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November 6, 2018

Check out Portland's first retail space built from shipping containers

Courtesy / The Black Box The Black Box, a retail incubator made of repurposed shipping containers by Snap Space of Brewer, has opened at 93 Washington Ave., Portland.

Portland’s first retail space constructed from repurposed shipping containers opened last week at 93 Washington St., with five startup tenants each in 320 square feet of space.

The single-story structure, the Black Box, was built off-site by SnapSpace Solutions in Brewer and is owned by Dayton Group, which bought the development from Jed Harris prior to its completion. The concept was first conceived by Harris, of Cotton Street Holdings, said a news release.

The five-unit incubator space allows tenants to test their products without a long-term lease commitment, and it’s the first retail location for all of the tenants, the release said.

Tenants are:

  • The Cheese Shop of Portland, a specialty food store owned and operated by Will and Mary Sissle.
  • North Optical, a curated handmade eyewear collection shop owned by Christopher Wheaton.
  • Campfire Studios + Mulxiply, a maker’s partnership of ceramics artists Kristen and Joe Camp, and Tanja Cesh, who sells Maine-designed Himalaya-inspired accessories and gifts made by fair-wage artists in Nepal.
  • Evangeline Linens, owned by textile industry professional Ben Ray, which sells textiles, fine art and vintage furniture.
  • All Those Who Wander, a speciality coffee shop owned and operating by John-Henry and Cynthia Mlyniec, which features seasonal single-origin coffee, loose-leaf tea, chai and pastries.

The container builder, SnapSpace, has been in business since 2011, and, in Portland, has built an office and employee locker room at Portland’s Eimskip terminal, as well as the VIP area at the Maine State Pier Waterfront Concerts venue, among other projects. 

Growing small local businesses

Courtesy / The Black Box
Aerial view of The Black Box at 93 Washington Ave., Portland.

The Black Box units all have wifi, french doors opening onto Washington Street, the interiors are sheet-rocked, with wood floors, and there is also a common patio and back unit with bathrooms and storage.

“This is a very exciting part of Portland that has experienced a lot of growth in the last few years, and we hope The Black Box helps promote more year-round foot traffic to Washington Avenue,” said Jake Edwards, managing partner at Dayton Group. “The Black Box is here to support local, small businesses that are looking for space to grow, while also helping to showcase the efforts and success of the existing business owners on the street.”

While the building is unique, the tenants said the opportunity to have their first retail space is important.

Leases can be month to month, Cheese Shop owner Will Sissle said, “We’re receiving a lot of amazing feedback and interest from the community so far, and we hope to be here for a while.”

He said they were looking for a space to launch their first storefront. “The Black Box project really fell into our laps at the right time.”

Ray, of Evangeline Linens, said, “I’ve been working in the design and textile industry for a long time, but this is the first time for me, and all of us here, to have a storefront. It’s a low commitment opportunity for me to test selling my product directly to consumers, while also meeting like-minded artists and makers in a built-in community.”

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