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Looking for a way to get through the dark months ahead? Maggie Campbell, head distiller and president of Privateer Rum in Ipswich, wants to help—while also boosting a bevy of local makers.  

“Everyone’s getting the sense that winter is going to be really difficult,” says Campbell. The usual New England doldrums of shrinking daylight hours and inhospitable weather, combined with the coronavirus pandemic continuing to keep people from socializing, add up to a situation that even the toughest among us are not looking forward to. 

Stocking a few bottles of Privateer’s rum is a good start—it has been celebrated by critics as a product that can stand with some of the best rums in the world. Certainly, the rich notes of molasses mingling with a touch of brininess from aging in barrels so close to the salt marshes can bring comfort.

But Campbell wanted to go beyond just her handcrafted product, and brought in other local makers to create a bimonthly boxed offering she’s calling a CSA, because it is paid for ahead of when it is picked up, guaranteeing income for the small producers.

This North Shore focused hug-in-a-box always includes a bottle of specially selected rum, naturally, alongside a rotation of artisan products you might not even know existed. Like Choate Island Sea Salt, harvested in Essex by Salters Point Provisions in Beverly. Or votive candles made from local beeswax by Beverly Bees. Or soap made by Campbell herself, scented only by their Queen’s Share Rum. “I have a lot of hobbies,” Campbell says with a laugh, explaining that she made the soap because, working in the food industry, she washes her hands many times a day. “And rum is literally the only thing I want to smell.”

Campbell is not planning a side hustle, although her soap was included in their first CSA box, distributed in early October. Many of the other makers included are people Campbell has discovered since the pandemic shutdown, which has given her more time to thumb through social media. 

“We’ve gotten to know so many other business owners in the area in a different way because all of the stuff that has happened,” Campbell says. Business owners like Jess Wagoner, an Ipswich resident who spent 10 years honing her bread-baking skills at A&J King in Salem before launching her own instructional baking and consulting business.

“I just kept seeing Jess’s Instagram and a lot of the special stuff she creates,” says Campbell, explaining that lead her to team up with Wagoner for a Bakers against Racism event this past spring, selling goodies from a stand on Wagoner’s front lawn. And Wagoner was one of the participants in the “Winter Warmer” box, which went on sale from November 15 to the 25, for pickup December 11 and 12.

The box augments a creative trend Campbell has seen across the North Shore, as artisans explore different ideas of how to pivot their businesses to reach customers, as farmers’ markets, crafts fairs, and many shops remain closed or limited. 

“The Privateer Rum CSA is giving people the opportunity to try local goods that they’d ordinarily be able to find at [now] canceled seasonal festival events like Olde Ipswich Days or the Strawberry Festival in Topsfield,” says Jeannine Selig of Salters Point Provisions, who provided the Choate Island sea salt for the October box and also makes a line of body products. “The loss of these weekend events has been a huge hit to artisan businesses that don’t have the reach to support a brick-and-mortar storefront. At the same time, the box is allowing small business owners the opportunity to introduce the community to our offerings.”

In addition to baked goodies, the winter box included spices for hearty winter dishes from Curio in Boston, Little Wolf Coffee, chocolates made with Privateer from EH Chocolatier in East Cambridge, and a mug made by a local pottery artist. A Bonfire Box will be offered in January/February, ideally complementing the town bonfires that are such an iconic part of North Shore winter.

At $89 for the first box, Campbell notes that it’s an affordable luxury, especially for locals, because the box is available exclusively at the distillery.

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