The Benoit’s store in Westbrook, taken in 1896. The company was founded in 1890, and grew steadily until it saw decline in the late 20th century, with it’s last store closing in the late 1990s. Contributed / Christina Benoit

Many Mainers may recall shopping for one’s Sunday best at the A.H Benoit department store chain, which had locations throughout Maine, including Westbrook and Monument Square in Portland.

Greg and Christina Benoit, next to an old Benoit’s department store at their design company in Westbrook. Chance Viles / American Journal

Today, A.H. Benoit’s great-grandson Greg Benoit and his wife, Christina, now run their own company, Benoit Design Co.

Launched in 2014, the couple’s Westbrook company manufactures and sells interior decor and high-end outerwear.

“That sense of heritage and family was always important to me,” Greg Benoit said. “My father grew up folding boxes at Benoit’s. I was too young to work there, but I wanted to bring that back.”

A.H. Benoit founded what grew into a statewide chain of eight Benoit’s Department Stores in 1890. Some locations centered on women’s clothing, while others focused on nice men’s suits or featured workwear and even Boy Scout uniforms.

The Monument Square store closed in the 1990s. Benoit Design’s location off Rochester Street in Westbrook pays tribute to Benoit’s old Westbrook store on Main Street. 

The Benoits met at The Savannah College of Art and Design, where she concentrated on interior design and he focused on clothing. Their business combines both passions, they said, along with their love of adventure. Their designs are created for “those who live adventurously,” they say.

Their most popular items are maps, lasered onto wood, of regions ranging from Casco Bay to coastal areas and rivers worldwide. They’ve sold more than 500 of the maps each year so far and ship them all over the country. The maps are also sold at L.L.Bean.

Their wares also include signs, engraved glassware, clothing and some outdoor equipment, all produced in back of the shop or in the design room upstairs.

“It’s good to see that name back in town,” said Westbrook Historian Mike Sanphy, a former Westbrook mayor and police officer.

Benoit Design Co.’s maps are their most popular item Greg Benoit said. The locations are often related to Maine’s outdoors, like maps of Casco Bay. Chance Viles / American Journal

Sanphy recalls stopping by the Westbrook store while on foot patrol in the 1960s, and visiting the Portland store.

It was the upper crust,” he said. “I always liked the Benoit’s.  You’d go in and have a feeling of professionalism, and as a young policeman I’d see Westbrook’s and Portland’s influential people shopping there, so you knew it was good,” Sanphy said.

Westbrook City Administrator Jerre Bryant also remembers the chain fondly, having shopped at a Lewiston location growing up.

Benoit’s the clothing store was my go-to store for what was my dress clothes, suits, socks, shirts, from before I moved to Portland until the store closed. It was literally the only place I’d go, it was a sad day when it closed,” Bryant said.

Christina Benoit said it’s memories like those that add to the company’s mission.

“We wanted to apply that care for quality and the sense of community the named invoked,” she said.

Greg Benoit shows the laser machine used to engrave their maps. Chance Viles / American Journal

Benoit Design Co.’s hats. Greg Benoit works mostly on the clothing line while Christina Benoit focuses on interior design products and housewares. Chance Viles / American Journal

 

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