Sea Bags continues to expand, but cautious about the US economy

Sea Bags, a Portland-based maker and seller of bags and accessories made from recycled sailcloth, has up to 44 outlets after opening its seventh store in Michigan.

The new branch, in the town of Grand Haven on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, is Sea Bags’ largest store in the state, at just over 2,000 square feet.

Closer to home, the company is gearing up to open its second store in Portsmouth, NH next week.

In addition to Portland, where Sea Bags also operates a small outlet store on Custom House Wharf, Sea Bags has Maine stores in Bar Harbor, Boothbay Harbor, Camden, Freeport, Kennebunkport, Ogunquit and Rockland. The company manufactures most of its products in South Portland and currently employs 222 people in 14 states.

“In terms of growth and expansion plans,” CEO Don Oakes told Mainebiz, “we’ve been busy accelerating growth and production in anticipation of a strong summer. Now we’ll have to wait and see if people will be traveling so much this summer and whether they’re in the mood to spend money given all the negative news about the economy.”

His caution comes as national gasoline prices continue to rise after topping $5 gallons and after the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 75 basis points on Wednesday. It’s the biggest increase since 1994, with Fed Chairman Jerome Powell signaling another big move next month to get inflation under control.

Oakes, who has run Sea Bags since November 2013, was honored as Mainebiz Business Leader of the Year 2022 in the large business category.

Earlier this year, the Milo native told Mainebiz that when scouting for potential new retail locations, Sea Bags looks for waterfront locations in ports, harbors and, more recently, the beaches, as well as character buildings.

“We are in places where people like to visit and vacation,” he said. “We think it’s the perfect time to get to know our brand and learn about our products.”

Sea Bags has stores ranging from Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., where it has two locations, to Key West, Florida, to Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.

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