After about seven years on Main Street in Newcastle, Milling Around closed its doors for the last time on Dec. 15.
A retail shop run by Newcastle’s Dirk and Ann Poole since 2014, Milling Around offered antiques and unusual gifts, but the shop’s claim to fame was its bobbins.
Bobbins, for the uninitiated, are cylindrical pieces of wood or plastic around which strands of fiber are wound in a weaving loom. As the New England textile industry collapsed through the first half of the 20th century, mills were left vacant and stuffed with wooden bobbins. As time passed and plastic bobbins became commonplace, abandoned bobbins became more valuable as collectibles and craft items than as tools of industry.
For the majority of its existence, the Pooles’ business ran on collecting massive amounts of bobbins, refurbishing them, and wholesaling them to gift shop suppliers. Now that the stockpile has nearly run dry, the couple is ready to move on.
“The bobbins have finally run out,” Dirk Poole said on Dec. 14. “We could keep going with the antiques up here but it’s just time to do some travelling and do some other things.”
In 1975, Dirk Poole’s parents, Jim and Wendy Poole, bought Ma’s Bobbin Works, a small craft business near Lawrence, Mass., involved in refurbishing bobbins from closed textile mills and selling them wholesale.
The couple migrated the business to Nobleboro in 1985, and Dirk and Ann Poole followed, purchasing the business in 1992.
When Dirk Poole’s parents first purchased the business, he had no idea how long it would last given the finite supply of wooden bobbins in the world. As it turned out, that supply would last a lot longer than he thought.
“We thought, ‘Oh, this will last maybe five years or so,’ but back in the ‘90s (and) early 2000s we were getting a trailer truck load, 50,000 pieces, every month or so; we were cleaning out mills all over,” he said.
When the couple opened their Newcastle shop in 2014, they decided to change the name of their business to Milling Around, a name that Dirk had used when he had sold the bobbins out of a cart in Boston’s Faneuil Hall.
The Poole’s bobbins often became candlestick holders, lamps, jump ropes, holiday ornaments, and even kaleidoscopes. With the shop up and running, the Poole’s expanded into buying other antique items in large quantities, from milk bottles to shoe lasts.
In the course of moving countless bobbins over multiple decades, the Poole’s have themselves become an authority on the history of bobbins. In fact, the couple is credited with contributing to the book, “The World of Wooden Bobbins.”
“After moving a hundred thousand bobbins, you’re like, ‘Okay, I’ll start paying attention to what they are,” Dirk Poole said.
The couple has sold bobbins to Lowell National Historic Park over the course of many years, and Dirk Poole said that he would like to eventually donate his own collection of 400 distinct bobbins to Museum L-A in Lewiston.
“Our mission was to keep textile history alive and have people understand what part bobbins played in that,” Ann Poole said.
Dirk Poole said that they will carry on with the wholesale side of the business for another six months or so, or until the bobbins are entirely gone. Then the couple will officially enter “semi-retirement” and do some travelling.
The first trip on the docket: Costa Rica.
Dirk Poole said that some of the shop’s nicer pieces will go to Indian Trail Antiques in Newcastle and he hopes to sell some of the smaller pieces at Elmer’s Barn in Whitefield.
However, that doesn’t mean that the Poole’s won’t jump at the opportunity should a trove of bobbins come their way.
“I know what to do with them,” Dirk Poole said.
Before the Milling Around shop, the Pooles operated their business from a relatively isolated office in Nobleboro. They started the retail side of the business to be closer to the community where they would both have the opportunity to meet their customers in person.
“We’ve met a lot of great people from the community, people travelling through… and whoever, and that’s really been one of the nicest things about having the shop,” Ann Poole said.
The Poole’s hosted a farewell party on the evening of Dec. 9 in front of the shop, where friends and customers could view the Maurice “Jake” Day dioramas in the shop’s windows accompanied by refreshments and caroling.
While Milling Around may be closing, the Poole’s will still be around Newcastle. With the shop set to become a catering business and cafe, Ann Poole said that she plans to return to 67 Main Street at least once a week just to enjoy the view of the Damariscotta River.
“We just want to thank the community for supporting Milling Around and for visiting us over the past seven years,” she said.