Children's stores fill void in Mystic, Stonington Borough
To walk into Mara Luna's is to see an array of clothing adorned with trucks and pirates, ladybugs and sharks, flowers and polka-dots, all hung between books and shoes and toys.
The store, which opened about a month ago, is in Olde Mistick Village at the site of the former Grey Goose Too.
When Teddy Bearskins left the village, Shaun Regan, owner of several stores in the village, and brother of property manager Chris Regan, saw a void.
"I had heard people walking around (saying), 'There's no kids' stores; there's no children's store,'" he said.
Shaun Regan was inspired in part by his paternal grandmother, Mary Regan, who ran a children's clothing store in New Haven County from the 1940s into the '70s. A photo of her store hangs above the cash register.
Continuing with the familial theme, he named the store for his niece.
Mara Luna's is not the only new children's store in the area: Bluebird Day has opened in Stonington Borough. Mara Luna's carries sizes birth through 5T and is geared toward infants and toddlers, while Bluebird Day carries clothing for kids ages birth-14.
For manager Kerry Fennell, working at Mara Luna's has been a much-needed change from her high-stress job as an international project manager for a higher education software company.
But before that corporate job, and before having three kids, Fennell worked for Shaun Regan in the village at Penguins Otters & Others.
With Mara Luna's, she and Regan are trying to appeal to different clientele, by offering organic rattles, items with beloved Disney characters and, in keeping with the character of Mystic, nautical toys. Clothing is typically in the range of $15 to $40.
Prices can run a little higher at Bluebird Day — at the site of the former Yellow House Coffee Shop on Water Street — with t-shirts for $24.50 and a lobster-print dress for $62.
Owner Hilary Hardaway carefully curates her collection and can talk about where everything was made and who made it.
She'll tell you about Thimble Collection, which carries clothing sewn by stay-at-home moms. She'll tell you about the doughnut- and unicorn-shaped sidewalk chalk from an art teacher in Philadelphia. She'll tell you about the hair clips made by a mother in Brooklyn, or the play capes handmade in Savannah, Georgia.
Like Regan, she opened Bluebird Day in part because she saw a gap in the local market after Teddy Bearskins closed. But she feels that between her focus on "accessible play clothes" and her catering to older children, the stores will have different clientele.
"The borough's kind of like a well-kept secret to some extent, whereas the village gets a lot more cross-traffic," Hardaway said, between people visiting Mystic Aquarium and Mystic Seaport.
Hardaway grew up in Mystic but spent about 11 living years living in Manhattan with her husband. After their first two children were born — they now have three kids, ages 5, 7 and 9 — they moved back.
While in Manhattan, Hardaway was a teacher for about three years, and then she worked in education policy for the Women's Refugee Commission. Her background as a teacher has made her want to sell products with an artistic or scientific bent rather than toys. She carries do-it-yourself kits for making bubble gum or cola, a wooden robot kit, and pencils and coloring books.
Hardaway understands that some parents don't want to invest in clothing when their children grow so fast, but she feels there are "times and places where it's nice to have stuff of higher quality," and that it's "an incredible miracle" that she has clothing that can last through three children.
And her store reflects her own shop-local values.
"There's a sense of community you get shopping in your own community," Hardaway said, "and I've just always had a desire to find things that are made on a smaller scale and also are unique, not mass-marketed."
Business: Mara Luna's
Where: Olde Mistick Village, 27 Coogan Blvd., Mystic
Owner: Shaun Regan
Summer hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
Business: Bluebird Day
Where: 149 Water St., Stonington
Owner: Hilary Hardaway
Summer hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
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