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Olde Mistick Village: 40 years of innovation, celebration and community

By Faye Parenteau

Published October 01. 2013 4:15AM   Updated October 01. 2013 5:15PM
Seth Jacobson photo
A couple embraces during a romantic stroll through the village on July 4.

From their office windows, brother and sister (and twins) Joyce Olson Resnikoff and Jerry Olson can look out on the leafy pathways and colorful storefronts of the community their family dreamed and built 40 years ago — from nothing but a stretch of dusty land.

Were it nothing else, Olde Mistick Village would be a memorable shopping experience — more than 60 unique stores in a vibrant, Colonial-inspired setting. But Jerry and Joyce’s love for family and place has made it considerably more.

Visit the village on a given day, and you will find local musicians performing in concert at the gazebo, children lining the fence to watch the ducks in the pond, and people of all accents and ages poking in and out of shops.

You’ll see people walking their dogs, dogs walking their people, and moms rolling out yoga mats on the village green.

Or you might find yourself in the middle of some festivity — an open-air art exhibit, a vintage car show, food festival, chowder cook-off or holiday carnival. Visit on Valentine’s Day and you’ll most likely find local minister Marie Tyler Wiley officiating free weddings for a few hours, and onlookers gathered to cheer the beaming couples.

“We wanted the village to have everything that a village normally would,” Jerry explained, including a ‘town green’ that is open for public use.

“Respect for the history of Mystic and the surroundings” was important to their family, he said, because of the site’s highly visible location right off Route I-95. The Olsons wanted the village to serve as an entry point to other attractions in Mystic — Mystic Seaport, historic downtown and Stonington Borough, in particular.

“People coming down the highway see us and stop and say, ‘What’s that?’” Jerry said.

They welcome new arrivals. Each year, Olde Mistick Village serves as a refreshment stop and point of attraction for tour buses from the Midwest on their way to Canada; for tourists on their way to the casinos or Mystic or the waterfront.

While Joyce manages the property, Jerry is a developer with an eye for detail. From sweet, special touches, like the many birdhouses which hang in the trees, to the visual integrity of the buildings’ design, he said there was a specific vision in mind.

“It’s intentional to the last detail,” he smiled.

The family commissioned an architect to study 1720-style Colonial buildings. Jerry wanted each building to be separately designed, and distinct from its neighbors. He wanted the experience of walking the village to be seamless — so the buildings are completely designed front to back, with no commercial elements. Native New England trees flower and shade the walking paths on hot days, and twinkle with starry strings of lights during winter.

Jerry, who — with his wife — loves to drive the country visiting relatives, wants people to feel at home.

“A family atmosphere is so important,” he said. “It brings us back to what life is really about.”


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