Photo courtesy of Brea McDonald, breamcdonald.com.

Gift Shop Plus Spring 2024
Meet the Maker: Sara Fitzgerald O’Brien By Sarah Schwartz

Photo courtesy of Brea McDonald, breamcdonald.com.

In the gift and stationery space, the 21st century is all about redefining once-established roles. These days, retailers commonly release branded merchandise in the tradition of a maker — and it’s not unusual for makers to open selling spaces in the retail tradition. For Sara Fitzgerald O’Brien, the founder and artist behind Sara Fitz, bringing her flagship to life was a matter of serendipity.

“We had run our studio for about five years when we decided to open our brick-and-mortar location,” she said. “We’d always hoped to eventually have our own space to share Sara Fitz with visitors. … It just so happened that the right spot became available at the perfect time!”

Fitzgerald first launched her sea-kissed brand in downtown York Harbor, Maine, in 2016 with her husband Miles as a stationery studio. That picturesque coastal village, replete with lobster boats, shingled cottages, gorgeous beaches and, of course, a beautiful lighthouse, also comes to vibrant life in the Sara Fitz brand.

Photo courtesy of Sara Fitz studio.
Hand-illustrated coastal artistry is at the playful heart of the ever- expanding Sara Fitz brand. Photo courtesy of Sara Fitz studio.

Meanwhile, that house of paper would quickly evolve into a lifestyle brand encompassing framed prints, needlepoint, wallpaper, textiles and apparel. Fitzgerald’s signature illustration style — simple yet detailed, whimsical yet classic — assumed center stage in high-profile collaborations with L.L. Bean, One Kings Lane, Yankee Magazine, Kennebunkport Resort Collection and Mindy Weiss.

Echoing the rhythms of its coastal home, Fitzgerald’s cozy shop comes to life each spring and stays open through the December holidays.

“We hibernate for a few quiet months while we refresh for the year ahead with our latest goods!” Fitzgerald explained. “We want visitors to smile the moment they walk through our door. … There’s always music playing and lots of color and texture. Our rescue shop pup is Murray — he is our love!”

Fitzgerald’s flagship is where she can experiment with the brand.

Photo courtesy of Brea McDonald, breamcdonald.com.
Photo courtesy of Brea McDonald, breamcdonald.com.

“I view our flagship as a happy shop for browsing/ shopping, but also as a light and bright space to showcase our colorful palette, new releases and overall aesthetic,” she described. “One of my favorite aspects of our store is its ability to tell stories through displays, which often include vintage pieces from my personal collection. Our shop feels like an extension of my home — even my closet! I want folks to feel welcome and comfortable when they’re with us!”

As to where she’d like to be in five years, Fitzgerald expects Sara Fitz to evolve naturally — not unlike the ocean waves that build and break, over and over, on the shores of her town.

“We’d love to continue growing our product categories, expanding our wholesale offerings and perhaps open another shop or two! Five years goes by in a flash and also feels like a lifetime,” she finished. “Seems cliché, but go with your gut!”

Sarah Schwartz





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