Elena Morrow-Spitzer, who is in her late 40s, was a part-time lawyer and mom before taking over Maine’s Pantry in Portland 14 years ago. The Commercial Street store carries thousands of Maine-made, artisanal products – mostly food – from hundreds of local vendors.

SURPRISE BEST-SELLER: “Pickled fiddleheads are huge.”

GAME SHE PLAYS WITH SCHOOLCHILDREN: “It’s called the blueberry expedition. They come through and list, say, 30 different blueberry products. Whoever comes up with the most different categories wins a prize. At one point I counted, and we had 45 different blueberry products in the store. We have blueberry wine and blueberry beer and blueberry soda and jam and pancake mix and chutney and chocolate-covered blueberries and blueberry soap, candles, all sorts of things.”

MOST POPULAR PRODUCT THAT DOESN’T CONTAIN BLUEBERRIES OR MAPLE SYRUP: “It depends on the time of year. We sell a lot of fudge. A lot of fudge.”

MAINERS VERSUS TOURISTS: “Christmas is almost all Mainers, and that’s our busiest time of year. We get tourists, for sure, coming off of buses and cruise ships, but we get a lot of people who are local bringing people who are visiting them to the store.”

HER FAVORITE PRODUCT: “There isn’t one thing that’s a favorite, but there are a lot of things that I do take home, that I really like. We drink almost any or all of the Cellardoor wines. I drink any of the beer that I sell. I bring home the coffee that I sell. I will rotate between almost every jam that I sell.

PRODUCT SHE SELLS THAT SHE WON’T EAT: “I don’t eat pickled watermelon rind. I don’t understand it. People like it. I don’t always have it in the store, but when I do it sells. But where I grew up watermelon rind is something you throw away – you don’t pickle it.”

CRAZY THINGS TOURISTS ASK, RECORDED IN A STORE LOG: “How big is that lake out there?” (That would be the Atlantic Ocean.)

“When do the moose come out?”

“Is Maine maple syrup from Maine?”

“Is a fiddlehead a type of fish?”

“Where’s the ocean?”

“Where are the Asian Gardens?” (They’re in Portland, Ore.)

“Where’s Jake’s Oyster House?” (Likewise.)

“If I want to visit a little seaport town, where should I go?”


Facebook comments