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February 4, 2022

Emerging Maine outdoor retail brands shine at Denver trade show

Trade booth showing two people and lots of Maine motifs Courtesy / Maine Outdoor Brands Maine Outdoor Brands brought five companies to a recent trade show in Denver. Shown here are Carolann Ouellette, director of the Maine Office of Outdoor Recreation, with Mark Ferguson, president and co-founder of South Portland-based axe maker Brant & Cochran LLC.

An oversized axe at the Maine Outdoor Brands booth was a big draw at a recent trade show in Denver, where South Portland-based axe maker Brant & Cochran LLC was among five startups representing the Pine Tree State.

Held at the Colorado Convention Center in late January, this year's Outdoor Retailer Snow Show featured 350 exhibiting brands, about a third of the size of the last show held in January 2020, according to the organizer.

For many participants, this year's version marked a return to in-person trade shows for the first time since the pandemic. That includes Maine Outdoor Brands, a growing Portland-based nonprofit alliance with 150 members. 

Jenny Kordick standing in front of water and rocks.
File photo / Courtesy, Maine Outdoor Brands
Maine Outdoor Brands Executive Director Jenny Kordick

"We love going out West especially and showcasing Maine and the outdoor companies in Maine," Jenny Kordick, executive director of Maine Outdoor Brands, told Mainebiz by phone on Monday. "It's always fun to go to these shows and have people be drawn in because of that Maine brand."

Of the eye-catching display, she said, "We did have a lot of people come up to the booth asking about the axe and wanting to hold it."

Besides Brant & Cochran, brands on display at the Maine Outdoor Brands booth included Foothill Fuels camping fuel; Mainers Extreme Cold Mitts, made by Tempshield Inc.; Opolis sunglasses made from plant based and recycled plastics; and Tree Free Brands all-natural portable campfires sourced from all-natural materials.

"Outdoor Retailer was an opportunity to find new outlets for our Maine-made, heirloom-quality axes as varied as an outdoor gear store in Oslo, Norway, to a 125-year-old general store in rural Missouri," Mark Ferguson, co-founder and president of Brant & Cochran, told Mainebiz on Monday.

"But possibly the best thing that we got out of attending was exploring collaborations with other like-minded brands, first among them our fellow MOB attendees.”

James Merrill, the Kennebunk-based founder and CEO of Opolis, also reported positive results from the event.

"As a young sustainable company in a very competitive space, having the opportunity to attend the Outdoor Retailer [trade show] was an incredible experience," he said.

"Through the Maine Outdoor Brands, our team at Opolis was able to connect with major players in the outdoor space — including major media outdoor publications, retailers and other leading brands," he added. "We were honored to be able to share our story and mission, and to represent Maine and the sustainability mission of Maine Outdoor Brands.”

Kordick said the companies were able to take part in the Colorado event thanks in large part to financial support from the Maine Office of Outdoor Recreation, whose director Carolann Ouellette also attended.

"The Office of Outdoor Recreation, part of the Department of Economic and Community Development, has been a big supporter of Maine Outdoor Brands, and helps to get us to shows," Kordick said.

Later this year, Kordick hopes to take a group to the Outdoor Retailer summer show in June.

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