A Lovely Day in the Neighborhood
Mashpee Commons has long been a model of how to do business; a concept not lost on the over 50 women-owned businesses found in the bustling complex.
On Cape Cod, one tenet which has been universally accepted and understood is: Women MEAN Business.
Nowhere is that more evident than the innovative and award-winning enclave of retail, dining and professional space offered by Mashpee Commons. Originally conceived by Buff Chace in the early 1980s, the mixed-use collection of businesses and living space has grown into a microcosm of small-town New England. Store fronts at the street level beckon visitors and neighbors inside for a closer look, scents of baked goods; hot, coal-fired pizza; French delicacies; and Italian specialties entice diners to grab a table either inside or al fresco along the rich people-watching sidewalks and squares that dot the landscape. Upper levels of the varied architecture throughout the development provide valuable residential rental space as well as suites and offices for professional businesses.
Sarah Chace, Buff’s daughter, is at the helm now; a fitting leader given the leagues of businesses owned and operated by women. Sarah says she sees The Commons as a perfect intersection of opportunity and innovation, especially for women, due to the clientele The Commons easily attracts. Second homeowners, retirees, couples and families are all in the hunt for exactly the type of businesses and services Mashpee Commons deliberately pursues and enlists to create the well-rounded, interesting, and on-trend mix.
Shopping is by far the number one pursuit for visitors to The Commons, and whether you are searching for the perfect gift to celebrate anyone’s birthday between one and 80, a housewarming or hostess gift that will truly be appreciated, or simply that special treasure that marks a moment in your life or the life of someone you love; there is a destination just waiting for you. For example, The Art Coddage, a local art and gift boutique, was the inspiration of three hard-working artists– all women–who had become friends through the many arts and crafts shows they had attended over the years. Linda Keough, Tara Ring and Elisa Sullivan collaborated and cast the net to include a handful of other talented artists in what started as a short-term pop-up during the holiday season in 2019, and now has a permanent home across from Bobby Byrne’s Restaurant & Pub. “We were so lucky,” says Elisa Sullivan. “At every point along the way, things have just worked out. We had all worked to make items to sell at shows, and then with COVID, there were no more shows, so if we hadn’t done the pop-up and then the store, none of these artists would have had a platform.” Luck may have had a hand in creating the opportunity, but Sullivan is humbly neglecting to credit the synergy the three women each bring to the business, making it a very special destination. Unlike other collectives that feature individual artists, the display and flow of the space (credited to Linda Keough’s talents) presents each artisan’s work in an engaging and thoughtful way. The Art Coddage is almost guaranteed to satisfy your list for those hard-to-buy-for individuals.
Another destination for thoughtful gifts and art with a story is the Wampanoag Trading Post & Gallery. Danielle Greendeer and Paula Peters decided to open the unique shop/gallery in the summer of 2020. Both women are members of the Native American tribe and recognized the lack of authentic native art in traditional retail businesses. The gallery offers art in a variety of mediums and specializes in wampum artists. “Everyone is native, and everyone has a different style, and we probably have the largest selection of native-made wampum pieces,” Greendeer explains, while noting the difference between wampum crafted and sold by Native Americans who recognize the historic and intrinsic value of the beautiful shells, as opposed to anyone else who picks it up while beachcombing and crafts it into something attractive. If you are looking for items and gifts with meaning and history, look no farther. Books are always a good gift, for you, or for someone else. The Market Street Bookshop in the fountain square has fiction, non-fiction and locally relevant subjects including many by local authors. Owner Cynthia O’Brien will assist in finding your next journey between the pages of a new adventure.
An additional culturally important and intriguing store is the new Manufaktura Factory Store which sells colorful and durable stoneware from Poland. The history and diversity of the region where the pottery was first conceived seems to be represented in every piece, even as it is still created today. Their place settings and serving dishes make perfect accents for any Cape Cod home. Next door, Beyond the Barn Boston has plenty of home accessories, gifts and necessities for any home where light, clean, comfortable aesthetics set the stage. Neutrals rule in this sophisticated space, proving that they make the perfect staples and backdrop for any design. Woodruff’s Art Center on North Market Street, across Route 151, is the place not only for art supplies and framing, but also intriguing and evocative local art. Amy Rice, an artist in her own right, understands and supports a variety of local artists with an ever-changing exhibition, making the shop a must-stop throughout the year.
If color and variety is your thing, fabVilla in the Central Square between Steeple and North Streets, has sumptuous linens, serveware, art, accessories and so much more. Almost everything in the store appears to have been chosen with the universal intent to make you smile and feel good. Bhawana Chitkara opened the shop in 2019 after a successful career in banking, and says she doesn’t consider herself an “owner,” but rather a conduit for the large variety of businesses she deliberately partners with. “I definitely look for the culture of the company, how it is that they run their business, and how they interact with other small businesses. I gravitate toward local artisans and businesses that are invested in their people, their product and their reputation,” Chitkara explains. Her keen eye for finding something just a little bit different is what keeps customers coming in to see an ever-changing array of gifts, and home accessories.
On the bustling corner of North Street, The Lili Pad presents an in-depth collection from the popular whimsical home accessory company MacKenzie-Childs. Always in season, the iconic black and white checkerboard ceramic pieces are instantly eye-catching and soul uplifting. During the holidays, a spirited collection of Patience Brewster ornaments make a splash while they last. Some people feel that fresh flowers and plant material is a luxury in your home. Verde Floral Design’s owner, Hira Rafiq, would debate that point to a successful conclusion. Rafiq purchased the established shop in January 2021, and never expected to find such joy in running a business; despite the challenges over the past year. “We celebrate here every day,” Rafiq shares. “Last year was exceptional. After the quarantine and so many closures, people were ready to celebrate and experience happy and beautiful things. We fit perfectly into those goals.” The shop creates stunning floral and plant arrangements for your home or any occasion you can dream of.
Shopping at The Commons is a multi-layered adventure. Not only are there gifts and home accessories for every taste and occasion, there are many specialty stores as well. If jewelry is your thing, Unique Boutique on North Street earns their name with every piece they offer. Owner Karen Galvin opened her first store almost 30 years ago and has been an anchor in The Commons since 2000. She knows what her clients want and works with the talented designers she represents to continually offer new and fresh takes on fine jewelry. Fashion-forward individuals will find a variety of vendors who have curated a selection you won’t find elsewhere. Katherine Liatsos, who owns Katherine on Steeple Street, has concentrated her collection of high-quality women’s clothing, casual jewelry and accessories as she focuses solely on her Mashpee Commons location. Some unique and well-considered home accessories such as books and candles, round out the one-stop shop. Across the street, Day Off Lifestyle Store celebrates the casual vibe a weekend on the Cape demands. Perhaps since the store is owned by a mother-daughter team, mothers, daughters, aunts and nieces will all find something comfy, cozy and cute in the many lines of clothing, jewelry and accessories, and the best part: there is a price point for everyone. Ashley Irene Boutique is a new entity with a intriguing space on North Street. Owner Ashley Irene believes clothing should be empowering and energizing, thus making the person wearing it feel comfortable and attractive; despite size. Believing that fashion comes in every size, her enthusiasm and expertise in finding the right style for anyone is building a strong, loyal client base. Cape Cod Fashionista, also on North Street, is a new tenant at The Commons and offers consignment clothing for women, some hand-picked retail pieces in a range of sizes, and an extensive American Girl Doll selection for purchase or consigning.
Central Square is home to three women’s clothing destinations owned by women. Paisley Boutique’s, co-owner Lisa Foley says she and her partner wanted to open a local boutique where you could find the best looks, paired with the best service. “I think as women we tend to be hard on ourselves, particularly when it comes to fashion. So if we can make someone feel confident and comfortable as we strive to create an inclusive environment, the rest will fall in place,” she says. Across Central Square, Port Cargo sources reasonably priced, imported casual fashion with an accent on comfort. Purple Poppy has been a staple at Mashpee Commons for decades. Serving generations of women, their smart and colorful fashion fits the bill for whatever a Cape Cod day has in store.
Ooh, Ooh Shoes sells, well shoes, and so much more. Purses, accessories, special occasion dresses, suits, jackets and slacks will solve the question of, “What do I wear to…?” And if something doesn’t fit perfectly, Common Thread Alterations tucked into the alley near Bleu Restaurant will make your off the rack suddenly couture. And for the last detail to really make an entrance, Sol Optics stands by their commitment to quality sunglasses where you can trust the brand names, feel confident with any repairs and know that you are getting a fair price.
There are plenty of specialty fashion destinations throughout The Commons that cater to specific events, activities or milestones. Head Over Heels Bridal has couture dresses for your very special day as well as fashion for the other members of your party. Accessories and attendant gifts round out the specialized offering found in the tasteful boutique. Fox + Kit, a charming children’s clothing store, has everything needed for babies through age 6. Fair warning: this store is a grandmother magnet! For the tweens, teenagers and twenty-somethings (not to mention the casually young at heart), All Good Cape Cod celebrates the tee shirt and sweatshirt moments we all indulge in on Cape Cod; what is better after an early season sunburn as the nights are still cool, than a soft, snuggly Life is Good sweatshirt? And the family pet is never forgotten at The Commons, which sees four-legged family members enjoying the walkability of the complex on a regular basis. Hot Diggity on the corner of North Street and Central Square is owned by Ashley Lancaster who puts her love of animals and high-quality food, treats, accessories and toys at the forefront. This charming, pet-friendly store should be on everyone’s destination list who has a furry family-member in their world.
The options for heading to the beach don’t get better. Summer Sky Swimwear has a newly expanded location on the corner of Steeple and Greene Street. Their extensive line of bathing suits, cover-ups, rash tops and flip flops will get you to the beach in plenty of time to find the best spot. Molly J The Label is a swimwear line whose buzz is growing. The local swimwear designer opened her first retail location in The Commons in 2021 and it was an astounding success. Not particularly surprising, since owner Molly J Curley Farrow is one hard-working and dedicated young lady. Even with the hiring challenges of the past year or so, Molly J tackled the challenges in her inimitably unique way. She crafted a Tik Tok video (a social media platform very popular with anyone under 40) as a call to action for summer employees. It was so successful she has a second and third string list of applicants for the 2022 season. Her size-inclusive line of swimsuits is an investment in quality as well as fit, and Curley says, “When I get feedback on social media or when someone comes in the store and tells me they felt confident and comfortable in one of my suits, it is such a rewarding aspect of owning the brand.” KM Hudson Ltd. on Steeple Street knows a thing or two about the relationship between fit and confidence. The bespoke shop of intimate apparel has specialized in custom-fitted bras for over 15 years. Owner Katherine Hudson has always loved beautiful things but didn’t feel luxury should only be available in large metropolitan areas.
Self-care is a big theme at The Commons. Illusions Hair Salon has long and loyal list of clients who depend upon them for regular upkeep. The relationships built over the many years the salon has been styling local men and women are a testament to the quality and talent found in the salon. Sarah Mason, founder of Cape Cod Nail Company, started out with an idea to make the process of getting your nails done easier, better and far more memorable. Mason’s eco-friendly and custom-curated line of nail polishes with names that celebrate the Cape lifestyle include “We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat,” “Washashore,” and “Hello Hydrangea.” The salon caters to clients who are looking to take time for themselves and walk away with a high-quality, durable treatment they can enjoy for a long while. Beyond Beauty on Bates Road offers a full-service hair salon for both men and women as well as waxing services and make-up application. Sea Salt Spa on North Street is a small luxurious spa studio which specializes in truly achieving relaxation and overall wellness. Massage, facials, waxing, hair styling, make-up, reiki and even Angel card readings will leave you ready to take anything on—until of course, your next appointment. A veteran of the Commons for many years, innerglow yoga has a new home on North Market Street. Owner Michelle Itzkowitz and her instructors guide their students to a place of transformation through the practices and modalities of yoga, breathwork, meditation and overall wellness.
Maybe artistic exploration is an itch you would like to scratch? Color Me Mine on North Street is a paint-your-own ceramics studio perfect for the whole family, and The Cosmic Cod on Fountain Street offers art classes, and is a fine arts and crafts gallery which features local artists. Or perhaps your interests are a bit more cerebral? Upside Down Escape Games will challenge your intellect as well as your patience as you and your friends try to solve the clues to get out of their escape rooms. The Steeple Street Music Academy will also tap your patience and hopefully some natural talent as they offer classes in voice and instrumental music.
After working up an appetite from all of the shopping and services, The Commons has a large selection for food and beverage. Estia, serving authentic Greek cuisine and their signature coal-fired pizza, is owned by the husband and wife team of Nick and Catherine Markantonis, but Catherine is known to most diners since it is her friendly smile that greets you as you enter most days. Other husband and wife teams serving up something delicious include the owners of Cape Cod Coffee Café, Cupcake Charlie’s, Duke’s Donut Worx, and each confirms the women of the operation are at the heart and soul of the business. Trevi Café and Wine Bar has just changed ownership, but a female sensibility is still at the helm. Samantha Davis is following in the footsteps of Susan Musto with the intent of keeping things relatively unchanged for the popular restaurant that has become a favorite among those in the know.
Feeling thirsty? Absolutely Juiced on North Street will quench your body and your soul with healthy smoothies and juices. But if an adult beverage is on your list, Dena Rymsha from Liberty Liquors has been providing the finest in wine, cordials, liquors and malt beverages to customers for over 20 years. A loyal and supportive community partner, the Rymshas have been supporting and serving Mashpee with a generous and warm heart which is quickly determined as soon as you enter the pristine establishment on North Market Street. Rory’s Market on the corner of Market and Fountain Street is an organic grocery market with an innovative and robust take-out kitchen. Fresh produce and dairy are complemented by healthy frozen selections, dry goods and other groceries as well as health and beauty products. A small organic wine and beer selection makes any stop and any purchase a good choice for your mind, body and soul. The Spice & Tea Exchange and The Little Shop of Olive Oils, both owned by husband-wife teams will complete your culinary quest and send you home with something rich for your next recipe.
Retail, services, and food and beverage are not the only businesses at The Commons, and most certainly not the only ones that benefit from the power of the feminine mystique. CapeSpace, conceived of and owned by Robbin Orbison is a shared work space which is filling a need as more and more people are working remotely. Orbison says, “People are finding that the home office environment, while convenient, isn’t always the most conducive to productive work.” That’s where CapeSpace comes in: they offer desks, offices, Zoom rooms and conference rooms all on hyper-flexible terms. Rand Atlantic Cape Cod Realty anchors the end of Market Street. Owner/broker Priscilla Geraghty is a third-generation Cape Cod realtor who has earned generations of loyal clients with her hard work and expertise. Annette Crowley, CRPC, LUTCF Wealth Manager affiliated with North River Financial, LLC offers independent financial consulting to clients looking for knowledgeable and experienced management.
The impressively high concentration of women-owned businesses at Mashpee Commons beckons the question of the chicken and the egg—which came first—the smart management of the concept of Mashpee Commons, or the innovative spirit of the hard-working women? Sarah Chace sums it up well, “The majority of businesses at Mashpee Commons are independent, entrepreneurial ventures that require great personal commitment and often represent the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for the owners. It is particularly gratifying—day in and day out—to see that Mashpee Commons provides a vibrant environment for women-owned businesses to thrive and prosper.”
Julie Craven Wagner is the editor of Cape Cod Life.