The green pasture of a Whitefield farm is dotted with 19 alpacas and now a new gift shop that mostly sells items made from the critters’ fiber.
Linda Russo opened the Maine Alpaca Barn Gift Shop at 332 Townhouse Road in mid-August.
About 10 years ago, she had a shop inside her home on the same property, but there wasn’t much traffic in the rural area. She also traveled to local farmers markets to sell her products.
There has since been an uptick in traffic, with Sheepscot General Store down the road and Chase Farm and Bakery across the street.
“She sends people over here,” Russo said of Robin Chase, owner of Chase Farm and Bakery. “And I say, ‘Make sure you go across the street for those hand pies; they’re great.’”
Russo’s family started out with five alpacas in 2004. At one point, the Maine Alpaca Barn had 42 alpacas. Now it is just shy of 20. Each animal has a name.
According to Russo, she got the idea to start raising alpacas while on a plane ride home from a vacation.
“I looked at an in-flight magazine and read an article about alpacas being the most profitable livestock farming in the world,” she said. “Then I looked at a picture of one and I said, ‘We’ve got to go back to Maine and find an alpaca farm,’ because we had this land and weren’t using it for anything.”
Russo already knew the skills of knitting, crocheting, and felting because she grew up using the techniques.
The new shop is in a large shed separate from the family home.
Russo sells alpaca products such as hats, scarves, stuffed animals, pillows, purses, and various colors of yarn. Some items are embroidered with designs.
“You’re going to find one-of-a-kind items that no one else has,” she said of the merchandise in her shop.
Some of the products, such as the stuffed animals and purses, are felted, which is when a piece of knitted fabric is washed to the point it has no visible stitches and becomes a thicker material.
Many customers ask if Russo has alpaca socks. Although she does not have any at this time, she hopes to have some before the holiday season.
Russo knits and felts the items, along with her sister, Joyce DeFisher, and Theresa Morin, of Journeys End Alpacas in Whitefield.
The yarn for her products mostly comes from her alpacas, which are sheared once a year.
Although she does not have different sizes and colors for items, she can make items to order.
Consignment items are also for sale, such as Amish-made baskets and rugs. Russo’s 15-year-old niece sells her artwork at the shop as well.
When customers stop in to check out the gift shop, they can also visit the alpacas that are roaming about.
Russo is still figuring out how long she will be open throughout the year.
For now, the gift shop is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. To reach Russo, call 213-5377.