Alex and Dunia are residents of Portland’s Rosemont neighborhood and parents to two sets of twins, ages 4 and 10 months. They both are native New Englanders, Alex from New Hampshire, and Dunia from the suburbs of Boston.
When looking to return back to their New England roots from Brooklyn, NY, Alex and Dunia were deciding between Burlington, VT and Portland, ME. They loved the idea of a fun city filled with restaurants, bars, and like minded people. Ultimately, they were drawn to the working waterfront that colors the city of Portland. As Dunia puts it, “you can tell that people value hard work here.”
At first, Alex and Dunia were apprehensive about making the move from Brooklyn to Maine due to uncertainties about how their careers would look. Dunia was able to work with her job to maintain her career in the New York fashion industry while living 300 miles away in Maine, “I could leave our house at 5:30 in the morning, drive 7minutes to the airport, and be in a conference room in Midtown Manhattan by 8:30am,” she remembers.
As the owner of two small businesses — Hopsie, a fundraising platform that supports nonprofit organizations, and creative digital agency side•sea — Alex decided to move both operations to Maine. “Because the cost of living in Portland is significantly lower than in New York, and the talent pool strong, we could scale very quickly,” he says. They were able to set up shop in Monument Square and have staff working both locally & remotely across the world. Another perk of the move to Portland was the lack of traffic in the city and the ability to access all the beauty the state of Maine has to offer. “We used to sit in an hour of traffic to go 3 miles on the BQE (Brooklyn–Queens Expressway), and now 3 miles takes 3 minutes!
Ultimately, it was a serendipitous phone call from Alex’s cousin, Travis, encouraging them to come live in the bottom floor of his multi-unit in Woodfords Corner that cinched the move to Portland, ME. “The superficiality we saw in New York City melted away and the authenticity of Maine was so apparent and refreshing,” says Dunia.
When asked about the transition of living and working in Maine, Dunia says “moving to Maine was a very humbling experience. Maine’s not going to hand you a hot lunch or dinner on a platter, you’re going to have to put together the pieces of your sandwich on your own. There’s a certain hustle to Maine that you don’t find elsewhere. The industries are small and people value hard work and local knowledge. When you move here from out of state, you are ‘From Away’, respect the existing lifestyle and work a bit harder to forge your way in.”
For Alex, he found that being an entrepreneur with a mission to help the greater good of the city benefited his transition. He created Hopsie with the mission to create a low-cost, highly accessible platform for organizations that are dedicated to making the world a better place. “I was greeted with a greater appreciation and was put on the fast track to being welcomed as a token Mainer because of my work to help the state,” he says.
The juxtaposition of New York City and Portland was not lost on Alex and Dunia when they arrived. They found that the smaller size of the city’s population was way more manageable and offered them opportunities they would have never had before they moved. As an activist, Alex values the ability to meet with top decision makers in the state government, which is nearly impossible in NYC. “They say that Maine has two degrees of separation in the state. I have definitely found that this is true,” he says.
Alex and Dunia love the fact that Portland serves as a wonderful microcosm, albiet genuinely unique,to it’s big city counterparts. They enjoy having all the amenities of living in an accessible neighborhood, while still being able to live in a city atmosphere. As Alex puts it: “We can hang out in our big backyard with our kids one night and the next we can Uber into town in under ten minutes and have dinner at some of the best restaurants in the country.”
Another thing they love about their home is it’s price point. After making the transition from New York to Maine, they noticed a dramatic decrease in the couple’s cost of living. As owners of a multi-unit in Rosemont, Alex and Dunia are responsible for a mortgage payment, that is mostly covered by their tenants, and $450 less a month than their small Brooklyn apartment had been. “The increase in home value in a short period of time has been a welcome perk as well”, says Alex.
Alex and Dunia have built a great community in Portland’s Woodfords Corner neighborhood. Just minutes from their house you can find their family dentist, their favorite neighborhood restaurants, and a handful of coffee shops that Dunia visits frequently. “I was able to meet a lot of people just by working at Little Woodfords and Rwanda Bean remotely a few times a week,” she says. The cherry on top of their life in Portland is the fact that both the beach and world class fly fishing are twenty minutes away.
A piece of advice Dunia had to those who are looking to plant their roots in Portland was to channel the authenticity of those who were raised here. “If you come honestly and openly ask for help from the community, people will do whatever they can to help you,” she says. “The culture of helping out your neighbor is a huge part of the Maine experience. The state has its own community and culture that supersedes the individualistic circles we were used to seeing in New York.” Dunia found this particularly true when she and Alex were expecting their first (of two!) set of twins. She relied on the parenting classes provided by BirthRoots and made connections with other new moms through the Greater Portland Mothers of Multiples Club, where she now sits on the board. Alex provided potential Portlanders with some more straightforward advice: “It’s hard to find a plow guy, and March is tough, but hang in there, and you’ll see what beauty the State of Maine and the City of Portland have to offer.”