BELFAST — Sierra Dietz is bringing the Grasshopper Shop back to its Belfast roots. She will open a shop at 105 High St. later this year.

Bringing the store back to Belfast has been on her mind for a while, she said. She grew up in Waldo County and now lives in Belfast. She owns the Grasshopper Shop in Rockland and has been running it on her own for seven years.

The first Grasshopper Shop store was in Belfast, she said. Her parents, Ken Schweikert and Johanna Strassberg, bought the small shop,  which was primarily a magazine stand and bus depot for Greyhound, in 1975. The following year, they moved the store to a Main Street location and started expanding their inventory.

The parking area across the street from the Beaver Street public parking lot is filled with items from the Grasshopper Shop when it was open on Main Street in the ’70s and ’80s. Date of the photo is unknown. Courtesy of Sierra Dietz

Her parents opened a number of other locations in the following years in Camden, Ellsworth and Bangor, she said. The couple co-owned the Bangor shop with Schweikert’s brother and sister-in-law, Rick and Laurie Schweikert. The Bangor shop is now at the airport and owned by somebody else. It is not connected to Dietz’s family.

In 1989 her parents split up and the Belfast location was closed, she said. The Rockland outlet is the only one left of the original shops.

Dietz grew up in the Belfast store, she said. Her parents set up her playpen in the front window of the shop and when she was older she would spend afternoons there after school playing with the toys and annoying the salespeople.

Owner Johanna Strassberg stands in front of the Grasshopper Shop’s former Belfast location on Main Street in 1985 during the shop’s 10th anniversary. Courtesy of Sierra Dietz

Growing up, she had ambitions of her own, she said. So, she went off to study architecture in college and lived in Boston for a while, where she fell back into retail. That is when she realized she was good at it and came home to work in the family business in 2000.

She worked in the Ellsworth and Rockland stores for a while before buying her mother’s business partner out in 2005, becoming co-owner of the Rockland shop with her mother. In 2015, she bought her mother out and became full owner of the Rockland shop.

She always had thoughts of bringing the shop back to Belfast and after a record year of business in 2021, she was able to finally bring that vision to fruition.

“The business has sort of slowly been growing and it’s something that I’ve thought about for quite some time,” she said. “I live in Belfast and certainly it’s the community I’ve grown up in and feel the most connected to, although I certainly love Rockland as well, but the idea of having a store in Belfast again was very appealing to me.”

She thinks the pandemic has made people more aware of where they spend their money. “I think people have really made a conscious decision to support small businesses,” she said.

She hopes to open as soon as possible, and thinks the shop could be open by June, she said. It will offer similar items to the shop in Rockland. The Belfast space is about half as big as the Rockland space, so she has decided not to sell shoes, figuring that item is already available in other downtown shops. What makes the Grasshopper Shop different is the unique nature of its items and the variety offered, she said.

“It’s one store you can go to and you can pretty much get a gift for anybody,” she said. “… We can dress you from head to toe, we can help pick out a wedding gift, we can help pick out a birthday present, all of those things.”

Children’s clothes are one product line she is selling that she thinks not many other places in the downtown area offer, she said. She thinks that area of downtown is seeing a lot of growth, like the library, dance studio, Co-op and the United Farmers Market of Maine, and she likes the idea of being an anchor for that part of High Street.

“As the downtown has really filled up and there’s not a lot of empty spaces available, I think we’re seeing it grow a little bit outward from the few blocks you might think.”

She has received overwhelming support from those local and away on social media, she said. People who shopped at the original store as kids are excited for its return. She thinks the Grasshopper Shops have been an important business in Midcoast Maine for 46 years.

Right now she is just content with the idea of running two Grasshopper Shop locations, but is considering the possibility of expanding the shop in more areas throughout the Midcoast again in the future, she said.