About a month ago, Francie Siegfried was still living in Norfolk, Virginia. Now the past high school English teacher, writer-editor, retail worker and social worker is living in Wiscasset over the business she has bought along with the building. Siegfried is the new owner of BIRCH Home Furnishing & Gifts, 72 Main St.
She has driven past it for years on visits to sister Ann Coughlan in Newcastle. And Siegfried’s daughter Matilda Siegfried is about to graduate from Bates College in Lewiston. “So I have some connections to Maine, and I sort of stumbled upon the listing,” Siegfried recalled. “I have always liked the idea of owning my own business. I was looking for a change, something that would be fun and different than what I was used to doing.”
Husband Brett will be going back and forth to Virginia for his work as a neonatologist. “He takes care of sick babies.” The couple’s son Oliver attends Pomona College in Los Angeles County.
BIRCH’s last owners, Greg Uthoff and Brad Sevaldson, have mentored Siegfried as she readies to open the business Memorial Day Weekend. Sevaldson and Uthoff jointly told Wiscasset Newspaper in an email, they always planned to retire from the business after five to seven years. Vacationing in Southport, North Carolina in February 2020, “we ... were so attracted to the charm and easy pace, (we decided) it would be our retirement destination. Rather than continuing for an additional year or two, we felt the timing was right for us to end our Maine venture after five and a half years of living in the prettiest village in Maine.
“It has been bittersweet, we thoroughly enjoyed creating BIRCH and developing so many lasting friendships,” they wrote. “We are so grateful for the warm welcome we received and the support from the locals, seasonal home owners and the many tourists who visit the Midcoast. We are thrilled that BIRCH will continue as a vital contributor to Wiscasset's retail scene under new ownership. We had an immediate connection with Francie and were so impressed with her enthusiasm and eagerness to continue the BIRCH concept and to make it her own. We hope our customers give Francie the same warm welcome and support we experienced each day we opened our door.”
The Chevy Chase, Maryland-raised Siegfried, 53, has enjoyed designing in the homes she has lived in all over the country. And she likes traveling and picking up interesting things along the way. She thinks that will all help. “And I just enjoy people and meeting new people, so I think it’ll be fun. It’ll be much more lighthearted than things I’ve done in the past.”
What will shoppers find? “I’ve been restocking and hope to have some of the things people are familiar with, and I’m also adding some new things like rugs and table linens and some more glassware. So I think it will seem familiar. Hopefully it will be the best of (before), but with a little bit of a different feel. It will have my touch. And hopefully when people come in here, they will recognize it and will be excited for the new things.”
When Siegfried is waiting for inventory to arrive, sometimes she goes out exploring town and meeting her fellow store owners. They have been very supportive, and a lot of them are women, she noted.
Siegfried is still determining the shop’s hours. Visit Facebook and www.birchhomemaine.com