JULIE SHEA, co-owner of The Mustard Seed Bookstore, rearranges books on the classics shelf of her Bath store.

JULIE SHEA, co-owner of The Mustard Seed Bookstore, rearranges books on the classics shelf of her Bath store.


Despite the bitter cold, customers didn’t shy away from The Mustard Seed Bookstore’s recent grand opening.

Located on 74 Front St. in Bath, a steady stream of 300-350 people trickled in and out of the store on opening day, according to owners Mike and Julie Shea.

“We’ve had a wonderful response — very positive,” Julie said.

So far, customers have been pleased with the atmosphere of the store and the variety of books, according to the Sheas.

OLIVIA SHIPSEY, a junior at Morse High School, works the register at The Mustard Seed Bookstore in Bath.

OLIVIA SHIPSEY, a junior at Morse High School, works the register at The Mustard Seed Bookstore in Bath.

“What we are trying to do is make this place feel like your living room, so that people feel relaxed,” Mike added.

In addition to the homey atmosphere, a wide selection of tea is also what makes the store unique.The vintage tea station by the register displays information cards and jars of sample loose leaf teas where customers can learn about different teas, and even take a whiff before deciding on a flavor. Customers have the option of buying a cup, a small pot, or a large pot of tea during their visit.

Although tea is making a comeback, Julie said the most important part of the business is keeping an independent bookstore in Bath, especially with the closing of Bath Book Shop in late January.

Owning a bookstore was Julie’s longtime dream, one that she’s had “all her adulthood.”

The first book she recalls being read to her was the children’s book “Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans. This sparked a lifelong penchant for reading and a desire to share her love of books with people of all ages.

After the Sheas moved from New York, where Mike was a school administrator and Julie worked as a teacher, they bought a home in Georgetown a few years ago to retire early from their education jobs.

Julie credits the transition she’s made from teaching and raising kids, to where she is now as a business woman to her faith in God.

Her and her husband’s beliefs are closely tied to the name of the store, as it references Matthew 17:20 — a passage in the Bible that describes having faith “the size of a mustard seed.”

She explained, “It’s simply having this much faith — teeny, tiny, incremental faith, but taking the faith in God and in ourselves to accomplish it with God’s help. The sky’s the open limit.”

The Sheas also attributed their success to friends Mark and Susan Shipsey, who have partnered with the couple and helped market and design the store.

“They have just been the backbone. I can’t say enough about Mark and Susan,” Julie said.

According to Julie, the Shipseys “wanted to come along (with) somebody who wanted to open a business to benefit the community and bring beauty and goodness into a store space. They really are the heart and soul behind our dream.”

The Shipseys hail from Nashville, Tenn., but fell in love with Bath while vacationing in Maine.

According to the Shipseys, “We loved the small town feel and the sense of mutual respect that we did not experience in the city. We wanted that for our lives and we also believed that we could contribute to the Bath community. We wanted to give and receive. The bookstore is a perfect vehicle for that.”

When asked about some long-term goals for the store, the Shipseys and Sheas both said they are interested in coming up with events that will bring the community together.

This includes host speakers, poetry readings, story time for kids, poetry slams for the youth and a variety of educational opportunities. They also hope to offer the space for book clubs, birthday parties, showers and small events.

“We want to do things that build on the strong community we already have in Bath. We also want to bring some new life and energy to this incredible little community,” the Shipseys added.

With visitations from author Lily King and Maine Poet Laureate Wesley McNair already planned for the spring, it seems that The Mustard Seed Bookstore is well on its way to achieving its dreams.

“We all have a story, we all have hopes and dreams,” Julie said. “It may take a little while to get there, but don’t give up on any dream.”

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