Maine Cottage Furniture returns, but in name only

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YARMOUTH — In March, Maine Cottage Furniture closed its flagship store at 106 Lafayette St., much to the surprise of its employees and customers, and with little public explanation.

Stores in Charleston, S.C., and West Palm Beach, Fla., also closed.

Customers who had paid for furniture were told not to expect their money back after the company’s bank foreclosed on the business.

Now, eight months later and after the last of the cottage-style, hand-painted coastal furniture has been sold in clearance sales, the Maine Cottage brand is making a comeback.

But not in Maine.

In April, the brand, fabrics, and designs of the company that was opened in 1988 by Peter and Carol Bass was purchased by the Maryland-based Russell & Mackenna furniture store. The business is now based in Jessup, Md., with a Maine Cottage flagship store at 8 Evergreen Road, Severna Park, Md.

Company President Larry Strassner said starting on Monday, Nov. 28, they will begin the photo shoot for the relaunch of the 2012 Maine Cottage catalog in Severna Park, Md.

“It’s like a movie set,” Strassner said. “It is very exciting.”

Like Maine Cottage, Russell & Mackenna is a family owned company. It began in a one-car garage near Annapolis in 2003. Strassner’s daughter Lauren is the founder and creative director of the business.

“Russell & Mackenna is in business because of Maine Cottage,” Strassner said.  “Lauren was pregnant and wanted a piece of Maine Cottage furniture, but couldn’t afford it. Her husband said he’d build one for her.”

Soon, Strassner said they were designing and building furniture for friends and making money.

He said when he heard Maine Cottage was in trouble, he was interested in buying the company’s mailing list. But as things progressed, he said they were able to buy portions of the company and continue the well-known brand in name and spirit, if not location.

Those portions included intellectual property – the name, copyrights, website, phone numbers, fabrics, wicker, wood furniture, and upholstery.

Strassner said the Russell & Mackenna brand is in “a safe deposit box,” the name of the operation has been changed to Maine Cottage, and the product lines have been merged.

Since the acquisition, Strassner said there have been about 75 phone calls from customers asking about the closure of the stores in Maine, Florida and South Carolina. These customers were looking for their furniture and for answers.

“There are a lot of Maine Cottage customers who were financially injured when they went out of business,” he said. “We received a lot of calls from a lot of angry people.”

Customers who paid by credit card could receive refunds through their credit card companies, but those who had paid with a check lost their furniture, he said.

Strassner said he talked to many of the customers, working with each one individually to offer them discounts, new furniture, free shipping, gift certificates, and answers to their questions.

“We are excited about the merger,” he said. “There is a new level of energy in Maine Cottage that was lost during the years following the economic downturn. We are going to be around for a while.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson