Big change in Mystic real estate scene

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Mystic — A massive $11.5 million real estate deal involving four major properties here will leave a part-time resident with control of about a quarter of the downtown commercial space, including Steamboat Inn, Steamboat Wharf and buildings now housing such iconic stores as Mystic Disc, Green Marble Coffee Shop, the Mystic Army-Navy store and the Blue Horse children's clothing retailer.

The deal, consummated Thursday, also involved the 28,000-square-foot Gilbert Building and the 7,000-square-foot Maxwelton Building previously owned by John McGee, Wes Maxwell and Paul Connor. The new owner is Walter "Sonny" Glaser Jr., a seasoned entrepreneur from Cos Cob who summered in Mystic as a kid and has been a part-timer here for the past three years.

"I'm just one of those hard-working guys — I can't stop," Glaser said in an interview Friday at Steamboat Inn.

Glaser, who had sold his third-generation New York City elevator-parts manufacturing business GAL Manufacturing Corp. in 2017, said he approached the McGee-Maxwell-Connor group last June about the possibility of buying them out.

"It wasn't for sale," Connor said.

But by the end of the first conversation, both sides said they felt like a deal could be reached.

"We got to do it someday," McGee said. "It was a good match."

It was also a complicated deal involving historical buildings, the waterfront, docking rights and other issues. So the closing on the West Main Street buildings, at first contemplated last August, kept getting pushed back.

"The deal had a little bit of everything in it," Connor said.

Brokering the deal was Judi Caracausa, owner of Market Realty, who previously had helped both sides in real estate transactions. She said it's her biggest deal ever.

"I just kind of knew it was the perfect time for both of them," she said. "I guess I'm a real estate matchmaker."

The Maxwelton Building includes four apartments and two stores, while the Gilbert Building encompasses 32 apartments and nine stores.

Steamboat Inn is a boutique hotel on the Mystic River with 11 guest rooms and 170 feet of docking space currently occupied by the schooner Argia, and recently was named No. 1 bed and breakfast in Connecticut. Steamboat Wharf is an 18-unit condominium complex built in the 1980s with tri-level apartments, each with docking space included.

Glaser, a Cos Cob developer who is rehabilitating an 1855 house in his hometown, said he has no background in hotels but has significant management experience as head of a company with 800 employees and also has a background in property management. An avid boater, Glaser said he has long-term plans to relocate to Mystic permanently and will be here full-time during the summer.

"I came back to Mystic because of the deep emotional connection I have with the place," Glaser said in a statement. "I am thrilled that Paul, John and Wes have trusted me with their legacy in Mystic."

Glaser, who bought the buildings through the ownership group Steamboat Inn LLC, said he had no plans to make any immediate changes.

"Everybody's staying on," he said. " I'm not kicking anybody out. I'm not taking buildings down."

Glaser emphasized that history is important to him, and that he intended to honor the tradition that the previous owners brought to downtown Mystic through their more than 40-year partnership as Steamboat Wharf Company LLC.

"When we were introduced to Sonny and learned about his history with Mystic and his experience as a businessman, we knew right away he was the one we wanted to carry the torch," Connor said in a release announcing the sale.

Caracausa said Mystic owed a debt of gratitude to the previous owners for their stewardship of key downtown buildings.

"We are going to stay true to the endearing and charming essence of historic downtown Mystic," Glaser said in a statement. "I look forward to being able to play a bigger part in the Mystic community."

l.howard@theday.com

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