STONINGTON – For Jason Hine, a resident of Mystic, starting your own business wasn’t about getting rich or making a name for yourself.
Hine, who described himself as a concerned citizen and environmental activist, said he and his staff at The Ditty Bag Market and Cafe are committed to developing a sustainable business model that will help make a positive and lasting impact in the community. community by promoting sustainable products and lifestyles.
“I hope public education and community outreach will be a big part of our business model,” Hine said. “We are not doing this to get rich or even make money. Our hope is to provide a role model that will encourage others to get involved and to offer local residents a way to contribute themselves to making a difference. . “
“I want to make this store a place where everyone can feel welcome, come and present ideas on how to improve our city and just be part of the community,” he said.
The Ditty Bag Market and Cafe, located at 7 Roosevelt Ave. at Mystic, is on track to meet that goal.
Tucked away along Route 1 across from the Amtrak station, the business isn’t particularly gaudy or decorative from the outside. Those who step inside, however, are greeted with a comfortable sofa area and work table at the front of a well-stocked shop and cafe that offers a selection of foods, candles, cleaners. , freshly ground coffee and other products, including reusable bags, as the name of the company suggests.
Those who visit can stop by for a friendly chat, ask product questions, or even try a sample of detergents and other products that consumers can purchase by the ounce if they wish.
“Some products, like our milk from Terra Firma Farm, may not be completely plastic free, but we are constantly working to find better but sustainable options and this is one of the best solutions right now,” said explained Hine. “With a product like milk, we stay local so that we can visit the farm and see how the operation works, and to eliminate the impact of having to transport product across the state or bring it in from there. ‘other states. “
The business model is not yet the one that took off in the northeastern states of the United States, Hine admitted, but it is inspired by models used by successful companies on the West Coast and in Europe.
The store allows customers to bring their own containers and purchase products by weight, Hine explained, allowing customers to explore different ways to make small adjustments that could help make a big impact on waste reduction. .
Lauren St. Amour, a Mystic resident who visited the store on Wednesday with her son, said she heard about the store on Instagram and was drawn to the idea of a business that would largely work. without using plastic. A Mystic resident herself, she said she sees the store as a good resource for those looking for ways to make a difference.
“I think this is a wonderful opportunity for people in the community to make a difference,” said St. Amour. “Our family has tried to find ways to reduce our footprint and this is a great local resource for that.”
While the store itself has been open for just over three weeks, the concept is one that Hine and store manager Deniz Kayhan said this week they have been preparing for two years. Hine still remembers walking into a Mystic-area store two summers ago after the company switched to a fully organic model as part of an effort to ensure sustainability.
Hine said the store, which has since closed, has different goals for environmental sustainability than his own, but the visit made him think he might be successful in the growing market for eco-friendly products. environment.
“We didn’t have anything like it. There was nowhere the residents could go to just ask questions and be successful,” he said.
After speaking with friends, he said he knew it would be important to move forward with building a business if he wanted to see a zero waste store open. With the help of SCORE, a business organization that aims to help start-ups and small businesses, and help from city staff and Ledge Light Health District staff.
Hine and Kayhan did not yet know each other at that time, Kayhan explained, but she too had had her own experiences and was looking to open a zero waste store in the Mystic area. After finding obstacles in her own way, she learned of Hine’s efforts late last year when her best friend, Bella Langlois, worked with Hine on Bob Statchen’s campaign for a Senate seat.
When Hine was ready to start hiring staff earlier this year, Kayhan said Langlois immediately told her about the position and contacted Hine. The two connected instantly, Hine said, and he credited her with hitting the ground while running, claiming that she became a valuable business partner almost immediately.
“This store isn’t just about selling products. It’s about connecting with people and building a better community for the future,” Kayhan said.
The two work alongside two other employees, Hine said, and the team mentality has helped accelerate efforts to grow the new business. At the end of July, Hines and Kayhan said they hoped to have launched the education component, the former focusing on an as yet unidentified environmental issue.
The two said each program would not only include discussion, but result in an element of action for residents to stay active, such as writing a letter to a lawmaker or taking action to change their daily habits. Programs will continue to be hosted periodically and most are expected to remain free.
They will also continue to grow their online presence – you can find the store on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheDittyBagMarketandCafe/ – and work to improve their space and increase the opportunities and product options available to local residents.
“We continue to look for ways to make full use of our space and make the biggest difference possible in our small part of the world,” Hine said.