Brooklyn to Camden, Maine
In Brooklyn Molly O’Rourke ran the famous Diner restaurant. She loved the fast-pace of the restaurant industry, the creative hustle cities require and her tight-knit community she had built. Yet, shortly after the birth of her son, her and her partner David began thinking seriously about leaving NYC and building a life for their family in the country. Seeing the struggle their friends with young kids were going through in the city; the expense of daycare, trying to get their kids into a decent school and rising rents, they knew that although they loved their life in the city they weren’t willing to stay and battle the odds. They didn’t want to sacrifice giving Amon a childhood filled with nature, freedom to explore and access to good public school options. Braving one of the worst winters in recent history, the young family moved to a rental in the summer town of Camden, Maine. There were several ice storms, blizzards and multiple days of freezing temperatures. The first few months they were terrified that they had made an awful mistake. Career options were bleak and they didn't know if they could continue to support themselves with David's quarterly magazine and part time work. Molly worked different jobs, tried on lots of hats and focused on figuring out how she could turn her passions into a viable business. After almost a year in the country by both design and necessity, Molly launched her floral and event design business. One & Supp combines her passion for floral arranging with her marketing, business and event planning background. She has filled a modern and youthful wedding vendor niche that her small town that was lacking and seemingly overnight become the ‘go to’ for brides getting married in Maine. (Click here to jump to her interview)
What inspired you to move to the country?
It was a mix of the personal and the political. As a young family and thirty-somethings working multiple jobs with no child care, living in the city just wasn’t an option for us anymore. We certainly couldn’t see ourselves affording to buy something there. As our son was turning one and preschool was on the horizon, it became pretty clear we should head somewhere more sustainable. Molly’s sister, Julie O’Rourke, moved to Camden a few years earlier and we had been visiting for a few summers. We really fell in love with the place and it seemed like Julie had found a nice community of talented people. We were feeling overwhelmed and decided to take the leap. It was a huge decision and change for us, but it was time!
Initially what was the hardest part about making the move? What challenges came later?
Just getting all of our stuff here felt hard enough! Being out of our comfort zone was really difficult. We had formed life-long friendships in the city with an amazing group of friends. If we went to a party, we knew everyone there. So it was hard to adjust to being the new kid at school.
What surprised you most about country living? Did it meet your expectations?
Everything was a huge surprise for me and still is (Molly grew up not far from here on the coast of Maine but my living history is Dallas > NYC > London > Back to Brooklyn at that point). It has definitely exceeded our expectations in so many ways. It’s funny, before moving we pictured living in a more rural setting, farther out, independent, etc. We ended getting a house a mile from town in a great little neighborhood. As people coming from the city, it’s a huge relief to be able to walk to town. It’s an incredibly high quality of life here, more so than we ever could have imagined.
What were the hardest things to get used to? What do you miss the most about the city?
I find myself missing the daily casual interactions with people and our neighborhood in Brooklyn. I miss the walking! In the city you can walk out your door and just create this impromptu plan. The city unfolds in front of you in a really amazing way. There are days when I really miss stepping out the door in the morning and wandering all day long, bumping into friends, eating meals out and lazing about in the park.
Would you ever go back to an urban existence?
If we suddenly have a ton more money we talk about the fantasy of spending at least part of the year in the city. Honestly, though, I don’t think we could ever go back to living in a city full time. We have already become so accustomed to the quality of life here.
What do you appreciate the most about life in the country?
There's a way in which living here as changed the way we parent and interact with our son. There was a day last summer when I was working in our little garden and Amon was off playing on his own in the yard. I had this striking moment where I realized that I hadn't been paying attention to what he was doing and had instead been focusing solely on weeding and enjoying the sun. It was such a small thing, but felt profound. In the city, as a parent, you constantly have your eyes on your kid. For better or worse, Amon had previously always been the focus of all my attention. And then in this moment I realized that I knew he was happy and safe and content and didn't need my eyes on him. I think being a parent in a small town setting allows for more separateness and independence, both for the child and adult. It's a really amazing thing!
What advice would you give to someone thinking of moving out of the city?
I made the mistake that a lot of people do when they leave the city, they tell themselves that they aren’t really moving, they’ll still be ‘based’ in the city, just living far away. In some ways you have to tell yourself that in order to make yourself do it. But once you get here, the reality becomes very different. I wish I had jumped in and embraced this new place more fully from the beginning.
When you go back to visit the city, what are the first three things on your to-do list?
Seeing friends, it’s what we miss the most. Especially seeing our son’s little friends (he’s 2 & ½). After that, we head to Diner (dinernyc.com) for a burger, Grand Central Oyster Bar for a cocktail, and to any number of parks.
Where do you draw your inspiration and passion from for your work?
Oh, from all around us! It changes daily! Lately?
1. Our son: he's so open and hilarious and smart and creative.
2. Our new record player: we've been without one for several years, so it's been really fun to dig through David's stack of records again. So many nostalgic moments listening to music that throws us back to another time and place!
3. Our Jerusalem cookbook: have you cooked from this book yet?! It's so good.
4. Our $4 flying saucer sled: we're embracing the outdoors this winter! It's the only way to get through it.
Have you noticed a change in yourself and/or your work since moving away from the city?
Definitely, we’ve noticed in a change in everything. By having more time to focus on what is important (instead of hustling to pay the rent, shop, and eat out more often than we should), we’ve really improved the quality of our marriage and ability to work as partners. There is no question that Amon has certainly benefitting from the move, it’s such a magical place for kids.
Walk us through a typical day in your country existence? How does it compare to the day to day in the city?
We just have so much more time, even little things like parking the car. You take that for granted in the country. But in Brooklyn it was at least a 20 minute search every time we wanted to park, which takes a toll on you, especially if you are working long hours in a restaurant. It still amazes me that there is a space for my car and my car only!
Amon and I stir around 7 and we all have family time and breakfast. David heads out to work at his studio in Rockland while Amon either goes to school or goes to the library. He works until about noon and then heads home for lunch. David hangs with Amon in the afternoon while I do One & Supp work. We all have dinner together every night, then it’s bath time and putting Amon to bed. If we're lucky we make it through an entire movie. It’s a nice little routine, we hope we can hold onto it.
Are there things that you are able to do here that you wouldn’t have dared to try before moving from the city?
Not necessarily, but the freedom to try things is definitely different here. There's an amazing support network for creative individuals and small businesses in this community, for which we are very thankful.
Do you have a specific space or place that helps you feel inspired?
I feel increasingly inspired by the landscape of our home and outdoor surroundings. I lost my mind every week at the Camden Farmer's market this past season - I bought SO many flowers from my friends at Sheepscot Flower Farm.