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Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe - VisitingNewEngland small business partnership

Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe Offers Sweet, Old Fashioned Experience in Downtown Mystic, Connecticut


Mystic Sweets, Mystic, Connecticut
Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe.

Article and photos by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 6/4/2018.

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Upon entering Mystic Sweets and Ice Shoppe in Mystic, Conn., the most wonderful feeling takes over the five senses.

The sight of chocolates everywhere pleases the eyes as much, in its own way, as the beautiful coastal Mystic scenery. The sounds of kids acting like kids, in, well, a candy store evokes the enthusiasm many adults once had before being taught to be practical and logical, as the sort-of insightful Supertramp song once pointed out. The aromas of a store jam-packed with chocolates brings back the sweet-smelling memories of those trips to the older, simpler hometown version of Hershey, Penn., or walking downtown in your own town to the locally-owned candy shop to just breathe in what seemed better than the fresh air our parents told us to embrace -- because someday we'd be working inside at an office every day. The thrill of choosing the right sweets signals the sense of touch, thus sending good anticipatory feelings from our fingertips to wise, intuitive receptors in the brain. Of course, taste reigns as the most spectacular sense at Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe as the small, nostalgic-looking storefront accomplishes something that few other candy stores do -- that is, offer some of the best tasting homemade chocolates, fudge and ice cream in New England under one small business roof. It's quite unusual for such a shop of this genre to be at the top of the game within all three categories. Usually, it's one or two excellent categories -- and even, sometimes, none -- but almost never three.

Homemade fudge from Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe in Mystic, Conn.
Homemade vanilla chocolate chip fudge from Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe.

Rita Lara, owner of, and product designer at Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe, takes the art form of her job very seriously and clearly to the next level to create the sweet masterpieces, but also comes across in the store as the friendly neighborhood mom or grandma-type that the local and vacationing kids probably know as the nice woman who makes all those incredible chocolates, fudges, candies, truffles, ice cream, gelato and other amazing desserts. Rita, a Chicago native, even holds a certificate in ice cream-making from Penn State University's agricultural department in State College, Penn.! She continues to take classes to develop new products, knowing that her profession is a lifelong learning process with some trial and error along the way. Rita has also studied at the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy in Canada and the United States, the Culinary Institute of America in New York City, N.Y., and through an entrepreneurship program at Perdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.  She is also a member of the New England Retail Confectioners Association that consists of "old-fashioned" candy makers (as opposed to trendy and assembly-line types).

Once working in the building maintenance field, Rita felt a calling for something more meaningful and enjoyable. She decided to open Mystic Sweet Shoppe and Ice Cream in 1997.

"It's a whole other world," said Rita of her career change into chocolate-making. "I started taking classes and one thing led to the next."

Her artistry -- when it comes to creating chocolate products -- is remarkable in appearance and taste...

Chocolate Santas from Mystic Sweets in Mystic, Connecticut.
Chocolate Santas from
Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe. Photo credit: Rita Lara.

The store has come a long way since just being a penny candy shop and Rita has been willing to work up to 14 hour days to craft a store with her own vision, personality and products. Her boyfriend, Rick Stoppa, a Coast Guard veteran, lends a valuable helping hand when he is not teaching middle school, and a staff consisting of experienced and younger employees contributes significantly with great customer service and friendly personalities.

"We had to be better," said Rita, of Mystic Sweet's evolution. "I bring in chocolates from all over the world to blend with cocoa butter. That's what makes a true chocolatier. Tempering in a precise, correct way should create a chocolate that has a snap to it, taste good and smell good. The commercial stuff, it's too much sugar"

Rita Lara, owner of Mystic Sweets in Mystic, Connecticut
Rita Lara, owner of Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe.

Mystic, one of the all-time classic, fun New England travel destinations, is a pretty sweet place itself with a cute downtown and plenty of shops and restaurants, beautiful water views, and famous attractions like Mystic Seaport and the Mystic Aquarium. Within the appealing downtown resides a few places for something sweet, but none reach the high level of Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe. The storefront's exterior sets the happy, welcoming tone with its colorful ice cream cone and "Fresh Fudge," signs, blackboard specials, chairs, a window display with mouthwatering-looking candies and the sight of more yummy things everywhere upon looking through the windows into the warmly illuminated shop.

Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe in downtown Mystic, Connecticut
 Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe storefront.

This isn't your basic, overpriced 21st century candy store with a sterile feel on some lost highway in a desolate section of "Anytown USA" or in a pretentious, trendy neighborhood. Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe has been well embedded into downtown Mystic for more than 20 years with a joyful daily track record of pleasing families and all walks of life, for that matter. It is one of the true retail anchors of downtown Mystic and the type of old-fashioned place you'd think was gone forever.  The chipped wood threshold at the entrance, white tile floor with black specks, old fan in the front, ceiling fans, small tables by the big windows overlooking the downtown, and the narrow, long store overflowing with candies evokes feelings of the old-time candy shop or general store. Touches of Mystic with model lighthouses, captains  and coastal paintings, along with regionally-themed candies like edible sea glass and lobster lollipops,  sweeten the overall Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe vibe that much more.

Inside Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe in Mystic, Connecticut
Inside of Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe.

Nautical themes combine with candies at Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe in Mystic, Conn.
Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe features homemade candies and a nautical theme.

Edible sea glass from Mystic Sweets in Mystic, Connecticut
Edible sea glass from Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe.

The somewhat disorganized, imperfect layout yields an experience that was more common back in the day, but today comes across as refreshingly unique in a world that has become frequently generic and cookie cutter.

"You never know what's on the next shelf," said Rita. "People love to try to find things that are different. We have plenty of that!"

Browsing the rows of candies and artisinal chocolates feels like walking through a museum or hall of fame for this type of genre, but soon enough decisions have to be made to please the sweet tooth. Choices are either made at the displays or at the retro counter where customers can order ice cream cones or cups, sundaes, gelato, shakes, floats, frozen lemonades, hot cocoa, tea, coffee, latte, espresso, cappuccino, or anything yummy behind the glass counter. The menu signs look good enough to eat! Case-in-point...
 Sundae menu sign at Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe in Mystic, Conn.
Ice Cream sundae selection from Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe.

Rita makes the ice cream fresh on the premises made with local Connecticut dairy, and the taste is every bit as good as the best ice cream stands in New England...

Made-on-the-premises ice cream from Mystic Sweets in Mystic, Connecticut
Homemade black raspberry ice cream from Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe.

Some would prefer the sundaes over the regular ice cream, but either way, you can't go wrong.

Strawberry sundae from Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe in Mystic, Conn.
Strawberry ice cream sundae from Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe. Photo credit: Rita Lara.

Behind the counter, items like the
dark chocolate salted caramel fudge taste every bit as good as the most heralded country store versions in New England, and tempting items like the chocolate cashew clusters will have you go nuts over the taste. Sorry for the bad pun.

Dark chocolate salted caramel fudge from Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe in Mystic, Conn.
Dark chocolate salted caramel from Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe.

Dark chocolate cashew clusters from Mystic Sweets in Mystic, Connecticut
Dark cashew clusters from Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe.

Although most of the products at Mystic Sweets are created by Rita, customers will also find some of the familiar like gold coin chocolates, and nostalgic candies...

Bulk candy at Mystic Sweet Shoppe in Mystic, Connecticut
Traditional bulk candies from Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe.

Nostalgic candies at Mystic Sweets, Mystic Conn.
Nostalgic candies from Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe.

Gold coins from Mystic Sweets in Mystic, Connecticut
Chocolate Gold Coins from Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe.

Last but not least, Mystic Sweets even makes its own popcorn...

Homemade popcorn from Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe in Mystic, Conn.
Homemade popcorn from Mystic Sweets in Mystic, Conn.

Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe remains most popular during Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Christmas and Easter, but stays busy year-round. Summer vacationers love to eat in the store, or just a few steps away while watching the mammoth Mystic Drawbridge with its counterweight of 230 tons each and movable span length of 85 ft.

Mystic Drawbridge, Mystic, Connecticut
Mystic Drawbridge in downtown Mystic.

Or, to just stroll the appealing small town central district with an ice cream cone or another dessert/snack of your choice...

Downtown Mystic, Connecticut
Charming downtown Mystic.

One takeaway to the magic of Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe can be seen in the large murals of angels throughout the store, thus validating that this Mystic retail landmark is simply heavenly and a gift from the dessert gods.

"The better the product, the more work, and that's what we do," said Rita. "I am very picky about what I use, blending flavors and using the profiles I like. The kids wonder, "What is the next thing she is going to create?' I love it when the kids come here. They come back grown up from college, as parents... They used to call me Mrs. Fudge! I really love what I do and, no, I have no plans of stopping any time soon!"

Homemade fudge from Mystic Sweets in Mystic, Connecticut
Delicious fudge from Mystic Sweets and Ice Cream Shoppe. Photo credit: Rita Lara.

Mystics Sweet and Ice Cream Shoppe is located at 7 West Main St., Mystic CT. Tel. 860-536-1616. Web site: http://www.mystic-sweets.com. Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/mysticsweetshoppe. Twitter page: http://www.twitter.com/mysticsweetshoppe.






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