“It’s a pretty diverse collection of goodies,” said owner P.J. Trowell, an Atlanta native who opened the original Riverlily in Apalachicola, Fla., 20 years ago.
Trowell describes Apalachicola as a small fishing village similar to Milbridge.
Riverlily gives shoppers a sensory experience with its well-polished wood, soft lighting, brightly colored merchandise and fragrant air (the shop has its own candle scent.)
“It is sort of a retail theater,” said Trowell.
Trowell started the original Riverlily after moving to Apalachicola from Key West, where she had a catering business.
While one can find any product in Key West, Trowell couldn’t find greeting cards that she liked in her new small town, so Riverlily was born.
At first, she rented half of a soda fountain pharmacy and eventually moved around the block into her current Commerce Street location.
P.J.’s husband, Jeff Trowell, a Savannah native, had been busy with a redwood sign business. Eventually, Riverlily became so popular Jeff had to put down his tools and work at the blossoming Riverlily shop.
Along the way, the couple also had a fragrance created by perfumers (also called noses) in France to resemble the Florida store’s scent, which is the same scent as the Cherryfield location.
Jeff explains that the perfumers sent odor-absorbing filaments, similar to cotton balls, which are left in the store, where they absorb all the odors in the store to develop a fragrance.
“It took time and effort,” said Jeff. “We did it about three times and we’d smell it and say yes/no or if it needs a little higher note here.”
After several months of “ping ponging back and forth,” the perfumers achieved the Riverlily scent.
“It’s not a shallow. fruity fragrance,” Jeff said. “It’s exotic and it has a lot of depth to it.”
The Trowells spent a few years going back and forth between Florida and Maine before deciding they wanted to live here year-round.
Three years ago, they passed by the historic building that now houses Riverlily.
“We really were not looking for a project, but the building spoke to us,” said Trowell.
Known as the Nash Building in Cherryfield, the building was constructed in 1881 and was in bad shape.
“We had been looking for a neat place to open a retail shop in the area,” said Trowell. “You might say the building presented itself to us. We bought it and began the long process of saving it from falling in the river.”
Riverlily opened July 2 to a warm welcome from Cherryfield residents and visitors.
Riverlily carries many items —from jewelry to socks, to bath products, to Stonewall Kitchen products to handmade Irish sweaters for wee ones, to Halloween decorations and Christmas ornaments and children’s books — just to name a few.
Trowell shared tips about how she’s kept a successful business going for 20 years.
“It’s the mix and what you do with that mix,” Trowell said.
If a shopper walks into a store and doesn’t feel immediately welcome, there’s a problem, she said.
“We work seven days a week,” said Trowell. “That’s what it takes. It’s a lot of work behind the scenes. We have about 400 vendors we buy from and that’s a lot.”
Trowell goes on buying trips every winter to New York and Atlanta.
“I buy what makes me happy,” she said. “I love color. I love bath and beauty.”
And for Riverlily in Cherryfield, products made in Maine are a focus, as are Wyman blueberry products and sea glass. There are also float rope doormats and dog leashes made from recycled lobster trap rope.
The shop has a small children’s section with books and travel games.
The kitchen section, in addition to the aforementioned Wyman and Stonewall kitchen items, has glassware, cocktail napkins, silk-screened flour sack dish towels and Lake Champlain chocolates from Vermont as well as chocolate made in Maine.
Kitchen items are on the shop’s second floor along with an extensive greeting card section.
“This is what we are famous for in Florida,” said Trowell. “I pick every single one of them out.”
Riverlily carries several lines of jewelry, including the couple’s vintage glass bead earrings named after the store. The couple design the jewelry and have the beads made from bronze bead molds, which date from the early 1900s.
“The look is very vintage, like you opened your grandmother’s jewelry box and this is what you found,” Trowell said.
The jewelry line is mainly earrings, but there are some necklaces. And the Trowells will work with brides to do a custom design. The earrings come in dozens of colors.
All shoppers at Riverlily are welcome whether they are just browsing, comparing prices or have items in mind.
“I just want people to come in and relax and don’t miss anything because there’s so much,” said Trowell.
Where: 2 Wilson Hill Road, Cherryfield
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday
Contact: 546-7666, www.facebook.com/pages/riverlily
Getting there: Take Route 1 or Route 182 (Black Woods Road) to downtown Cherryfield. Riverlily, an aqua and blueberry-blue trim building, stands on the Narraguagus River banks.