Michelle Rose & Chris Larochelle are partners in life and in work – a “passionate team committed to creating modern art and home goods that are timeless in design and useful in their purpose”. Together, they own and operate Minka a boutique artisan gallery which was launched out of the couple’s home an has since evolved into a lovingly curated shop as well as a sustainable lifestyle brand, based on the coast of Maine. The couple takes the concept of working together to some higher ground both in their Kennebunkport retail shop and with their popular apothecary line. Michelle recently sat down to unpack a bit of their path and process…
minka translates to?
Our name was originaly inspired by the ancient Japanese homes that artists, farmers and merchants lived in. These homes were crafted by hand using natural materials and recognized for their architectural beauty. Later, we discovered that the word “minka” in Peruvian Indian means “working together”, which is especially fitting for our business. Since our conception, we have always strived to work with and support local suppliers, vendors, and artisans. Working together with our peers to create a stronger creative community has, and will continue to be, an integral part of our business.
Leaning in to her professional background in fashion, design and floral design Michelle creates most of the product lines at Minka blending natural elements & traditional techniques with a modern aesthetic. Function is at the heart of all of her endeavors.
can you tell our readers a bit about how you came to launch an apothecary line?
I had a pretty severe case of eczema and none of the expensive treatments and ointments were helping. So after years of researching and experimenting, I came up with an all natural solution. I thought if it was helping me than it could help others. And since then our bodycare line has been helping people all over the country with severe dry skin issues. It’s very heartwarming to get emails from people letting us know how happy and grateful they are to find something that works.
And there is emotional healing that comes directly from flowers. All the ingredients in our bodycare line can be traced back to anything grown out of the earth.
you are a floral designer by trade… how does that vocation inform your natural body care products?
My inspiration comes from nature. I love using herbs as a component in my floral designs. There are many healing benefits from flowers, aroma therapy, color therapy, etc. And there is emotional healing that comes directly from flowers. All the ingredients in our bodycare line can be traced back to anything grown out of the earth. And Vegetables, Nuts, seeds, leaves, bark, and flowers are all also part of my floral designs.
As I was perusing Minka’s retail shop one late-summer afternoon, I could not help noticing orange! From much of Minka’s apothecary line drifts a a heavenly breeze of the scent. I especially picked up on this bouquet with their best-selling Miracle Hand Salve. So, I just had to ask…
what’s with the orange?
Orange peel wax is the bomb. It acts as protective breathable layer on your skin and also a natural alpha hydroxy. It helps exfoliate the skin by removing dead skin cells and is loaded in Vitamin C. And the scent can’t be beat! Mmmmmm!
tell us about chasing your dreams in maine? do you miss boston?
When I moved to Maine, something clicked. I’ve always been a creative type but when I moved here I began to produce. All the things that had been swirling around in my head became a reality. My husband and I turned our garage into a gallery/boutique and thats where it all started. First came the bodycare line, then the jewelry line, then the handbag line. Now we have a beautiful store in downtown Kennebunkport. I don’t really miss Boston because It’s only an hour and a half away and that’s less time than sitting on the Tobin Bridge during rush hour 5 days a week. We used to do the South End Open Market before we got busy with our shop. And, I occasionally shoot down to the flower market.
While Michelle tends to design and product development, her husband the Fine Artist Chris Larochelle, “brings the character of store to life through sight, sound and scent.” When he is not in his home studio creating his highly regarded rustic abstract paintings prints he can be found warmly engaging with visitors and paying much attention to “place” and the customer experience. It is clear upon spending some time in the shop that each item (be it a handbag, a piece of jewelry or products from the apothecary line) is displayed with purpose and consideration of it origins.
what’s it like to work alongside your painter, husband Chris?
Amazing. He is always encouraging and supportive. He does so much behind the scenes that people don’t see. And the work that people do see,paintings, etc, is always inspiring to me. We share a similar aesthetic, so that really helps when it comes to creating the look and feel of our business. We are almost always on the same page (unless there is a full moon.)
your product line looks to be evolving, how did minka’s micro-blended tea line come about?
I was having a hard time finding teas without synthetic flavoring, so I started blending my own teas. I love a floral smelling tea but hate when it taste like soap. I found a way to strike a nice balance. Now we have a company that produces our tea for us.