A new shop overlooking the Alna woods offers a curated collection of vintage clothing, fabrics, buttons, and more that its owner, Marilyn Quinn, hopes will inspire shoppers and become part of their everyday lives.
Annie Nutbrown, which Quinn opened in June and named in honor of her grandmother, carries men and women’s clothing and accessories from the 1950s through 1990s, fabric, buttons, and sewing notions, rug hooking materials, books, and home items, many of them from Quinn’s own family.
When she and her husband, who runs Bill Quinn Antiques on the ground floor of the two-story building, were cleaning out their basement this winter, they found a wealth of materials.
She began sewing at age 10, learning from her mother and aunt, whose collections she saved at her Alna home.
“We’ve got a lot of stuff here. What are we going to do with it?” she said her husband asked.
Annie Nutbrown came together quickly from there. Quinn, who has been the Midcoast sales manager for regional radio group Blueberry Broadcasting for 30 years, runs the shop on the weekends with the help of her dog Lucy.
“I want to really tap in to people who do sewing and crafts who want something interesting, not run-of-the-mill,” she said. “(People) who want to be able to come and see it and feel it.”
She grew up in the Adirondacks working at her father’s hardware and feed store and continued in retail for many years while also earning degrees in retail and fashion design before moving into advertising. In that time, Quinn said, she always wanted to open her own shop.
“I’ve been exposed to fashion my whole life, and it’s a means of expression,” she said. “When you shop at a special place … you’re expressing yourself, your personal style.”
Her favorite time period for design is the 1950s-1970s, though the shop carries items through the 1990s. By definition, “vintage” means 20 years or older, according to Quinn, though its perception varies by the shopper’s age.
“Vintage is a perspective,” she said.
She sees vintage items as having a place in the modern wardrobe and home beyond their age.
“One thing I’m trying to do with the clothing and accessories is to have people integrate it with their everyday wardrobe,” Quinn said. “You don’t have to be someone who only wears vintage clothing.”
She enjoys assembling contemporary outfits using pieces from the shop on her mannequin, Clara. Quinn said that any item can serve as inspiration for decorating a room, dressing for a party, or finishing a project, as it did for a recent visitor who bought velveteen remnants for a chair she was upholstering to put inside a dollhouse.
“I’m not just going after the vintage people,” Quinn said. “This is for anybody that wants something different.”
Alongside their inspiration potential, Quinn appreciates both the quality and reduced environmental impact of her vintage goods.
“The fabrics from those times, to me, have a different feel,” she said. “You can just tell they were made differently.”
Quinn said the Annie Nutbrown’s tagline — “goods to use and inspire” —came from her experiences attending the Brimfield Flea Markets in Brimfield, Mass. for her husband’s antique business. At the mile-long market with thousands of dealers, she witnessed fashion designers buying clothing by the truckload to inspire their own work.
In her own sewing projects, she found that stopping by local fabric stores inspired her work, with the fabric telling her what it wanted to be.
“A lot of people look for inspiration in the fabric,” she said. “I’m hoping that they can find inspiration if they come here.”
She said she has had a positive response to the business so far, which she finds fulfilling, and hopes to network with other local businesses, giving the example of a customer who found some vintage fabrics for a quilt at her shop and completed it with new fabrics from Carpenter Quilts in Damariscotta.
Quinn said both clothing and textiles can offer comfort, entertainment, and personal fulfillment.
“Sometimes looking nice makes you feel better. We need more ways to feel better,” she said. “Not things — ways. I want people to be happy when they come here, and I want them to leave happy.”
Quinn plans to hold regular hours until December, then to be open by chance or appointment through March.
She is already gathering vintage holiday supplies in preparation for the winter, both decorations and festive party clothes. Quinn is also looking to buy items for her collection, particularly fabric.
Most prices range between $10-40. Fabric is $10/yard, with the exception of woolens, which are $15/yard. Remnants run $3-5.
Annie Nutbrown, at 71 Nelson Road in Alna, is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, find the business on Facebook and Instagram.