After coming every summer for 30 years, Nancy Critchett is planting permanent roots on Mount Desert Island. In early May she, her sister and their mother opened Tom Cat Tide on Clark Point Road in Southwest Harbor.
“It was the culmination of a perfect storm of events,” said Critchett, explaining how her sister, Debi Estep, decided to move back to Maine from California and her mother, Joan Jones, said goodbye to the last of her beloved miniature horses in Mount Desert at the end of last year. The moment was right.
While each of the women has contributed their own art and crafts to the Tom Cat Tide’s goods, most of the items can’t be found anywhere else on MDI.
“I really tried to feature heavily on companies that rely on sustainable manufacturing,” said Critchett. “We have a lot of things from recycled materials.”
Those things include courier bags made from men’s suits and bags made with repurposed fire hose that include an inside tag telling which firehouse it came from. They also carry journals made from old books and candlesticks created from recycled Maine mill bobbins.
“I love that it has a purpose,” said Critchett, about many of the store’s stock. “I feel that we’re recycling resources and doing something good with it.”
Plenty of items are new, including felted pillows that look like ocean stones, scented fire starters for campers, hats and cards.
“We’re doing a lot of hats because I realize people on vacation always need a hat,” said Critchett, who lives most of the year in Sarasota, Fla.
Tom Cat Tide gets part of its name from the business that filled the same space for more than three decades, Tom Cat Variety Store. “Everybody calls it the Tom Cat building,” said Critchett. “Everybody loves the nod to the history.”
Not only is the name a connection to the local culture, but the business model is too.
“I’ve always wanted to come back and start putting in roots,” said Critchett, who attended school on MDI. “I wanted to start a business, but I wanted it to be for the benefit of the community.”
Customers will get to donate to one of four local organizations through purchases of a certain amount. The organizations include the Campfire Coalition, Westside Food Pantry, SPCA of Hancock County and Common Good Soup Kitchen. During her summers on the island, Critchett volunteered at the Common Good Soup Kitchen.
“There’s a need here year-round,” she said. “[Visitors] don’t necessarily see it when they come here on vacation.”
Critchett sells jewelry and prints she has made. Jones’ photos and artwork are sold and Estep created whales from repurposed wood from the building’s basement stairs. The 80-year-old wood’s natural features are incorporated in the pieces. Each whale’s eye is a former nail hole.
Tom Cat Tide is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Once the season is in full swing, the owners hope to expand the hours for townspeople during the evening.
“All these fabulous restaurants around us who usually have a 20-minute wait, now [people] can shop,” said Critchett.
Tom Cat Tide is located at 16 Clark Point Road in Southwest Harbor. For more info, call 244-8330 and visit tomcattide.com.