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Martha Hug has never really been a fan of the grind of the retail business.
Despite that, her looming retirement after 31 years of running her successful downtown Mystic shop, Whyevernot, has not come without some tears. Hug tends to look at Whyevernot as a labor of love - an outlet for her creativity and artistic sensibilities.
Hug and longtime business partner, award-winning illustrator Pamela Zagarenski, have spent countless hours handpicking the eclectic mix of gifts, clothing, jewelry and arranging eye-catching displays that have delighted customers at her present location at 17 W. Main St. for the past 27 years. She first opened the shop on the Stonington side of the Mystic River before moving.
"We've put our hearts into it," Hug said. "We've had a great run. It just feels like it's time."
Hug, a longtime Stonington resident, said the genesis for idea of the store came mostly from her time abroad and love of "poking around" to find interesting items. She plans on remaining a part of the community but envisions more time for gardening and helping Zagarenski along in her new greeting card business.
The shop closes at the end of the month and dedicated patrons have already nearly picked clean the shelves.
"It's been a great anchor for downtown," said Paul Connor, a partner in Steamboat Wharf LLC, which owns the building housing Whyevernot.
"They will be sorely missed for sure, by us and the whole town," Connor said. "She had something for everybody."
Connor said Hug's decision doesn't appear to be related to some of the struggles downtown store owners have faced over the past several years during repairs to the Mystic River Bridge and a streetscape project.
"She just wants to do other things in her life," Connor said. "We'll do our best to find someone to fill that spot.
Tricia Walsh, the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce director of membership and communications and outgoing President Tricia Cunningham issued a joint statement about the closing.
"Whyevernot has been an anchor store in Downtown Mystic and will be truly missed by both visitors and locals alike. They have offered the community of Mystic a wonderful place to go for gifts, jewelry, clothing and excellent customer service along with a dose of creativity," the statement reads.
"We are happy for Martha and wish her well on her retirement and thank her for the many years she has called Mystic her home, we will be forever grateful to her for her commitment to Mystic!"
Zagarenski said she's "cried a lot," since the announcement.
"I care about this whole community. I feel like I'm losing my friends," she said.
She's bittersweet about leaving after more than 20 years at the shop. But the retail business demands long hours on weekends, holidays and summers.
"When everyone else is playing, you're working," Zagarenski said.
Zagarenski said she plans to dedicate her time to her art. She has already won two Caldecott awards for illustrations in the children's books - "Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors" in 2010 and in 2013 for "Sleep Like a Tiger." The Caldecott Medal and Newbury Medal are two most prestigious awards for children's books in the country.
More information about Zagarenski and her greeting card business, sacredbee, may be found at www.pzagarenski.com