Mermaids on Cape Cod is fast becoming a local favorite, thanks to an owner who’s putting community first
“I wanna be where the people are,” pines Ariel in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” That’s exactly where Shari Aussant wants to be, too. Aussant might just be the modern-day Ariel—with her wild strawberry-blond locks and endearing spirit—but the world she seeks to be part of is here on the Cape, a world she sees for the sea of possibilities it offers.
“Someone once said to me, ‘Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet,’ and I’ve adopted that. I just want to play in the sandbox with everybody,” says Aussant, her enthusiasm—and ever-present smile—so sweet and sincere it’s contagious.
For Aussant, her community-centric mentality is at the heart of her burgeoning boutique business, Mermaids on Cape Cod. In addition to her signature line of Official Mermaid Gear (OMG), Aussant also partners with local artisans and vendors, including Cape Mermaid, Cape Shark and Washershore, to offer their coastal-inspired collections of apparel and accessories. But that’s not where her community ties end. Whether it’s leveraging Mermaids on Cape Cod’s thousands of dedicated social media followers to spread the word about other Cape businesses, like Cape Cod Beer, or donating a portion of her proceeds to local environmental organizations, like the National Marine Life Center, Aussant is paying her success forward.
“Why compete? We’re all having a great time here doing what we do best, so let’s all bring each other in and bring each other up,” Aussant says. “I am always looking to do new collaborations.”
What’s proven to be her most impactful collaboration is that with her customers. Prior to Mermaids on Cape Cod, Aussant spent 27 years running the Old Company Store in Wareham, where she sold her own jewelry as well as crafts made by area artists. In 2013 she launched the Mermaid on Cape Cod mobile boutique, continuing her desire to bring together locally made products all in one place—this time on a converted miniature school bus, painted teal and depicting her custom mermaid logo. She made T-shirts featuring the mermaid image, and people loved the design so much they started asking for more of it. Tank tops, sweatshirts, hats and beach towels soon followed.
“We started having a lot of fun with it, like wearing mermaid crowns when we went places and wearing the seashells and the mermaid skirts,” she says. “The more we started having fun with it, the more we started connecting our look and our brand and creating this amazing little thing—this little group of women on Cape Cod who all believe that they’re mermaids. And we are mermaids! We all come from the sea.”
For Aussant, seeing her customers—her friends, as she calls them—get excited about a product makes her all the more excited. “A lot of these shirts I’ll ask them to help me design,” she says. “And then the person who started the design gets the first one for free. It’s all of us growing together in this brand, and when they tire of something they say, ‘C’mon, let’s make something new.’”
“I’m always finding new ways of redesigning my brand,” Aussant adds, noting her Patriots, Red Sox and Bruins-themed mermaid apparel. “Our ocean-loving girls who love their sports teams, they can wear something cute and ocean-y and still rock the gear,” she says. “We’re always trying to be different and do something unique.”
This July, Aussant opened Mermaids on Cape Cod’s first retail store, located in a former seven-room cottage on Route 28 in West Dennis, across from Krista K’s Ice Cream. While chatting with her inside the new boutique—a mermaid’s dream closet, complete with a wide array of OMG apparel as well as trendy boutique clothing and jewelry, plus ocean-safe hair products—Aussant took the time to excitedly greet each patron that stopped by. “I really want people to love the fins they’re in and walk out of here feeling beautiful in my clothing and gear,” she says. One customer, who was visiting from New Jersey with her family, commented that Mermaids on Cape Cod is by far her favorite store. “This is so cool,” she says. “I love mermaids to begin with, but everything is so different. It’s amazing.”
“I truly believe that this isn’t just a store—it’s a part of a community, and I want people to love being part of this fun, ocean-y vibe,” Aussant says. “It doesn’t just speak to mermaids on Cape Cod but mermaids all over the country.” That’s true now more than ever, as her “Get Nauti” line of mermaid apparel is not only sold throughout Massachusetts but also in Hawaii and California.
As part of her mission to connect the Cape community through her brand, Aussant started the Cape Cod Wandering Mermaid blog, in collaboration with Jenny Paiva—aka “Just Beachy Jenny” on social media. Each week, Paiva chronicles her adventures on the Cape, sporting Official Mermaid Gear while also promoting the local shops and eateries she visits along the way. “The more we do that, the more we can connect the customers and the tourists to the Cape,” Aussant says.
She also hopes to further connect with local businesses and restaurants through her mobile boutique. Companies and individuals can host the bus for any occasion, from fundraisers and festivals to lunch breaks and house parties. If a restaurant chooses to host the bus, Mermaids on Cape Cod will advertise that restaurant’s weekly specials on Facebook for the entire week before.
When thinking about the future of her store, Aussant is practically giddy. It is set to be the site of many community events, including book signings and artisan meet-and-greets. Next year, she says there will be vendor tents on the lawn. “We’re not going to be charging,” she notes, but instead asking that vendors make a donation to either the National Marine Life Center or the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. Fellow mermaids can stay up-to-date on all of the latest happenings at the store on the Mermaids on Cape Cod Facebook page and Aussant’s weekly “Friday Night Live” Facebook Live streams.
In “The Little Mermaid,” Sebastian tries to convince Ariel that life under the sea is much better than anything on shore. Looking at Aussant’s boutique, it’s safe to say there’s some of that under-the-sea magic right here on Cape Cod.
Mermaids on Cape Cod is open through December. To learn more about Mermaids on Cape Cod and read the Cape Cod Wandering Mermaid blog, visit mermaidsoncapecod.com.