Give us a little background on what Minka is all about. What was the inspiration the sparked the creation of Minka?
Minka was actually born in a garage. At the time of conception, we were renting a home in a tiny fishing village on the coast of Maine. My husband Chris was already using the garage as his painting studio and I had just created my body care line and jewelry line. I was working full time as a floral designer and Chris was working as a retail merchandiser. On weekends we would do the occasional craft show, traveling down to the South End Open Market in Boston. Then one day I discovered that we were zoned for business. So, even though we were living in very small town with limited summer tourism, opening a gallery-boutique sounded like the perfect idea. We had a limited budget, but lots of ideas and years of retail merchandising experience. We built walls using wood strapping and burlap, found a large wooden spool, flipped it on its side, painted it white and used it for a display table. Chris hung his artwork and I put out my body care line, jewelry line and designed and printed cards.
After work, we would open the garage door and drag our hand-painted sandwich board to the end of our street. On slow nights, we would sit on the front porch, drink wine, and wait for the curious to stroll down our road and into the garage. After a while... more and more people started to find us. We recieved lots of support and encouragement from our neighbors and vacationers. We then searched out and worked with other local artists and designers that had like minded aesthetic and incorperated them into the mix. After a few years of having our garage boutique, we found a retail space in a town just south of us, Kennebunkport.
Our name, Minka, was originally inspired by the ancient Japanese homes that artists, farmers and merchants lived that were thoughtfully crafted with hand tools using natural materials and recognized for their architectural beauty. We later discovered that the word “minka” in Peruvian Indian means “working together”, which is especially fitting for our business.
I love the Birchwear that you carry at Minka! I see that it is made by a local artist. Why do you love collaborating with other folks at Minka?
Thanks! There are so many super talented people out there, especially in New England! I love finding new artists and helping them grow. I'm also interested in the process and how we can work together to have a successful and profitable relationship. There's a bridge between being an artist and making a living from your art and our goal is to get everyone over that bridge.
The Minka Birchware is a great example! The artist, Elizabeth, had something that we really liked, so we asked her if she would be willing to take that idea, tweak it, and develop it into a full line of dinnerware. She was open and willing to work with us and the result is a beautiful collaboration that has been very successful for both of us.
You guys use sustainable and renewable whenever possible. You source locally and have a great line of natural body care. Why is this important to you personally and for Minka?
Well, it all started because of all of my allergies and sensitivities. The natural Bodycare line was created as a result of having a severe case of eczema. My skin was a wreck and I couldn't find anything to allieviate the situation. So I did years of research to find the right combination of ingredients. Once I healed myself, I knew it would help others. While researching for the bodycare,my eyes were opened to the dangers of harmful chemicals that are everywhere, In our home, in our cleaning supplies, in our foods. Eating healthier and using all- natural products became important to us.
Sourcing locally made products also began from our attempt to live healthier. The amount of Harmful chemicals that are in products shipped from overseas is crazy. They don't have as many restrictions as the usa so as a result, costs are lower, but the dangers to your health are so much higher. Also, locally made goods have less of a distance to travel, so less gas consumption, better for the environment, etc... At this point, I think we should all know the benefits of shopping local. They say for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 will stay in your local economy. And we have seen the devastation of what big box stores can do on a small community. Drop that big square big box in a community and watch the charming, independent businesses on Main street disappear. Supporting your local businesses keeps the money circulating in state and at the same time encourages unique, independent business with character to thrive. You know what I mean?
When you guys aren't running your super sweet business, what do you love to do for fun in New England?
Hmmm... when we aren't running our business? When would that be???? :)
Running a business is definitely a 24-7 job but we're realizing it's healthy to step away from time to time. This past winter was a lot sitting in front of the wood stove, shoveling, binge watching tv, and drinking wine. But even while doing that, I always have a notebook in hand, sketching new ideas.
When we're not snowed in...Chris and I, like to explore the different little towns in New England. We love discovering new independent restaurants (with gluten free options) shopping and meeting new people.
Hey, you've got a good thing going up in there in Maine! Where do you see Minka Home in the future?
We love Maine and will always want Kennebunkport as our home base! But, we would love to expand our product lines and open additional locations throughout the US. Maybe some place closer to a city, with year round traffic and warmer temps! ;) ;)