From a fisherman’s stunning photos of life at sea to a tour of a famous writer’s historic saltwater farm — and even to time-tested maple syrup recipes — the thing that runs through all Yankee stories is what we call “a sense of place.” That feeling of familiarity, even if you’ve never been to New England before.
So when it came time to create a holiday cover celebrating the joy of Christmas on the coast, Yankee found the ideal partners right there in Kennebunk, Maine: Jackie Greaney and Paul Havel. Not only did they have a locals’ knack for finding the perfect setting, but they also already knew all about conveying a sense of place. Their popular Instagram feeds are filled with travel and lifestyle images that put you right in the middle of, say, a blue-sky summer day on Nantucket or a fall drive through Vermont.
Their lives are about much more than unforgettable photo ops, however. Jackie and Paul also run their own full-service creative studio in Kennebunk called Dock Square Studio, and more recently they opened up a vintage boutique, Seacraft, stocked with their favorite nautical-themed finds from antiques shops and estate sales. Between tending to their businesses, getting ready for the holidays, and planning the next trip with their beloved black Lab mix, Poppy, they made some time to share with Yankee a look behind the scenes. [Note: Though the answers to our interview were a collaboration between the two, for simplicity’s sake Jackie is the one speaking in the text.]
Jackie Greaney and Paul Havel for Yankee Magazine
Q: The theme for Yankee’s new holiday issue is “Christmas by the Sea.” Given that you two have been living in the Kennebunks for a few years now, how would you describe what it’s like to spend the holidays there?
A: It’s pure magic. The annual Christmas Prelude celebration transforms the entire area into a Christmas wonderland. A large tree is donated and set up in the middle of Dock Square, and (in a normal year) everyone comes together for the tree lighting and caroling. We’ve lived here for three Preludes, and twice it has snowed during the tree lighting — pure magic. The weeklong celebration includes adorable events like Santa arriving on a lobster boat, a “crazy hat” parade, group caroling and roasted chestnuts at the monastery, and holiday markets all over town. It makes for the sort of Christmas that you see in movies but never imagined existed in real life. Prelude was one of the reasons we fell in love with the area and decided to move here.
Q: A lot of us may be looking at celebrating the holidays a little differently in 2020. What are your plans for this year?
A: Normally, we travel to both of our hometowns for Christmas week — first to Ohio, to visit Paul’s family, then on to California to visit mine. We haven’t decided what we’ll do this year. We tend to make our travel plans at the last minute, and things still feel so variable with Covid. But leading up to Christmas, we’re planning to keep our shop, Seacraft, open and are really looking forward to decorating it for Christmas and helping our customers shop for gifts.
Jackie Greaney via Instagram
Q: What’s at the top of your Christmas wish lists?
A: We don’t really get too into gift-gifting for each other. However, Paul does most of the sourcing for Seacraft and every once in a while he’ll find something so amazing that he saves it as a surprise. Traditionally our Christmas “gift” to each other has been to take a little trip right after Christmas, just the two of us. The holiday season tends to be our busiest at our studio, and after all of our holiday travel it’s so nice to take a little break. The last couple of years, we’ve gone to Vermont’s Woodstock Inn, which is a top 10 favorite in any season. We love the spa and the fact that they have pet-friendly rooms, so we can bring Poppy.
Q: Where do you both hail from originally, and how did you meet?
A: I’m originally from Southern California and Paul is from the Cleveland area. We met through Instagram when we were both living in New York City. We had followed each other on the app for a while before finally meeting up for coffee. We started doing some shooting together and were friends for about a year before we started dating.
Jackie Greaney via Instagram
Q: What is it about Maine that made you want to move from New York to live there year-round?
A: When we lived in NYC we traveled a lot, and Paul would always ask, “Would you live here?” The first time we visited the Kennebunks together, we both agreed that we absolutely would. I went to college in New Hampshire and had been itching to get back to New England; plus, we had been considering leaving the city to start our animation studio, which we knew would require a bit more space. We visited the Kennebunks three times the year we made our move, and we loved it in every season. The decision felt obvious, and easy.
There’s a unique energy to living in a “vacation town” — we love the busy summers as much as we love the quiet winters. We love that seasonal restaurants mean that we get a chance to miss them when they close, and get excited when they reopen. And the dog-friendly beaches were also a major selling point for us. We like to go to the beach at least once a day to walk Poppy, and in the off-season dogs are allowed off-leash all day long.
Q: Is there anything about living in Maine that’s still taking some getting used to?
A: The only season we struggle with is spring. It feels very long and can still be very cold. Last year we got snow in April, and our trees didn’t fully leaf until June! Thankfully, our amazing summers are worth the wait. The give-and-take of the seasons reminds us not to take a single day for granted.
Paul Havel via Instagram
Q: When you host first-time visitors to the Kennebunks, what are some of the things you love to share with them?
A: We always jump into one of our vintage cars and take visitors on a driving tour of the area. Our favorite drive is through Dock Square, down and along Ocean Avenue, and then over to Cape Porpoise. The drive is such a great introduction to the area, and the fish houses in Cape Porpoise are so unique to Maine. In the summer, we love to stop at Langsford Road Lobster (where we shot the Yankee cover) and sit on the back deck overlooking the water with oysters or a tray of cut-up sushi-grade salmon or tuna. The Ramp is a year-round favorite, because its perch at the end of the Cape Porpoise pier offers beautiful water views no matter the weather. And then, of course, no trip to Maine is complete without lobster. We love the Clam Shack for a lobster roll lunch and Nunan’s for an authentic lobster-in-the-rough experience. When we have company, Paul likes to order the biggest lobster they caught that day.
Q: The client list for your Dock Square Studio is pretty wide-ranging, but it’s got a strong New England presence — from Dunkin’ and Cape Cod Chips to L.L. Bean and Vineyard Vines. As (relatively) new New Englanders, what’s it like to be working with brands that are so iconic here?
A: Dock Square Studio is our animation and photo production company. Paul is a stop-motion animator, and at Dock Square we primarily create animated video for companies to use on their digital platforms [see Paul’s witty take on the famous L.L. Bean boot, below]. We’ve worked with almost 100 different brands at this point, and with every video we create, we aim to adopt and reflect a brand’s look and feel. We’ve noticed that New England–based companies often appreciate an approach that is timeless, emphasizes the season, and captures a sense of nostalgia and/or history. We’re always have similar objectives for our own creative work, and it’s really fun to shoot for clients that have goals and aesthetics similar to our own.
View this post on Instagram
Q: You’re both big on Instagram (congratulations, Jackie, on hitting 100K!), as well as two halves of a creative team. Looking at what you each choose to share online, what do you have in common, and where do your strengths differ?
A: We produce almost all of our photos together, and our approach is very similar: We both love even light, plenty of texture, and bold colors. In terms of differences, Paul definitely has a “fewer, better” approach when it comes to sharing on his account. He doesn’t post stories much and will sometimes share a single photo from a trip that he feels sums up the whole experience — he likes photos that capture the “big picture.” I post more often (though not daily) and am more likely to share the smaller moments. When we are traveling, I’m always trying to tell the full story, from where we stayed and ate to who we met and where we shopped. We like to think that if people are following both of us, they appreciate both perspectives.
Paul Havel and Jackie Greaney for Seacraft Vintage
Q: You opened your retail shop, Seacraft, this past summer. What’s the inspiration behind it?
A: With Seacraft, we wanted to create a shop that would feel quintessentially Maine, and add to the experience of visiting the Kennebunks. The shop is a tiny little gallery of artifacts the things we love, things that we call “Coastal Curiosities.” We stock salvaged maritime goods, vintage clothing, framed oils, prints and postcards from the past, and an evolving docket of other one-of-a-kind treasures — all hand-picked by us, often on our travels up or down the coast. We’re planning to expand the concept in 2021 and have some fun things in the works!
Q: And finally… what are you most looking forward to in 2021?
A: 2020 coming to an end! And traveling again, we hope!
The post A Picture-Perfect Life in Maine | Q&A with New England Influencers Jackie Greaney and Paul Havel appeared first on New England Today.