fox ct - mersene creates a conversational holiday centerpiece

2013, fox ct news

meg barone - Whimsy fills Saugatuck gift shop

Published 9:06 pm, Wednesday, February 6, 2013    CT Post



In the Oscar-nominated film "Chocolat," actress Juliette Binoche plays chocolatier Vianne, whose sudden appearance in a French town magically transforms its residents.

Westport may have its own Vianne. Entrepreneur Mersene Norbom, a Mississippi native, seems to enchant everyone who steps through the door of her retail gift shop, Indulge by Mersene at 20 Railroad Place, across from the Saugatuck train station. Norbom's shop is a whimsical melange of chocolates, candles, gourmet foods, decorative pillows, jewelry, pottery, hand-carved cypress root bowls, French hand towels, hand-painted baseballs, and a host of other items for individual purchase or inclusion in her elaborate, often themed, gift baskets.

"We try to find small, cool, unique gifts that we love in price points for all," said Norbom, who wants young children with only $5 to spend on their parents to feel as welcome as adults with unlimited budgets.

"It doesn't matter how much you spend (if) it's coming from your heart," said Norbom, a former flight attendant who has lived in many exotic places in Asia. She brings her southern charm and global sophistication to the shop to create her own blend of warmth and hospitality.

Norbom learns what she can about each recipient and tailors her baskets to that person -- "We try to personalize each gift," and the uniqueness with which she wraps the gifts is every bit as enjoyable as the gifts themselves, customers say.

"It's a present just in the presentation," said Bianca Bazante, of Fairfield.

"Nobody wants to open the gifts I give them because they're so beautiful," adds Susan Schnitzer, of Norwalk.

Wendy Cruikshank, of Darien, called Norbom's shop "a breath of fresh air." It was a mysterious wind that brought Vianne to Lansquenet-sous-Tannes in Chocolat and it was a menacing wind that brought Norbom to her new and more visible location. Her original store, which opened a year ago in a basement space in Bridge Square along the Saugatuck River, was flooded during Superstorm Sandy in Oct 2012.

"This shop has become a little nest," said Norbom, who loves birds, which often figure into her gift-wrapping.


mersene: the gift that keeps on giving

PUBLISHED april 21, 2015. "06880, where westport meets the world" by dan woog



For over 60 years, Silver’s was Westport’s best-known go-to store for gifts.For the last 3 or 4 years, Indulge by Mersene was Saugatuck’s less-known, but equally beloved, spot for funky, 1-of-a-kind gifts. This winter, Silver’s closed. Mersene planned to shut her doors too. Westporters had no idea where they could now find a friendly owner with the knack for suggesting the absolutely perfect present.

Mersene’s special style is here to stay, on Railroad Place.

To the delight of her rabid — and quickly growing — fans, Mersene is still open. The  incredibly ingenious, phenomenally generous Mississippi native has downsized, moving from 2 overflowing rooms to 1. But she’s still across from the railroad station. She’s still as energetic and creative as ever.

Now, as spring brings Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and graduations — to go along with timeless events like weddings, bridal and baby showers, and Sweet 16s  — she is excited to fill Westport’s niche as the destination for how-did-you-ever-think-of-that?! gifts. (And — her specialty — gift baskets.)

She’s still on Railroad Place, because her customers could not stand the thought of her closing. They helped her figure out how to stay. And they’ve helped her add another wonderful niche: corporate gifts.

The other day, Mersene was busy filling baskets for a major Stamford corporation’s Administrative Professionals Day celebration. She was also preparing a Kentucky Derby-themed event for another big company.

As she selected wrapped items together with an ease Martha Stewart could only dream of, she mentioned other projects. For Mother’s Day, she’s designed special trays. They’ll include flowers, the Sunday paper, breakfast from Commuter Coffee Company — everything a mom could love.

(Here’s something else a mom — or anyone else — could love: pillows that say “06880.” Or “Westport.” Or monogrammed and/or custom-colored with anything else you can think of, from “Nantucket” to your alma mater.)

“It’s all about the packaging,” Mersene says, of her talent for pairing the exact right gifts with the perfect basket.

Anyone who steps into her shop for the first time recognizes that talent. She is the Lionel Messi of gifts — with even more grace than the famed soccer star. What other store owner happily delivers — and makes house calls?

Mersene’s renaissance has been aided by loyal customers, who help her manage the business side. She’s still not expensive — “I price things to sell,” she says — and she’ll still tell someone, “No, don’t buy that. I’m getting a better item next week.”

Mersene, with some of her many unique creations.

Which is why the “reinvention” of Indulge by Mersene is such good news.

Many people already know her. When a Los Angeles architect visited his sister here, he asked her for “the coolest place in Westport.” She took him to the little shop near the railroad station. He stayed for over an hour, fascinated.

And he still hadn’t seen half of Mersene’s presents, or how beautifully she presents them.

Mersene ships her gifts — and delivers in the area. She also stages homes and galas. 

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