“Grampa and Gramma called the outdoors ‘a garden of natural healing,’” reads the Grampa’s Garden Website.
From the moment you open the door to Grampa’s Garden Sensory Adventure Spa on Maine Street, it’s clear this place is unique. The physical space of the café resembles a garden. Replacing chirping birds and blossoming flowers, the whir of an espresso machine greets your ears, and spices waft through the air, promising a delicious menu. From the vintage posters and extensive collection of Starbucks cards on the walls to the books lingering in corners of comfy chairs, it’s unclear where all of the trinkets come from, but they feel like they belong. Just like vines, these physical elements ebb and flow in an unorganized, but natural way. Among this selection is an abundance of health products, from essential oils to heated blankets.
The force behind Grampa’s Garden’s cozy atmosphere is founder Michael Painchaud. Before his career in coffee, Michael held a lengthy 33 year tenure as a Wall Street statistician in New York and Seattle. It was there in Seattle, where he worked with a company that placed Starbucks stock, that he learned the ins and outs of coffee. He became enamored with the social impact of the drink.
From its inception, Michael has seen the shop grow in ways he never thought possible.
“[The growth of Grampa’s Garden] was organic,” Michael said. “It grew from within. It was not [what I always wanted to do.] I wanted to be a baseball statistician. I think it’s important to realize that we are capable of a lot of different things. I think that we should all look for opportunities to self-actualize, or to contribute to the betterment of the world in whatever way we can, [with] whatever skills we have. Not that I look at that as a raison d’être kind of thing. But it’s important that you be open to doing different things, constantly evolving.”
“We have a different business model,” Michael said. “You know, we hope that people will buy more than just a cup of coffee.”
At its core, though, Grampa’s Garden is more than one man’s coffee shop. It’s a partnership between siblings. While Grampa’s Garden café has been on Maine Street since 2019, Grampa’s Garden, the wellness company, was founded in 1993 by Jacqui Painchaud, Michael’s sister. Their partnership was her idea, originally.
“[Jacqui said] ‘in order to honor her brother, here’s a quid pro quo, you come back, organize your stuff, your coffees and your teas and we’ll open a shop that incorporates everything,’” Michael said. “So, that’s what we’ve done.”
For Michael, the most valuable reward of opening the café has been his time spent working with Jacqui.
“We surround ourselves with people who guide us into these areas [of fulfillment and exploration],” Michael said. “So my sister, for example, with Grampa’s Garden, has for 30 years produced a product that helps people feel better [and] helps people deal with life better. To honor that, I see the store as a billboard for her efforts. I have surrounded myself with the person who brought out the side of myself which I really didn’t know, and it’s been a good partnership. I work for her, and she’s the boss. I think it’s made us more aware of one another and more aware of our needs. [Running this business together has] made us honorable toward each other, I think.”
Their partnership’s success is based on a core mission that has remained firm since Grampa’s Garden’s founding in 1993: providing wellness to their local and national community. Jacqui’s original business began humbly, with only a few products.
“I started out with three hot packs, herbal massage oil and a beeswax lip balm,” Jacqui said. “I sold out my first local venue retail show and that night we had to go back and just keep producing at home to make it to the next morning. I didn’t start with a lot of capital, just a lot of passion.”
Almost 30 years later, there are now over 300 products, from the Moose Masseuse, to Bowdoin heated scarves. Jacqui expressed that her inspiration for the business stemmed from her background as a physical therapist and horticultural education at Southern Maine Community College.
Because of these health benefits, around 75 percent of Grampa’s Garden’s consumers fall within the medical field from hospitals, occupational physical therapists to chiropractors. While the focus has been the products for a while, the company is now exploring the marketing world with more online educational tools like podcasts.
Since its opening, Bowdoin student musicians have often used Michael’s café as a performance space. Thando Khumalo ’23 first performed in the space during an open mic night in 2021. The physical atmosphere itself was a huge draw for her choice to perform there.