The Henrys live the life/work balancing act



The Henrys run Mortons Moo in Ellsworth. PHOTO COURTESY HENRY FAMILY
The Henrys run Mortons Moo in Ellsworth. PHOTO COURTESY HENRY FAMILY

When the Henry family decides it is time for an adventure, they plan, adapt if needed, and then follow through.

Early in their marriage, Steve and Kirsten packed up and moved to Montana for several months. They just wanted to be somewhere different and Kirsten’s brother was living there.

Some years later, when the youngest of their two daughters was 5, the couple sold everything and sailed away in a 30-foot boat for more than a year.

And when they returned home, they dug into what is their current adventure — operating and growing Mortons Moo ice cream in Ellsworth.

Daughters Emma, 14, and Madeline, 11, have learned from their parents how important it is that everyone is moving in the same direction when making a change.

“You both have to want to do it,” Kirsten said of the family’s varying paths. “You have to put in the effort and work hard and stick to your plan.”

“Life happens. You have to be flexible and keep your goals. You have to always pick each other up.”

Kirsten and Steve met in high school at Hampden Academy in Hampden. Upon graduation she enrolled at Northeastern University in Boston to study physical therapy. He studied construction management and surveying at the University of Maine.

Kirsten then worked in hospitals in and around Boston and Steve was hired for the central artery and tunnel construction project in Boston popularly known as the “Big Dig.”

They noticed as they began building their careers that they were coming home often to visit family and friends. By 1997, they were living in Maine again.

But then they got the first of several bouts of travel bug.

The Henrys packed up and moved to Montana, where Kirsten worked as a traveling physical therapist.

When they returned to Maine, Kirsten took a job working at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital and Steve began doing finish carpentry at Morris Yachts.

They started a family, but then that particular “flu”— a desire to see new things and meet new people — returned.

They went to an auction at Maine Maritime Academy and successfully bid on a somewhat sad looking 30-foot Morris Leigh and began restoring it.

Stephen talked about a long sailing trip.

“I told him I was on board after the kids were out of diapers and could walk,” Kirsten said.

When that time came they sold a house Steve had built for them in Franklin, their two cars and all of their furniture.

Any doubts about whether Kirsten was fully committed to the plan were resolved the day Steve came home from work to find the living room sofa gone.

The route they plotted was the 3,000-mile Intracoastal Waterway along the Eastern Seaboard.

Kirsten prepared to home school. They packed carefully. Quarters were tight.

 “As long as we both have our health, we’ll end up on a boat at some point again.” — Steve Henry

“As long as we both have our health, we’ll end up on a boat at some point again.” — Steve Henry

The two girls slept in a V-berth in the bow of the boat. Kirsten and Stephen made up their bed each night in the dining area.

Kirsten said the confined space provided a lesson in interpersonal relationships.

“When you have a disagreement, you can’t go to a different room. You have to work it out,” she said.

Over 10 months they followed the waterway and then sailed to the Florida Keys and the Bahama Island chain.

By this time the Henrys’ bank account was dry, but their thirst for adventure was not.

They both found jobs in St. John’s — she waitressing at night and he, carpentry during the day.

The girls attended a small school on the island, and, when they were not in school there was always a parent home with them.

“It was an amazing trip: a once-in-a-lifetime thing for sure,” Kirsten said. “I really think it did bring us closer together.”

But that particular adventure was coming to an end.

The Henrys sold the boat in Florida. The goal was to have enough money to buy an inexpensive car to take them home.

Once in Ellsworth, Kirsten and Steve decided to revive the Mortons Moo business her mother, Sarah, had founded in 2001 from an ice cream cart.

After Sarah retired there was another owner for about a year and a half, but then the doors closed again.

In walked Kirsten and Steve in March 2011. They settled in, living in an apartment above the ice cream parlor with their daughters.

A year ago they moved to more spacious quarters, but still remain in town.

Steve and Kirsten immersed themselves in the business, expanding the ice cream flavors to 70 and adding 20 gelatos and 20 sorbets.

The girls are busy with school. Emma fences and likes theater. Madeline likes drama and dance.

The girls also are continuing their studies of Chinese, something the family initiated before they left for their sailing trip.

Emma last summer for the first time worked behind the counter at Mortons Moo. Madeline pitched in clearing tables.

Kirsten and Steve said the business brings them into the heart of the community.

mortons mooKirsten said Mortons Moo not only provides homemade ice cream — everything is created on the premises — it offers a safe gathering space for everyone from senior citizens to teenagers.

“That’s what I love to see,” she said. “I saw the kids being carried in by their parents and now they’re sitting at the counter.”

Steve Henry said owning a business does present challenges in terms of balancing work and family life.

“There are times you burn the candle on both ends. But when you think, ‘Is it worth it?’ we always come back around to: ‘It is, absolutely.’ The community appreciates us; I hear about it just about every day.”

“We also know it’s not forever,” said Steve. “Our kids are busy right now. After that it’s going to slow down significantly.”

Both Kirsten and Steve say there are more adventures to come.

“We talk a lot about where we would go and what we would do,” she said. “He’s constantly looking at sailboats.”

Said Steve: “As long as we both have our health, we’ll end up on a boat at some point again.”

Jacqueline Weaver

Jacqueline Weaver

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Jacqueline's beat covers the eastern Hancock County towns of Lamoine through Gouldsboro as well as Steuben in Washington County. She was a reporter for the New York Times, United Press International and Reuters before moving to Maine. She also publicized medical research at Yale School of Medicine and scientific findings at Yale University for nine years.[email protected]
Jacqueline Weaver

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