COLLINSVILLE — For 30 years, The Village Sweet Shoppe has been an integral part of Shirley Scarpino’s life. Now, Scarpino has decided this will be the last holiday season at the popular River Street business.
At age 65, she’s ready to retire, Scarpino said.
“It’s time,” Scarpino said. “It’s not going to be an easy go. It’s been great here.”
After working as a health and fitness director at the YMCA in Torrington, Scarpino first opened Village Sweet Shoppe in Riverton. In 2004, spurred by some major changes in Riverton, notably the fact that world-famous Hitchcock Chair Co. was closing its doors (It’s now re-open under new ownership), Scarpino decided to move. The search brought her to Collinsville.
“I knew I had to make a change,” Scarpino said.
She quickly found out there was available space at 5 River St., which according to town records, was built circa 1900.
“It’s gorgeous,” she said. “It’s one of the prettiest buildings in town.”
In Collinsville, she stopped selling ice cream but greatly expanded the primitive country decor for which she’s became so well-known. She also continued to sell packaged and fresh candy, chocolate, personal care items, local goods and more.
In Collinsville she also made many friends. When she first opened, the late “Bill” Wilson, still operated the Fireplace Cafe (Now Wilson’s). Sometimes renowned for his gruff character, Wilson, who became known for spending a dollar a day at the shop, quickly embraced Scarpino.
“He was one of the first people to come in and welcome me,” Scarpino said.
And Wilson was far from the only one. Other business owners and residents came with arms and wallets open.
“Everyone was totally welcoming,” Scarpino said. “It was a very easy transition.”
Fellow business owners will certainly be saddened to see Scarpino close her doors.
“She is the best neighbor anyone could ask for,” said Esther Witkos, co-owner of Wilson’s Pub. “She was my voice of reason on several occasions, and my partner in crime. She spoke the truth when you needed to hear it and also stood up for everything she believed in and thought was good for our River Street family. I am truly dreading the day I come to work and I don’t see her jeep out front. She is one of a kind, and I will miss her terribly.”
“They’ll be a hole in the fabric of Collinsville,” said Julius Fialkiewicz, local realtor and owner of Valley Center, LLC on Main St. “She was one of the characters that helped create the village for what it is and she will be missed.”
Scarpino will close briefly between Christmas and New Year’s for final set up and, beginning Jan. 4, will offer increasingly progressive discounts, with a plan to close by the end of January.
Scarpino’s husband Ralph retired from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection 3 years ago and the couple’s two kids and four grandchildren all live up north. Scarpino is looking forward to spending more time with family. Outside of work, she also enjoys playing tennis and walking with her two English labs – Rio and Emma.
But Scarpino knows she’ll also dearly miss her local business community and customers.
“My customers are just the best thing ever,” she said. “They’ve become friends and family.”