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Portland General Store

Lisa Brodar is an artist, a nose, a beekeeper and a scientist.  She eats raw yoghurt, concocts fragances from alcohol and essential oils, and practices permaculture from her wooded acre block in Maine, surrounded by farm and sea. 

But it hasn’t always been this way for the founder of Portland General Store.

It all started in 2006, Lisa explains, when she acquired a vintage perfumery book.

Back then, Etsy was just a glimmer in the internet’s eye.  Portland was just another sleepy town on the West coast and Lisa Brodar and Troy Tyler were just another pair of New Yorkers becoming interested in the idea of sustainable living and moving to what were then called ‘yoghurt towns’ – walkable cities that could sustain themselves through local businesses and food. 

Intrigued by the perfume recipes from the 1920s and 1930s and not one afraid to experiment, Lisa was inspired to start messing around with her own formulas.  Finding she was fairly adept as a nose, she took things like whisky, tobacco and even salt water as her inspiration and began to create her own scents 

Not long afterwards, the two New Yorkers did the almost-unthinkable and made the move to Portland.  While it wasn’t quite a backwater, it certainly wasn’t the thriving creative hipster hub it is today. 

“We visited many places across America before settling on Maine, which we chose because it has so many of the characteristics we were searching for: a strong local food movement, woods, ocean and waterways, small walkable cities and towns, history of industry, rail, and so on,” says Lisa. 

Lisa’s experimenting continued from the kitchen of her Portland townhouse while she babysat to make ends meet. Eventually she came to bottling her unique small batch scents and selling them on a new internet platform called Etsy.  

While Lisa had created scents for both sexes, it turned out there were no natural skincare and cologne offerings specifically for men on Etsy.  So with Troy’s help, who conveniently enough had an MBA and had worked on a number of successful start-ups in the past, Lisa started her men’s line in its own online shop with some new branding inspired by old spirits labels and rollmarks found on vintage guns.

“I love vintage and old-fashioned apothecary and pharmaceutical goods with minimal and worn packaging; at the same time, [Troy] wanted a brand that would stand out, was clean, and could be both old-fashioned and modern.” 

The vintage apothecary inspiration, masculine packaging, and names like ‘professor’ and ‘tobacco’ were a magic combination.  Portland General Store became a full time operation pretty much immediately.

Since then, the experimenting hasn’t stopped. This time last year, Lisa developed the ‘farmers cologne’ – a scent equally pleasing to bovines and humans.  After stumbling across an article about cows being affected by synthetic odours, Lisa created a concoction of sandalwood, violet leaf and blue tansy both calming to cows and attractive to their milkers. 

She’s also created whisky-scented beeswax candles, ‘hunting camp’ soaps, and a tobacco beard oil – a product that has since been replicated across the world.  These days Lisa also keeps bees and is working on creating a Maine beeswax-based pomade for Portland General Store. 

“We are in the middle of releasing a few new products, a newly packaged shave cream, boxes for our products and greener labeling, and there are some other top secret products are in the works,” says Lisa.

What they’ll be is anyone’s guess.

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Portland General Store's whiskey after shave splash and wood cream are both available now.