Olde Mistick Village lineup varied as ever on eve of tourism season
Mystic — If the list of Olde Mistick Village’s newest tenants is any indication, Chris Regan is on a hot streak.
After all, as the venerable outdoor shopping venue’s property manager, it’s Regan’s job to maintain the place’s eclectic mix.
Try purveyors of beef jerky and Polish pottery and a Gothic-themed bookstore as well as an eight-chair boutique hair salon and a store whose owner insists she sells “stuff,” meaning apparel, accessories and gifts.
And then there’s a sixth outlet that defied the odds by opening during the COVID-19 pandemic and almost immediately did so well, it’s expanded into an adjacent space.
Two of the new stores — Manufaktura, the pottery importer, and The Bee’s Knees, the seller of stuff, have doubled down on Mystic, opening outlets in the village in addition to those it continues to operate downtown. Crop, the salon, moved to the village from a downtown location. And Alice’s Haunted Little Bookshop, situated next door to a sister store, the Alice in the Village tea room, is the owner’s third Olde Mistick Village outlet.
To some extent, the downtown and the village cater to different clientele, according to Regan.
“It’s a great advantage being right off the highway,” he said of the village’s Coogan Boulevard location near Exit 90 of Interstate 95. “But people want to go downtown, too. Everybody wants to see the drawbridge.”
Regan said the trick to keeping things fresh in the 40-store village, which opened Sept. 11, 1973, is to welcome new tenants whose sales won’t hurt those of the property's existing retailers. (Hint: Ice cream shops need not apply).
David Greenberg and his wife, Ellie, co-own Alice’s Haunted Little Bookshop, which opened two months ago. David Greenberg described it as a companion to the adjacent store, Alice in the Village, “an immersive Alice in Wonderland store” that opened in 2016.
“This is the opposite, representing the Victorian England side ... the creepy and Gothic side,” he said of the bookstore.
Ellie Greenberg also owns The Cloak and Wand shop that opened in the village a year ago.
From the bookstore, a “portal,” or window, in the wall separating the store from Alice in the Village is strictly one way. On the other side, in the other store, it’s a mirror.
David Greenberg said the bookstore’s shelves are stocked with fare that can’t be found where first-run books are sold. Chosen for their themes, some were best-sellers in their day.
The 950-square-foot store’s rare book section features selections the Greenbergs’ team picked up at auctions, including “Thirty Years of Hell,” published in 1904, and “Graham’s Magazine Collection” from 1844, which contains an original Edgar Allan Poe poem.
Where else, David Greenberg asked, are you going to find a copy of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” on a shelf opposite “Fancy Coffins To Make Yourself” and “How to be a Dictator"?
Alan Kruger and his wife, Elle Englander, own Manufaktura, which imports stoneware made in Englander’s native Poland. The store opened May 7.
Englander and her mother started the business in 2004, her husband said, first opening a warehouse in Enfield. In 2019, the owners of the factory that produce the pottery visited the United States, including Connecticut’s shoreline, New York City and the Coast Guard Academy, where Kruger works as waterfront director.
Subsequently, Manufaktura opened stores in Watch Hill; Mashpee, Mass., on Cape Cod; downtown Mystic; and finally the 1,330-square-foot one in Olde Mistick Village.
Kruger said the pottery, made of clay, is prized for its durability and can be placed in dishwashers and microwaves.
“It’s a small, niche product that no one else produces, reasonably priced and of high quality,” he said.
Bethany Perkins, owner of The Bee’s Knees, said her 1,600-square-foot store in the village, which opened last week, is four times the size of her downtown store.
“This gives us the chance to expand,” she said.
Perkins said Mystic is “bursting at the seams” and that she welcomes the ample parking available in village lots, a far cry from the downtown situation.
“Parking is great here, the crowds are great,” she said. “I look forward to hosting events — trunk shows, local artists. ... It feels like home.”
With 1,500 square feet, Crop has three times the space it had at its downtown location next to The Whaler’s Inn, according to Shannon Hanrahan, who co-owns the salon with Lisa Van Kruiningen. She said they plan to add a facialist to do makeup, and will start giving massages.
“The increase in visibility has been fantastic,” she said of the salon’s move to the village, where it opened April 6.
Tim Kinnally, co-owner of Beef Jerky Experience, was wielding a paint brush Friday in an attempt to open at some point over the Memorial Day Weekend.
Kinnally, a retired firefighter whose partners are his brother, Michael, and Cory Leggeiro, have opened Beef Jerky franchises in Latham and Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; Merrimack, N.H.; and Lee, Mass., and expect to fit right in with the Olde Mistick Village mix.
He said the 1,500-square-foot store will have the feel of a specialty grocery store, and will sell all kinds of jerky and meat snacks, wild game, dog treats, popcorn and peanuts. Bugs will be available, too, including chocolate-covered ants.
“Ninety percent of what we do is jerky,” Kinnally said.
A recent Olde Mistick Village success story, Pat and Kim Roche opened Make Your Mark Customizations in November 2020 and since expanding occupy 2,500 square feet.
“We soon realized one unit was not enough,” Kim said. “We needed storage space.”
The Roches customize all kinds of merchandise, including tumblers, growlers, glassware, trophies, awards, skateboards, beer-tap handles and T-shirts, to name a few. Their customers include schools, fire and police departments and the Navy.
“People really don’t know what we do when they come in,” said Kim Roche, the shop’s designated “master of all machines,” including two laser engravers. But once they find out, many are hooked.
“Word of mouth has been tremendous for us,” she said.