The Best Gift Store On the Shoreline – Defining “Want” and “Need” at MIX Design Store
by RONA MANN/Photos by Jeffery Lilly
Year after year during the eight wildly successful years they’ve been in business, readers of statewide magazines and those who vote on such things have proclaimed MIX to be “the best gift store on the shoreline.” No small statement, for if you travel the 107 miles that make up the Connecticut shoreline from west to east, you will find a very large number of gift stores, shops, and boutiques. But you will not – absolutely not – find one like MIX, so perhaps you’d best journey to the Guilford Green and see for yourself what’s in store that’s so unusual, whimsical, wonderful, and has everyone talking.
When partners Jennifer Cowie, Betsy Gribble, and Wendy Walden first came together at lunch nearly ten years ago declaring their love for the town of Guilford and their equal affection for retail, they did it all wrong according to those stuffy types who call themselves economists and business analysts, because the partners opened their store right in the beginning of 2008, just as then-President Bush declared the beginning of the recession. A mistake? Go see for yourself.
With the sound of jazz playing softly and unobtrusively in the background, one enters MIX wondering, “What exactly is this?” Before that question can be answered, the senses are assaulted…by the unique, the unmatched, the adorable, and the downright fun items found in this special place. It is absolutely no coincidence that the venue is a quintessential New England clapboard house, because above all, MIX is a design store; and although it is chockablock with gift items, so much of what they have centers on the home. Mobiles from Denmark hang from the ceilings, there is a line of Sea Salt soaps, candles, and hand cremes; colorful, fun bowls made from bamboo dust that are both food and dishwasher safe line up by color; delicate Chinese porcelain created using an ancient technique line the shelves, and magnetic lucite two-sided frames beg your attention. Don’t miss the veritable wall of Govino glassware fashioned of pharmaceutical plastic, perfect for patio or boat. Wine glasses, whiskey, proseco…they are unbreakable and unforgettable. If red wine is your passion, keep it well aerated and filtered with a flat top wine finer, then read the fine print with rubber LetMeSee readers and sun readers.
Do not ignore the Buddha Board, a gift you most likely have not encountered before. Here is a plain white board accompanied by a thin brush and a water supply. Dip the brush into the water and make a broad stroke, a small stroke, a bunch of squiggles, or anything you’d like on the board. Immediately a bold design comes to life, but wait just a few minutes, and watch your masterpiece fade into immortality, allowing you to brushstroke once again. It’s a wonderful gift for the artist, the dabbler, or just something to keep the kids quiet in the car. Want to try it before you buy it? Touching, trying, and picking up the merchandise is heartily encouraged here. And if Wendy, Betsy, or Jennifer happen by at the same time, they just might pick up a brush and play right along with you!
Tattoos are big right now, but if you don’t want to permanently sacrifice your skin to join the craze, MIX has Ink’d (con)temporary tattoos…not the usual, as the designs run the gamut from crazy cats to inviting vodka bottles. Zoo Lights, featured in the children’s area, delight both young and old with owls, bears, giraffes, elephants, and cats that combine both lamp and nightlight all in one.
Love a good puzzle, or have a friend in the City who enjoys them? Then how about a puzzle map of New York City, complete with subway routes. Complement it with
matching MAPkins found in the paper goods section where you’ll also find placemats fashioned from the N.Y. Times Food pages, notecards, pads, and even a blank journal, “My Quotable Grandkid,” just waiting for you to fill it when your kids say the darndest things.
Ready for a smile? Then you won’t want to miss the large display of Happy Socks for men, women, and babies. Whether it’s polka dots, animals, or perhaps a patriotic design, they’ll keep you warm and keep the compliments coming, as will the beautiful and unusual jewelry found in every price point throughout MIX. Especially notable on a recent trip were necklaces, earrings, and bracelets fashioned from piano wire, delicately entwined into memorable accent pieces. For a more casual look, throw on colorful Italian chunky bangle bracelets, ready to accessorize any outfit.
And you’ll find leather gloves that feel like butter, brush silk reversible scarves, unusual bags and clutches, including “the best wallets from Italy,” according to Betsey Gribble. “They’re called ‘mywalit,’ and once you own one, you’ll never want to buy anything else.”
The rooms beckon the visitor, eager to show off all they have to offer. Although there are always new treasures coming in, Gribble and her partners “keep ordering the more popular ones that always seem to fly out the door. We know our customers and what they like.” And if someone asks for something special, the women do their best to get it in store.
MIX is a shop that perfectly defines “want” and “need.” You may not need a single thing contained within, but you will definitely want item after gorgeous item. And so you will want to return again and again. Above all, MIX has worked hard to provide not just the “wow” factor, but the practical factor, with merchandise that keeps away from gag gifts and heads straightaway to the practical, yet unique. For women, for men, for kids, dogs and cats (MIX does a fundraiser each year; in 2016 it’s to benefit the local Dog Park), for wedding gifts and hostess gifts and just a reason to spoil yourself or someone special, you need to get in the MIX.
Of course you may not need it, but oh, how you’ll want it!
Come see what’s in store at 29 Whitfield Street, right on the Guilford Green
Navigate their well designed website at: www.mixdesignstore.com