Creativity bursts from city’s native
From the outside, Brown Fox Printing, in Kennebunk, looks like any other retail print shop. The hours are clearly posted in the window and there are advertisements for flyers, brochures and posters. Printed material of all sorts may be ordered at the store.
What the signs do not say is that the print shop is also the publishing and production company for the owner, Melissa Pelletier.
Pelletier, a 41-year-old Biddeford native, has been running the shop for 25 years and, for most of that time, it has served as a creative outlet for her artwork.
“I remember when I left my job at the bank,” she said. “I must have had so much pent-up art in me. I painted and drew for three straight months.”
Pelletier, a self-taught artist, eventually found a way to combine her love for art with her business.
“I had all these sketches, drawings and puzzles,” she said. “I decided to combine them and make an activity book for children.”
There were two big problems Pelletier didn’t know how to handle. Who would produce the books and how would she sell them?
Pelletier credits her Army-brat childhood for giving her the strength to solve the problem herself.
“I just decided to make the books here,” she said, pointing to the two large copy machines occupying her small office.
“The inside of the books are sheets of 11-by-17-inch paper and they are folded and stapled to the cover,” Pelletier said holding one of her brightly colored books.
Pelletier has produced six books in a series she titled, “Wicked Good Activity Books.” Each of the books features Marty the moose and Ruby the red fox.
The two characters are distinctive and Pelletier painstakingly works with colored pencils to create each drawing that adorns her books. In the digital age, she still draws by hand.
“I do scan the drawings and position them on the covers using the computer,” she said. “But I draw them first.”
Pelletier said there have been times when customers have come into her shop and she is sitting on the floor surrounded by pages and pages of her drawings.
Pelletier has even turned to her customers for help with her books.
“The moose (Marty) is named after a friend’s husband, but I asked the customers to name the fox,” she said.
Pelletier held a contest to come up with a name for the small red fox; they chose Ruby.
“So Ruby it was,” she said.
When the books were first finished, Pelletier wasn’t sure how to distribute them, but knew she wanted to do it herself. That sense of independence has been her hallmark.
“I remember one Friday afternoon I was driving in my little blacktruckandIdecidedtostopatBordersbythemall,”shesaid.
“I wasn’t dressed very nice and the copy I had was a little bit messy. I went in and just said hi,” Pelletier said. As she started to recall the story, the words came faster and faster and she became more and more animated.
“I’m Melissa and I have this little book that I have written and it is all about Maine – it’s produced locally,” Pelletier said in her pitch to the retailer. “I thought you might like it. Would you show it to your buyer?”
Pelletier said she left in a hurry and was sure they wouldn’t call her. “Monday morning – two days later - the buyer called back and they became a customer.”
Pelletier’s books are now carried by approximately 70 stores throughout New England (including L.L. Bean), but she is quick to point out that she produces each and every one in her Kennebunk shop.
“The covers are outsourced and printed on heavy stock, but I do every other page,” she said proudly.
Pelletier does not sell the books on the Internet or through her website; she prefers to produce them locally and ship 25 or 50 copies directly to a bookstore or retail shop.
For her next project, Pelletier is thinking about writing a children’s novel or storybook.
“I still have all these ideas,” she said. “Maybe I can make them here.”