Old boat shop transformed into a unique barware accessories store in Noank

Old boat shop transformed into a unique barware accessories store in Noank

Record-Journal


NOANK — In the middle of Noank Shipyard, where the old boat repair shop once was, sailors now have a place to buy handmade bottle openers and nautical barware accessories.

Mike and Wendy Hille of MW Coastal Goods have combined their passions for fishing and art and held the grand opening of their new store on May 20.

“[Mike] was turning his own fishing lures and I thought they were beautiful, he was painting them himself, and turning them out of poplar wood, and I said, ‘Why don’t you turn one into a bottle opener?’ and he did and his friends and family all loved it,” said Wendy.

Mike Hille began making more bottle openers with different nautical themes, and the business took off. Wendy brought the product to different local stores, such as Webster Road Paper Co., which began carrying the product. They even got an order for custom bottle openers from the Ocean House.

Ten years ago, before they moved to Mystic from Hebron, Wendy Hille was an elementary school teacher in East Hartford.

“It was hard teaching all day, and then painting all night until midnight, so I had to make a choice,” Wendy said, “and I chose to give this a chance. My husband and I thought we’d give it a go, and that there was enough of a desire for it from shops.”

After two months of renovations and then finally opening the store, Wendy said the process was “a real labor of love.”

Since 2012, the couple had been working out of studios at their home. Wendy initially wanted just a workshop before she found the space in Noank. They completely redid the room, a former boat repair shop, and created half workshop, half retail store.

MW Coastal Goods products are now sold to more than 60 retailers, along with the products sold at the new store, which include their signature bottle openers, non-breakable glassware, beverage buckets, buoy keychains, coasters, barware bags and more. All of the products are painted by hand with nautical themes.

Business was so brisk the couple got a patent on their bottle opener; the wood part is now created in Maine and shipped to Noank so they can assemble and paint them.

For now, the Hilles are running the store, but Wendy Hille said they have another person learning to paint.

Mike and Wendy have also partnered with other brands to sell more products in their store, and vice versa. They store carries products from Lemon & Line, Soundview Millworks and Webster Road Paper Co.

Besides their custom barware, another love of the Hilles was their dog Huckleberry. After the loss of Huck in February, they began selling “Rescued by Huck” shirts and painting the dog’s silhouette on some of their accessories. A portion of proceeds from the “Rescued by Huck” products goes to dog charities and foundations.

The Hilles are constantly creating and adding new products. Wendy’s goal is for the store to grow enough so that she and Mike can take on larger orders and expand their business.

mmcadams@thewesterlysun.com


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