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New shops come in as Mystic evolves

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Mystic — Downtown Mystic is on the upswing as the majority of empty storefronts that had popped up during the off season have been filled just in time for tourists to descend.

According to real estate broker Judi Caracausa, principal of Market Realty, only two storefronts are unfilled in the historic downtown market: one on West Main Street and another on Water Street. And they are both previously restaurant properties, she said.

Some shops, she added, have expanded their offerings, including The Oyster Club, Douglas Paquette Accessories, Hana Floral Design, Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream, Mystic Gem Co. and Cafe 511.

"The only problem with Mystic is there is not enough of it," Caracausa smiled during a recent tour of downtown.

One of the most exciting transformations in downtown will be the May 4 opening of Sift Bake Shop at 5 Water St., a French bakery that promises visitors a quick stop for coffee and pastries. But several other shops are either in the process of opening or have made the plunge, including Island Pursuit, a clothing store for men and women; Biologic+, a juice bar; Sage, a gift shop; Shen NY, a women's store, and Seabags, which sells beachbags, totes and accessories.

In addition, according to Caracausa, another juice bar is opening on Holmes Street, a wine bar is setting up shop on Broadway and the former CLAD building on West Main Street is under deposit with a June opening expected for a store yet to be announced.

Adam Young, former executive pastry chef for the Ocean House resort on Watch Hill, is opening the bake shop on Water Street in a building that had been vacant about a year. He plans to employ 18 people on both the retail and commercial side while offering about a dozen different styles of bread.

"Everything is high end and unique to the area," Young said on a recent tour.

He is hoping everyone who pops in will try three or four different products, including scones, torts, eclairs, muffins, croissants and other Viennoiseries, to use a French term for specialized baked goods. The store also will stock breakfast-type items such as quiche as well as sandwiches featuring local cheeses.

"We will happily satisfy any request," Young said.

The shop offers little seating except for a small conference area where, for instance, brides can explore wedding cake options. Young is hoping at some point to be able to have an outdoor area with cafe tables so people can sip LaVazza coffee and enjoy a treat.

"Mystic is just the perfect environment for something like this," Young said. "It was something we really wanted to be a part of."

Across the way, Sage gift shop owned by Pam Schroder opened last September, continuing the space's tradition of providing tourists with an easy stopover for gifts, including purses, jewelry and a host of nautically themed items.

"People love to come to Mystic and have something to take home," Schroder said.

Down the street at Island Pursuit, which is planning a May 1 opening, Yvonne David of Groton, who is expected to be part of the management team, and Mary Fouhy, who runs the company's store in Chatham, Mass., were conferring as shoppers walked by the 2,500-square-foot store.

Island Pursuit, which started in Sarasota, Fla., has five stores owned by Michael Valentino, including one in Newport.

"Resort towns is where his interest lies," Fouhy said. "It's a good fit."

The store will include men's swimsuits, belts, jewelry, name-brand sunglasses and accessories, among other items.

Shen New York across the street is another store with multiple shops around the country. Owner Carol Shen opened the 1,000-square-foot store earlier this month after successes in New York City and Fairfield County, and said she had to open for good when people showed interest in buying well before she had intended to start up.

Among the women's items on hand will be silk chiffon tops, hand-knitted cardigans, a wide array of lingerie and unique jewelry pieces. Shen, who will have limited hours this month before a full opening in May, said she designs more than 90 percent of the items herself.

"It's just the way Mystic is going," Caracausa said. "It's all going upscale."

Cheryl Santoro, owner of The Dress Boutique of Mystic on West Main Street that opened about a year ago, said she has noticed a definite turnover in downtown over the last year or so as some established businesses have moved on, replaced by others that represent a changing of the guard.

"I think that change is a good thing," Santoro said.

Even the items people ingest in downtown Mystic are undergoing a transformation if the new Biologic+ juice cafe that just opened a few weeks ago on Cottrell Street is any indication. The business, which started at the Velvet Mill in Stonington and continues there as well, adds a healthy element to the Mystic scene with its smoothies and other raw foods.

"It's been very busy," said Carlos Reyes, co-owner of the business. "It's been awesome."

Shops that have opened recently or are about to open in Mystic

Sift Bake Shop, 5 Water St.

Shen NY, 40 W. Main St.

Sage, 3 Pearl St.

Island Pursuit, West Main St.

Seabags, West Main St.

Biologic+, 12 Cottrell St.


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