Renovating a 200-square-foot space into a home-goods boutique while also balancing a teaching job, a masters degree program, and a family wasn’t something Andrea Ardito predicted doing before she opened Nest.
The daughter of an artist, Ardito grew up surrounded by creativity. As a young woman, she would reorganize and redesign her friends’ homes. As an adult, she began renovating houses with her husband, refurbishing furniture, and selling pieces out of her own home.
But it wasn’t until she was in her 40s that her personal life and career aligned. A friend mentioned that a small space in Kittery was available for lease. “I just said, ‘I want it,’ without even discussing it with my husband and kids,” Ardito says.
The tiny shop, located off Route 1 just south of the Kittery Outlets, features handcrafted jewelry, resale clothing, artwork, refurbished furniture, and more. It’s heavily focused on local makers, with a special emphasis on the work of women. The pottery currently on display is the work of her daughter’s best friend, a 17-year-old girl who is a senior in high school.
“A very big part of this is featuring the art of women,” Ardito says. “I’m a feminist and am not in this just to make a buck. I want to empower women and feature their work as often as I can.”
Before opening the shop, Ardito woke up at 5 a.m. every morning for a full day of teaching, plus renovation work in the evenings. She opened Nest Fridays through Sundays, while still maintaining the rest of her responsibilities.
She has since scaled down to just one day of teaching per week, but the shop has helped her relate to her students in new ways. Having overcome a learning disability herself, she jumps at the opportunity to empower her young students.
“It’s so rewarding to look at a kid and say, ‘I get it, I’ve been there, and this is the other side of it.’ Nobody ever said that to me,” she says. “I had such a difficult time in school and a very severe learning disability with math, and I’ve wanted a shot my whole life. But I thought I couldn’t do it, couldn’t do the math and put together all the pieces of running a business. I’m lucky to have my husband, Brad, who does the bookkeeping and tools such as Square to help me with transactions. My only job is to create, and I’ve never been happier.”
Nest shares the small building’s first floor with Lost Coast, a thrift store. There are several other businesses upstairs. Ardito says she is energized not only by the other business owners, all of whom inspire and support each other, but by the entire town of Kittery.
“People walk in and are so happy and welcoming,” she says. “Businesses that are in competition with me send their customers to me. When we all do well, everybody benefits.”
Ardito travels around Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire to “hunt and gather.” Her favorite spots to find items are barns and flea markets, but she always has her eyes open. Much of her remaining time is spent staging homes for sale, refurbishing, and putting together succulents. She also continues to work on the design of the shop, which is now also open by appointment. The colorful space is outfitted with several foraged accents, including a large branch that she found in an orchard across the street from her house. The branch is now interwoven with lights to create a warmth that is especially striking at twilight.
“I want my store to be very accessible and I try to pick fun pieces that are conversation starters,” she says.
As she reflects on the winding path she’s taken, Ardito often thinks back to her parents, specifically her mother.
“She was a lifelong artist who spent her whole life eeking out a place for herself and trying to put her foot in the door and never quite getting there,” she says. “I want to ensure that that won’t be my story, too.”
Though she’s satisfied with where she’s gotten, Ardito plans to continue pursuing the things that interest her.
“I feel like the floodgates have opened and I just want to do everything. I’m always wondering what I can do next,” she says. “I’m going to do this for as long as I can and as long as I’m happy and making other people happy.”
To see other installments of the Open Doors series, click here.