said.
Sevaldson, also a photographer, and Uthoff have applied their visual design expertise to the layout of the store, which has adopted the motif “a fresh approach to coastal living,” Sevaldson said.
One section of the store is devoted to items that embody vintage Maine, another section is devoted to contemporary coastal cottage decor, and another is focused on items with a younger feel that Sevaldson described as metro Maine.
Birch also specializes in custom-made gifts and glassware. Wiscasset is predominantly displayed on glasses and pillows in the store, and Sevaldson and Uthoff hope to also add glassware with the names of towns in the surrounding community to the inventory. Customers will be able to order glassware and gifts custom-made to their specifications, they said.
The store not only has a wide variety of items, but also a wide range of prices to ensure everyone is able to “take a memory with them,” Uthoff said.
Birch was the name picked out for the store due to its sentimental value, Sevaldson said. As a child in Minnesota, Sevaldson planted a birch tree, part of which is on display in the store. While riding through town one day, the couple spotted a pile of birch trees being cleared from the Castle Tucker property.
They were able to take some of those branches, which they incorporated into the interior design of the store. “It’s just great that part of our decor came from such a historic property,” Uthoff said.
The interior design of the store will change to keep the experience of shopping there fresh for local customers, they said.
Birch will participate in Wiscasset’s art walk throughout the summer, and plans to host a personal appearance from the featured artist at each event.
Sevaldson and Uthoff are also brainstorming about additional events they can organize for the offseason.
In less than two weeks of operation, Birch has already sold out of several items. The feedback they have received has been overwhelmingly positive, they said. “We’re real supporters and cheerleaders of Wiscasset,” Sevaldson said. “This truly is the way life should be.”
Birch is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in April. In May, the store will also be open Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 522-4045.