The Black Box Welcomes Strata, New England’s First Japanese Whetstone Sharpening Service

PORTLAND, Maine (January 23, 2019) - The Black Box on Washington Avenue, Portland’s first retail incubator located in repurposed shipping containers, is excited to welcome New England's first professional Japanese whetstone sharpening service and specialty cutlery store, Strata, to its storefront lineup.

Under the leadership of Evan Atwell, Strata has built up a passionate customer base by providing whetstone sharpening services to professionals chefs and home cooks, as well as woodworkers and straight razor enthusiasts since spring of 2018. The Japanese whetstone sharpening method is a time-tested process that yields the greatest variety of results by using sharpening stones of different grits based on the desired goal - from low grit coarse stones that give ‘toothy’ edges with bite, to very fine grit stones to refine and leave a very keen edge. Using dozens of the highest quality natural and synthetic stones from around the world, Strata hand-tailors each edge to produce the sharpest and most durable finish.

“After struggling with the idea of signing a typical three to five year lease for classic storefronts, I thankfully found The Black Box,” said Evan Atwell, owner of Strata. “The Black Box offers an incredible opportunity to get your dream business up and running, and to share your passion with customers that initially seemed impossible. I think my unique products of cutlery and superior sharpening services will mesh perfectly with the diverse lineup of businesses and ideal location of The Black Box, as well as the rich food culture in Portland.”

Beyond sharpening, Strata’s storefront will showcase a wide variety of handpicked culinary knives from around the world as well as a variety of locally made accessories: handmade knife rolls, aprons, cutting boards and more. While Strata will first focus heavily on offering kitchen cutlery, the business plans to expand inventory to sell more tools like straight razors, outdoor/hunting knives and woodworking tools. The business goal is to be as approachable as possible for all types of customers while still focusing on quality, offering well-made knives and tools for all budgets and skill levels.


“Strata is the first professional Japanese whetstone sharpening and specialty cutlery store in all of New England,” continued Atwell. “I'm really excited to add to and support the amazing food scene here in a unique and fundamental way.”

With a soft opening scheduled for Friday, February 1, Strata will offer its sharpening services and specialty cutlery products in The Black Box at 93 Washington Avenue. Strata will be opened Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; closed on Monday.  

Follow Strata on Instagram for opening and product and services updates, or visit the website at to learn more about the Japanese whetstone sharpening process. Additionally, a web store for products will be launched in the upcoming weeks.

The Black Box leases are designed with flexibility in mind to accommodate business owners who want space to test a concept or provide street-front retail space without a long-term commitment.

Read more about The Black Box concept and grand opening here.

About The Black Box

The Black Box offers unique and flexible retail space in Portland, Maine's East End, in the heart of inner Washington Avenue. The single-story structure is built using repurposed shipping containers. Each of the five units is approximately 300 square feet, offering move-in ready space and 8’ wide double glass doors off the sidewalk. For more information, visit or follow the journey on Instagram or Facebook.

Jake Edwards