Celebrating small, local businesses with the microMaine Trolley Tour

What do beer, bitters, wool felting, pie and qigong have in common? They were all things we got to try on a unique tour  hosted by Benchmark Residential & Investment Real Estate which focused on micro living in Portland. The tour highlighted smaller local businesses so was different from typical city tours.

The tour started at the Press Hotel which is a cozy themed hotel on Exchange Street. This past March, we did Spirit Quest for Maine Restaurant Week and the Press Hotel had my favorite tasting and cocktail combination. This micro tour also had a food component as we were treated to Korean BBQ vegetable chips and house made carrot & ginger effervescence shooters upon arrival. The carrot and ginger juice, was especially amazing.

We traveled to each tour stop by trolley, with informational talks provided en route. The tour kicked off with Tom Landry owner of Benchmark, and the host of the tour, giving some introductory remarks and then it was onto our first stop, The Body Architect, a neighborhood gym. Here we toured their facilities which were serene and peaceful. We also participated in a mini qigong stretching session while enjoying the fresh air of their rooftop exercise space. They gave us a gift card for a free 30-day membership and I’m looking forward to visiting again.

We didn’t go far for our next stop. Jeremy Sahlman had set up a micro a-frame cabin in the parking lot for us to tour. He joined us for the next leg of our trolley ride where he gave us more information on the adorable micro cabins that he builds. More information can be found on his website A Micro Cabin.

I’ve been intrigued and planning to go to the next stop for a while so was happy to see Vena’s Fizz House on the itinerary. They are a creative cocktail bar with a colorfully packed shop full of infusions, bitters and syrups. Everything you need to make a great drink. We enjoyed a bitters and soda tasting. They prepared shots of their Lavender Lemonade mixed with Vodka. It was fun to compare the difference between having the drink without bitters and then with bitters. It really made a difference. I didn’t think I was someone who enjoyed bitters, but I actually liked that version better.

While finishing up our drinks, members from CSArt Maine talked to us about their community supported art program and treated us to a sample art card. I am a fan of the CSA model for local farmers and it’s interesting to see it expand to the art scene.

Next we headed to Milk & Honey of Swallowtail Farm for a cheese and pie tasting. Their shop space is also where the Portland Winter’s Farmers Market is held. Our hostess, Lauren Pignatello, talked to us about their farm and the homemade food that she had put out for us to enjoy. Everything looked beautiful and was delicious. I especially enjoyed the brownies made with chakra mushrooms.

We then walked over to Port Fiber for a tour of their studio. There was a felting class going and Casey talked about the shop and fiber arts. I am a craft junkie and always love being exposed to new techniques and materials. While I have felted before, I have not done a lot of other fiber arts so it was fun to learn about the shop and what they offer.

Across the street, was Lone Pine Brewing  where we headed next for a beer and chocolate pairing. We tried a few of their popular beers and got a background talk on their brewery which was informative and fun. They are growing and I just saw in the news where they recently purchased Sebago Brewing’s production facility just outside of Portland. I’ll be back to their tasting room again. Still need to get their stamp on my Maine Beer Trail map.

As we boarded the trolley for our last stop, we heard from Carol A. Morrissette, Founder of Residential Design Studio. She gave a talk on small space living while we were heading to 30Lofts. I always enjoy hearing about creative ways to make the most of a small space, and have a number of books and magazine articles on the subject so this was the perfect final presentation for me.

The last stop was the grand opening penthouse party where Benchmark showcased their newly renovated condos at 30Lofts. The condos have small footprints and incorporate creative design features. The celebration was festive and I especially enjoyed the complimentary cocktail from Vena’s Fizz House. I really need to revisit bitters.

I’m always up for something new and unexpected and enjoyed that this tour focused on some smaller, more “micro” stops. It’s fun to celebrate local busineses.

Micro Maine Tour.png

things to know
Place microMaine Trolley Tour
Address 72 Pine Street #16 | Portland, ME
Website microMaine
Favorite ♥ Vena’s Fizz House

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