The talk of the town on my visit was the mummy. Seems local dealer Terry Lewis had secured a 1050 b.c. rarity that justified, once and for all, the name of his shop, Nonesuch House Antiques. In a village full of upstanding antiques stores, Nonesuch is a rogue. Beyond the truman made mistakes but the a-bomb wasn't one of them and caution: foul and abusive language sometimes heard inside notices on the front door are 14 packed rooms. Quilts, paintings, and old signs dangle above beds and chairs in sets and singles; and huddling in the attic are wood lobster buoys—world's largest assortment (honest). So far above the waterline, they forlornly deliver yet another Nonesuch message: now replaced by plastic, like everything else.
Red's Eats, just down Water Street past Mary's Candy Shop and Marilyn's Beauty Salon, preserves another icon of down-home Maine—fried clams. With a chaser of lemonade, the shellfish are a worthy break from lobster rolls (though Red's offers them too) and a good excuse to pull out of the line of traffic passing through Wiscasset. The village's most valuable citizen has to be the traffic cop, without whose white-gloved commands it would be impossible to cross Main Street on foot.
Like Wiscasset, the "Twin Villages" of Newcastle and Damariscotta have plenty of pull for antiques seekers, from high (Kaja Veilleux Antiques) to low (the Newcastle flea market on Sundays). And the lobster roll at Larsen's Lunchbox, recommended to me by the owners of Richards Fine Antiques in Damariscotta, gives Five Islands a swim for its money. What Larsen's lacks in setting it makes up for with warmth—welcome big folks, little folks and dogs—and humor. For those who aren't already conversant in Mainespeak, a sign reads: cottage = summer person's mansion, camp = maine person's cottage, and ayuh means yes most of the time, though it doesn't mean agreement.
The clams do-si-do-ing in my stomach were demanding a dessert partner. I hightailed it to Waldoboro, home of the Maine Antique Digest, a monthly read by everyone in the trade; of crusty, chewy breads from Borealis (formerly Bodacious); and, most significantly, of Moody's Diner. A landmark on Route 1 since the twenties, Moody's is famous for its crabmeat sandwich (not just now, thank you) and cream pies (yes, please), and for a handful of parking spaces that require drivers to back out onto Route 1. The diner's plainly lettered sweatshirts elicit nods of recognition nationwide. For that irascible loved one on your gift list, nothing beats an i'm a moody person T-shirt.
Around mid-August, plenty of car blinkers are flashing outside Moody's, where pilgrims turn north off Route 1 to head for the antiques show staged annually at the Union fairgrounds. It's where I first discovered dealer Paul Fuller, though I would have found him eventually since his shop occupies the former Grange Hall in nearby North Waldoboro. A rustic twig settee and a steeplechase weather vane arrayed outside pull shoppers over; English flowerpots in graduated sizes lead them up the stairs. Gardeners in particular love Fuller, who imports glazed clay chimney pots and edging tiles, galvanized tubs, and ribbed barrels from England. And he's never met a picket fence or watering can he didn't like.
For carpenters, whether tinkerer or pro, Liberty Tool, in the village of Liberty, is the holy grail. At the counter, I stammered about a coveted instrument my husband had asked me to ask the experts about. Stanley was the maker, that much I knew, but was it a No. 99 side rabbet plane or a No. 2 bench plane I was supposed to be looking for?No doubt every customer in the shop could cite chapter and verse about Stanley. Liberty Tool is the only antiques store I've ever encountered where women pace the porch while their men sink deeper into what the fairer sex would label "brown stuff": boxes and shelves brimming with hammers, chisels, draw knives, gouges, rasps, drill bits, on and on.
If Liberty has the tools, Landmark Architectural Antiques in Belfast has the spare building parts. Mark Martelon and Lisa Whiting run his (antiques) and hers (the Gothic Café next door) businesses on the ground floor of an 1880's bank building they renovated three years ago. The nature of their enterprises defines Lisa as the homebody, up at 5:30 to bake scones and delectable lavender shortbread cookies. Mark is the one out hunting for oddities (six jailhouse doors from Sing Sing, a pair of pinnacles from a Gothic meeting house) and rarities (an 1830's French urn of white bronze).
At the Gothic, over an early supper (gazpacho, plus perfect gingerbread, and Lisa's own peppermint and bay-leaf ice cream), I eyed my heaviest and final purchase—a tall but tiny radiator just right for my small bathroom. Good thing I live within driving distance. As long as I do, Maine will steal into every corner of my life.