Rock Paper Scissors: Erika Soule’s Wiscasset store
Wiscasset native Ericka Soule said she came up with the name Rock Paper Scissors long before she ever knew she’d eventually own a shop, in her hometown. Soule owns Rock Paper Scissors at 68 Main St.
She came up with the name when she was in college, and asked her father to register it in Maine. “I didn’t know that I wanted a store, but I knew if I ever had a store, that would be the name I’d want.”
Her idea for a business back then leaned more toward a community space where she would make art and sell it, and teach classes. “Turns out that I had no idea that I’d be there seven days a week and I wouldn’t have time to teach any classes, or do anything else,” she said with a laugh.
Now, 17 years after opening her shop, Soule still shows up for work seven days a week, and hasn’t lost any of the enthusiasm she had when she first opened her small shop a few doors up from its present location.
She came back to Wiscasset after studying textile design at Syracuse University because she likes it here. “I always knew I wanted to stay here, to make a living here.”
After Soule worked in a few different places in Wiscasset, the space on Main Street became available, and though she readily admits she didn’t have a solid plan, she knew she wanted to have a shop. “I had worked retail my whole life, and I knew that much, and I love Wiscasset. I wanted to be a part of this town.”
In 2004, she bought the building where the shop is now, and opened the new store while continuing to operate the first one. She called the new business Smitten. In 2010, she merged the two and kept the name, Rock Paper Scissors.
Soule said when she first started her store it was mostly stationery and children’s items. The second store, Smitten, leaned more to housewares and jewelry. “When I merged them together it became a little bit of everything.”
A little bit of everything is a good way to describe the inventory. It’s the kind of store that grabs your interest the minute you walk in, and holds it for as long as you browse. The range of items is dazzling.
“It was kind of a challenge to figure out how I was going to fit it all this in this space,” Soule said. “Pretty much the only thing I don’t carry is clothes.” She has thought it would be nice to have a bigger space, but she knows it would be as packed full as the one she’s in. “It’s probably better that I’m contained.”
Even with the array of fun, beautiful, interesting inventory, there’s an orderliness to the place that can only be achieved by someone with a sense of artfulness and design.
Soule orders from artisans all over the world. She finds her unique inventory at the annual tradeshow in New York, and online. And her business has become so well-known, artisans and distributors come to her. “They know I’m here and that I carry interesting things, so after 17 years people come to me. It’s nice.”
Not everything people try to sell her is to her taste, but sometimes persistence pays off. One woman approached her three times and Soule had to tell her the jewelry wasn’t a good fit for the shop. “She studied my stuff, and came back a fourth time with a whole new line, tailor-made for me. And I loved it. I try to get a good mix, and I try to stay with smaller companies and carry things that not everybody has. There are so many great artisans out there making very interesting things.”
Her jewelry display in a glass case at the far end of the store features around 17 artisans, including Christine Peters of Damariscotta. It’s an impressive display with jewelry from all over the world, including Kenya, Argentina, Israel, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Soule keeps the artist in her alive by drawing each piece of jewelry that passes through her door.
She has been doing the drawings since she started selling jewelry, and binds her very meticulous drawings on heavy paper into handmade catalogs to keep track of all the artisans and what has sold. “It tells me where the jewelry is from, what it’s made of, and the price number of each item that I bought. The people who work here use it as a reference.”
Betsy Spekke has worked for Soule off and on for several years, and is now a full-time employee. She loves working there. “When people compliment the store, I always say I’m just lucky enough to work here.”
She loves the inventory, too. “It’s not just that Erika has an eye for what she purchases. It’s also the way she curates the vignettes throughout the store. I think that makes the experience unique. The majority of customers do more than one lap around the store to take it all in.
“After 17 years she has it down to not just a science, but an art. The atmosphere in here is great. I’ve worked a lot of retail, some in New York City, but there’s something about this store.”