Westport Library officials anticipated a big crowd at their “transformation” opening last Sunday.
They just didn’t figure it would be so big.
After a brass band led hundreds into the new building at 11:15, they swarmed into the new space. People oohed and aahed over the Forum, the recording studio, the children’s section, art galleries and reading rooms.
And they lined up, 20 deep, for sandwiches, salads, baked goods and coffee in the new café.
By 1:30, the library had run out of food.
They called Mystic Market — their new partner. Barely half an hour later, the café was fully restocked.
Mystic Market’s popularity has grown steadily, since opening a couple of months ago in the old Blu Parrot/Jasmine/Arrow Charles Street site near the train station.
Now, library users far beyond Saugatuck are discovering the market’s magic too.
The new partnership “was meant to be,” says Heli Stagg, Westport Library retail and café manager.
As the library expanded, she’d searched for a new partner. Oscar’s was the first, when the small original café opened several years ago. After owner Lee Papageorge died, Gold’s took over. Both were “great,” Stagg says.
But with the transformation project nearly complete, the library wanted to offer more than basic salads and sandwiches.
Stagg had heard raves about Mystic Market’s prepared foods. When she met general manager David Griswold, the first thing he offered was a tour of their state-of-the-art kitchen.
Stagg was impressed. Serendipitously, the market’s owners — Mystic-based Coastal Gourmet Group — were there for a meeting. She invited them to the still-under-construction library.
A few minutes in, they told her, “We have to do this.”
“Their food is excellent,” she says. “We want a high-end vendor. And we want them to succeed. This is a win for both of us.”
Mystic Market is not the only café partner. SoNo Baking Company is in its 4th year providing baked goods.
As with Mystic Market, Stagg had heard good things about the Norwalk-based firm. When she met the owners — and tasted their food — she was sold.
With both companies, Stagg says, “we’re doing exactly what the library likes to do everywhere: make connections. We want people to enjoy the café, and learn about businesses they might not know.”
The transformed library has made one more connection: with Food Rescue US.
That’s the innovate group that uses an app to match supermarkets, restaurants (and library cafēs!) having leftover food, with volunteers who can pick it up and deliver to shelters, kitchens and pantries.
Now — like Westport Library patrons — they too can enjoy the Mystic Market and SoNo Baking bounty.