The owner of Portmanteau, a clothing and accessories shop in Portland’s Old Port, said she is closing her store after 41 years, at least in part because of concerns about the coronavirus.

Nancy Lawrence, 68, said that after reopening, it would be hard to maintain social distancing in her narrow store on Wharf Street, and she’s concerned that Portland’s plans to close off some streets will bring out diners and bar-goers who will not be focused on wearing masks and taking other steps to limit the spread of the virus.

Lawrence said she has based her business on working closely with customers, and she would have to change her ways once businesses like hers reopen.

“That kind of selling is not going to be possible for an extensive period of time,” she said. “Our selling technique was about building relationships. That approach is gone.”

In late March, the city of Portland issued an order for all residents to stay at home, effectively shutting down all public-facing businesses that did not provide essential goods or services.

Portland’s order was similar to one announced by Gov. Janet Mills that applied to the entire state, although it affected additional business activities in the city. The statewide order allowed businesses that don’t interact face-to-face with the public to continue operating under conditions that ensure workers could keep at least 6 feet apart. Portland called for nonessential businesses to shut down work spaces and operate only if they could do so remotely, although it also allowed exceptions.


On May 5, the Portland City Council repealed its coronavirus emergency order and issued a new directive aligned with the governor’s plan to reopen Maine’s economy. Under Mills’ plan, businesses such as Portmanteau can reopen June 1 if they can meet certain social distancing, maximum occupancy and other requirements.

Lawrence said she has been producing handbags and other products at home while the store has been shut down and will continue to sell them online. She also has sold one of her heavy-duty sewing machines and has another machine she is trying to sell. Beyond that, she plans to put out some of her store furnishings and fixtures in front of the property Friday morning for others to take and use.

Lawrence said her only employee retired about a year ago, and that she plans to focus on gardening at her Portland home.

She said the store’s shutdown over the past two months represented the first time she has taken time off from work in nearly 30 years.

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