A new business out of Prince Edward Island wants to help people bring an authentic piece of the Maritimes home with them.
Maude + Montgomery is an online business that sells curated items by Atlantic Canadians artisans. The items are either sold individually or in signature gift boxes. For instance, there’s a gift box themed “babies” and one that emphasizes “relaxation.” There’s even one for those who fancy oysters.
The business was founded by Kerri Schoonyoung and Heather Doyle, cousins who grew up together on P.E.I.
“We grew up hanging out,” says Schoonyoung. “Our moms are very close sisters, and so we would camp in the summer and go to the beaches all day, just really enjoying the Maritimes, especially the summer Maritime delights.”
Fifteen years ago, Schoonyoung moved to Chicago for work. On her trips home to visit family and friends, she would visit the local shops for her favourite gifts and products.
“Going back to visit, I just really felt like there was an opportunity to highlight the artisans,” she says. “You change your lens.”
Since she grew up there, Schoonyoung knew where all these products were. But she realized that many tourists wouldn’t know where to find the great regional artisanal products not found at the island’s souvenir shops.
“What you see in Prince Edward Island, where tourism is such a big industry, you kind of see the same old [things],” says Schoonyoung. “The Anne of Green Gables braids. You see the Lobster traps. There’s more to this area than that, so that really inspired us to start the hunt and start curating products.”
Currently, Maude + Montgomery carries products from both Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, with plans to include products from New Brunswick and Newfoundland next year. Each company or artisan included on Maude + Montgomery has a detailed bio and story on the company website. Whether it’s a wool blanket or Nova Scotia Sea Salt, every product has a story.
“We really want to tell people’s stories. There are amazing stories here,” says Schoonyoung. “There are some smart and super creative people and they don’t have a voice under the glare of classic tourism stuff.”
When it comes to deciding what products and artisans to feature, Maude + Montgomery has certain criteria that need to be met.
“We wanted to really find products that have a Maritime soul. For example, like the oyster board. That was something that really reflects a lot of the areas in the Maritimes. We really look at is this product unique to our area. That’s our first litmus test,” says Schoonyoung.
“Then the other thing too is getting to know the artists. Are their values aligned with ours? Are they sustainable? That’s a big thing for us. And how does this support the community?”
Maude + Montgomery’s target customer is anyone looking to bring local Maritime items home with them from their trip, but they’re finding their gift boxes are a hit with locals as well.
“Originally our target was people that wanted to take a piece of the Maritimes back home with them. I think for me, not living there anymore, I’ve become extremely sentimental. It was really about that nostalgia and the sentimental value of bringing a piece of that home. It’s for anyone who has a shared connection to these areas,” says Schoonyoung.
“What we’re finding now is more and more is that a lot more locals are purchasing it because they want to support these communities and there’s a pride and thoughtfulness with bringing a local gift.”
The company just soft-launched in September, but the founders are planning an official launch in the spring. In preparation for that, they’re currently looking for submissions from artisans in New Brunswick and Newfoundland to include in their gift boxes.
“We’re looking more at New Brunswick as well as Newfoundland. Those are the areas we’re trying to beef up,” says Schoonyoung. “I think we started with who we know, but the goal is by the spring to have a nice representation from each of the provinces.”