Yet all good things must end. Today, the popular, vivacious, beloved unofficial mayor of Railroad Place announces she’s closing. She writes:
In a few weeks, the corner by the train station will be a little less lively.
There will be one less place to buy pillows, ceramics, plants, chocolates, pasta, copperware, cutting boards, hand towels and anything else you could want — all stashed in a reusable willow basket or hatbox, then tied together with ribbons, bows and twine that looks so lovely you hate to unwrap it.
Mersene has been unfailingly generous and supportive — to “06880” (the blog) and 06880 (the community).
Her closing leaves a hole in our community, and our hearts. Happily, she’ll still be here — online, and in pop-up shops.
So we’ll keep indulging, the unique Mersene way.
*Like Cher, Madonna and Divine, she needs only one name.
Mersene, with a small sampling of her many great items.
Michael Smith is an alert “06880” reader, a longtime Westporter and a financial advisor. He writes:
We all have choices to make. We should understand the impact of every choice.
The other day I read in the New York Times about a hardware store closing in Manhattan. Not exactly unheard-of in the age of the internet and Amazon.
It was by a Columbia Law professor who wrote a book on the impacts on small businesses in America, from increasing corporate influence and rising rents in wealthy areas of the country. That’s something worth considering, as residents of Westport.
All of our local businesses have 2 things in common. One is that they contribute to the tax base; the other is that they have some “ripple effect.”
Indulge by Mersene on Railroad Place is a very cool, funky — and thriving — local business.
The contribution to the tax base is obvious, but the implications from declining contributions to our town budget from the state level are becoming increasingly important.
It’s harder to quantify when you click “buy now” on the web, along with impacts on the environment from single-use plastics and our collective carbon footprint.
The other “ripple effect” — which is much harder to see — is the choices individuals and small businesses make from the standpoint of investment in maintaining or opening new businesses, and where to own personal real estate.
Last April, I attended a panel discussion sponsored by the Coalition for Westport which attempted to discuss some of these issues and develop awareness. That session highlighted the complexity of the issues and difficulties of making change a plurality can agree on.
More awareness and involvement would be beneficial, because at the very least it helps us all understand that we can make a difference by recognizing the impact of our choices.
Westport residents would do well to consider the long-term impacts on our tax base and property values from short-term decisions, such as where to buy light bulbs, screws, household items and clothing. These purely economic considerations play a large role in the broader concept of community.
Where do yhou buy screws or lightbulbs?
I advocate for all of us to make a conscious commitment to consider what item or substitute could be purchased here in Westport, or very close by, to help sustain the economic component of our community.
I have no personal interest in writing this. I am a 25-plus-year resident of Westport, and a financial advisor who understands the rapid and far-reaching dynamics of our global economy in the 21st century.
As I told my children when they were young; “Life is about choices. Make good ones.”
Indulge by Mersene is one of my favorite local stores.
No, make that one of my favorite places anywhere in all of Westport.
The fun, funky shop on the corner of Riverside Avenue and Railroad Place — directly opposite the train station — is crammed with eclectic, intriguing, one-of-a-kind items. It’s the go-to place for any gift-giving occasion; for adding zing to your own home; for gift-wrapping that will make you the envy of any party, and for the sheer delight of chatting with Mersene herself. (Her sweet Southern accent is reason enough to stop by.)
Indulge by Mersene on Railroad Place is a very cool, funky — and thriving — local business.
Indulge by Mersene is also one of the best places in Westport to buy “06880”-themed goodies. Pillows, pendants, blankets — if you can put our zip code on it, Merene already did.
Which is why I am honored that Mersene has made this coming Friday and Saturday “06880” days. She’s celebrating the 10th anniversary of our blog by donating 20% of all sales both days to “06880.”
Mersene’s warm, welcoming store is a joy to visit any day.
But especially so this Friday and Saturday. Did I mention they’re open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.?
Ryan Meserole owns a great business on Railroad Place.
Suited.co — recently rebranded as Quentin Row — is a men’s custom clothing shop. Directly opposite the train station, Ryan makes commuters (and many other folks) look and feel great.
A couple of miles away, Michael Connors has a thriving business too. Taylor Place — named for its location, between the library and Tiffany — is a consignment boutique, with an ever-changing treasure trove of intriguing items.
We often think of Saugatuck and downtown merchants as competitors. But Ryan and Michael forged a connection that’s a model for small local merchants, wherever they are in town.
Not long ago, Ryan wandered into Michael’s shop. He wanted some vintage pieces for his window display.
Michael already knew of Ryan from “06880.” The consignment owner asked the custom suit guy a few questions about marketing. Ryan helped re-build Michael’s website, and gave advice on how to leverage social media.
Michael — who has a wonderfully artistic eye — helped Ryan redecorate his storefront. He gave Ryan some sharp-looking furniture.
There’s now green ivy on the bricks, a new sign and alluring windows. Soon, Ryan will add a barber, stylists and shoeshine in the back, ramping up the men’s style vibe.
Quentin Row is going all out to be a great neighbor. Starting this Saturday, Ryan is opening up some of his newly renovated space as a holiday pop-up. For example, Lynn Reale of Gypsy Bleu Jewels will showcase her line of men’s beaded bracelets.
Artisans, craftsmen and other cool people interested in exhibiting at Quentin Row should email Ryan@suited.co.
Quentin Row also offers a Black Friday special (November 23 to 26): Buy one, get 50% off the second.
Michael and Ryan share a passion for Westport’s small businesses. Wherever they’re located in town, the 2 owners don’t want them to leave.
“The Chamber of Commerce helps where it can,” Ryan notes. “But 1-on-1 connections like this — sharing talents, helping each other — can really help revitalize Main Street, the rest of downtown, and Saugatuck.”
A vintage piece from Taylor Place, now on display at Quentin Row.
The idea is spreading. Ryan says that other stores on the block — like The Flat next door — are also freshening up their looks.
“If you don’t evolve, you die,” he notes. “We have to make sure that people enjoy shopping local.”
“No one wants to see a store like ours, or Michael’s — or Savvy + Grace, The Brownstone or Indulge by Mersene — go out. We all need to work together. And we’re having a great time doing it.”
The holiday season is here. Our local merchants work hard to draw shoppers in.
Now, they’re working together — to sew together our town.
Three years ago, Ryan Meserole opened Suited.co. The small shop offers high-quality, hand-crafted suits. Its Railroad Place location is convenient and — surrounded by neighbors like Indulge by Mersene, Sports Attic and a few restaurants — cool.
But small retailers have a tough time. And Commuter Coffee is just the latest business to announce it may close.
Suited.co, on Railroad Place
Ryan grew up in the fashion industry. It’s his life’s work. He’s amazed to see so many clothing stores fleeing Main Street.
He firmly believes that customers are here. However, he notes, “They won’t always come to you. Sometimes you have to go out and capture them.”
A couple of months ago — sitting in his shop, wondering why foot traffic has declined — he suddenly realized: People are now dropped off at the station by Uber.
“I can’t expect my window display to get customers in the door — even though I’m always complimented on it,” he says.
“But if I drove for Uber, I’d have my audience. And they’d be attentive.”
Ryan Meserole, in his Suited.co store.
It took him just a day to sign up to drive for the service. Almost immediately, he hit the road.
He wakes up at 5 a.m. He drives during rush hour, until 9 a.m. An hour later — the same as always — he opens Suited.co.
At his store, he reviews his passengers’ names and addresses. He sends them a personal note, with a gift card to see him and the shop “after our lovely little chat in the car.”
(It’s quite an incentive: a free custom shirt, or $150 off a Suited.co purchase.)
Ryan Meserole’s follow-up mailing.
Bottom line: Ryan’s sales are up nearly 30%. Plus, he says, “I’m being of service to my community. I’m expanding my customer base to Fairfield, Weston and Wilton. And I’m being paid by Uber to do it.
In his long retail marketing career, Ryan says, “this is the only campaign that ever paid me back.”
But he doesn’t need the Uber money. So he donates it to charity — a different organization each month. Most recently, it was the March of Dimes.
You never know who your Uber driver will be. That’s part of the intrigue of the app.
In Ryan Meserole’s case, that seems to suit his — and his driving/custom suit customers — just fine.
Today is National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day!
Chances are you either
about this auspicious event.
You can either
send a card or
click “Comments” below, to give a shout-out to your favorite Westport ma-and-pa stores.
And then you can do something really fun:
Actually go to a locally owned business, and buy something.
It’s their day!
I don’t play favorites. But if I did, I’d give a shout-out to Indulge by Mersene, on Railroad Place across from the train station. Here’s Mersene herself, with some of her many unique, amazing creations.
Now there’s another option. Mersene — the spectacularly creative, super-friendly and amazingly wonderful owner of Indulge by Mersene, on Railroad Place across from the train station — has added a number of local items to her eclectic, intriguing and ever-changing stock of unique finds.
A Westport t-shirt.
Some of them say “Westport.” Others (even better!) actually show “06880.”
An “06880” pillow.
Mersene has a wonderful eye, not only for what looks good but how to present it. (Check out her gift baskets!) Her Westport merchandise is fun and funky. No kitsch or schlock at all.
This silver tray is engraved “06880.”
She’ll ship anywhere. But if you live nearby — or are just traveling through — Mersene and her store really should be seen in person.
She puts the “oh!” in “06880.”
This pendant features a Westport map…
…while this blanket shows Westport’s latitude and longitude.
Sure, you could have blown off your family, friends and football, and spent Thanksgiving at a mall.
Or you could have blown off work and the kids, and spent yesterday shopping online, during the made-up holiday called “Cyber Monday.”
But it’s so much better to shop locally. So here — as Christmas creeps up on us, and Chanukah looms even closer (it starts Sunday!) — “06880” presents our 1st-ever Holiday Shopping Guide.
If you’re looking for something that says (or screams) “Westport,” consider:
“The Beautiful Pond.” This just-released book celebrates — in stunning watercolor and text — the historic, versatile and beautiful Sherwood Mill Pond.
A labor of love from Judith Katz and Robin Tauck — with all proceeds benefiting Sound Waters’ academic enrichment programs — it’s available at Barnes & Noble, Earthplace, and online here.
A restaurant gift card is always welcome. One of my favorite spots is Kibberia. Located on the Norwalk line, this unpretentious spot serves spectacular Middle Eastern food. Owner Nick Iskandar is one of the truly good guys, and deserves all the support we can give him.
A bit pricier — and like Kibberia, not always on everyone’s radar — is Positano. This summer the Scarpati family relocated from Old Mill Beach to the site of the old Dressing Room, next to the Westport Country Playhouse. It’s a beautiful space, with the same regional Italian cuisine and family atmosphere diners have loved for years. Mangia!
From Positano, stroll a few feet to the Playhouse. Gift certificates are available there too, for events from the 2016 season to the Family Festivities series and Script in Hand play readings. Too often, Westporters overlook this cultural (and very cool) gem.
Speaking of food, the Farmers Market (winter version) is open Saturdays, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Gilberties’ Herb Gardens on Sylvan Lane. You may not always think of artisanal breads and cheeses, meats, baked goods, seasonal vegetables and hydroponically grown salad greens as holiday gifts, but there’s also organic maple syrup, interesting teas, dog biscuits and the like. Hey, I’m just trying to offer some only-in-Westport choices…
The chainification strangling Main Street is thankfully absent from Saugatuck. That neighborhood is still home to unique shops. The funkiest, friendliest and most fun of all may be Indulge by Mersene. From her digs on Railroad Place directly across from the train station, Mersene (like Cher and Adele, she needs only one name) sells a melange of gifts. Local artisans’ works, gourmet foods, decorative pillows, jewelry, home decor — it’s all there. The owner is as much an attraction as her goods — and that’s saying something.
Mersene, with some of her many unique creations.
A couple of steps from Indulge by Mersene is Suited.co. This men’s store — offering custom-tailored suits, blazers and shirts — is a cut apart from traditional clothing shops. The fabrics and selections are both classic and hip. Suited.co is a little fish in a big sartorial pond, but definitely worth checking out.
You can add your own special organization to the list. I’m sure you’ve got other gift ideas too. I’ve only scratched the surface. Click “Comments” below, to share your favorites with the very giving, very generous “06880” community.
Bonus idea: Why not give “06880” itself? You’ll find items like these at the Westport Historical Society.
For over 60 years, Silver’s was Westport’s best-known go-to store for gifts.
For the last 3 or 4 years, Indulge by Mersene was Saugatuck’s less-known, but equally beloved, spot for funky, 1-of-a-kind gifts.
This winter, Silver’s closed. Mersene planned to shut her doors too. Westporters had no idea where they could now find a friendly owner with the knack for suggesting the absolutely perfect present.
Mersene’s special style is here to stay, on Railroad Place.
To the delight of her rabid — and quickly growing — fans, Mersene is still open. The incredibly ingenious, phenomenally generous Mississippi native has downsized, moving from 2 overflowing rooms to 1. But she’s still across from the railroad station. She’s still as energetic and creative as ever.
Now, as spring brings Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and graduations — to go along with timeless events like weddings, bridal and baby showers, and Sweet 16s — she is excited to fill Westport’s niche as the destination for how-did-you-ever-think-of-that?! gifts. (And — her specialty — gift baskets.)
She’s still on Railroad Place, because her customers could not stand the thought of her closing. They helped her figure out how to stay. And they’ve helped her add another wonderful niche: corporate gifts.
The other day, Mersene was busy filling baskets for a major Stamford corporation’s Administrative Professionals Day celebration. She was also preparing a Kentucky Derby-themed event for another big company.
As she selected wrapped items together with an ease Martha Stewart could only dream of, she mentioned other projects. For Mother’s Day, she’s designed special trays. They’ll include flowers, the Sunday paper, breakfast from Commuter Coffee Company — everything a mom could love.
A typical day: a customer browses (left), while Mersene makes sure all is well. Check out the Westport pillows!
(Here’s something else a mom — or anyone else — could love: pillows that say “06880.” Or “Westport.” Or monogrammed and/or custom-colored with anything else you can think of, from “Nantucket” to your alma mater.)
“It’s all about the packaging,” Mersene says, of her talent for pairing the exact right gifts with the perfect basket.
Anyone who steps into her shop for the first time recognizes that talent. She is the Lionel Messi of gifts — with even more grace than the famed soccer star. What other store owner happily delivers — and makes house calls?
Mersene’s renaissance has been aided by loyal customers, who help her manage the business side. She’s still not expensive — “I price things to sell,” she says — and she’ll still tell someone, “No, don’t buy that. I’m getting a better item next week.”
Mersene, with some of her many unique creations.
Which is why the “reinvention” of Indulge by Mersene is such good news.
Many people already know her. When a Los Angeles architect visited his sister here, he asked her for “the coolest place in Westport.” She took him to the little shop near the railroad station. He stayed for over an hour, fascinated.
And he still hadn’t seen half of Mersene’s presents, or how beautifully she presents them.
(Mersene ships her gifts — and delivers in the area. She also stages homes and galas. To learn more, click here; like “Indulge by Mersene” on Facebook; email email@example.com, or call 203-557-9410.)
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Or Zelle: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!)