‘It’s Bittersweet’: Mackenzie’s Is Sold

Phyllis Weinstein and Jim Berry, owners of Mackenzie’s on South Avenue for 13 years, said Wednesday that they’ve sold the business to a young couple in the area. 

Mackenzie’s in New Canaan. Credit: Michael Dinan

Though Berry will continue to work part-time at the iconic downtown New Canaan candy, party goods and specialty gift shop, golden retriever Tahoe and Weinstein herself will be out after this week, she said.

“It’s bittersweet, but it’s time,” Weinstein told NewCanaanite.com. 

To the loyal and regular customers of Mackenzie’s, Weinstein said “thank you for making this 13 of the happiest years that I have had.”

Mackenzie’s co-owner Jim Berry grew up in the Belltown section of Stamford and graduated Rippowam High School in 1964. Credit: Michael Dinan

“It was a real happy time to come here every day. I was a nurse and director of the Red Cross, so I worked in sad and serious situations my whole life, and to come here and be with happy, upbeat people, it was a thrill.”

A Stamford resident, Weinstein added that what she’s enjoyed most during her stewardship of Mackenzie’s has been “watching the kids grow up and blossom and see the parents.” Through 13 years, the owners have seen New Canaan kids rise from kindergarteners to high school seniors and beyond.

“It’s been a relationship,” she said. “It’s like watching your own kids grow up and it’s really special.”

L-R: Tahoe and Phyllis Weinstein of MacKenzies. Credit: Catherine Gorey

Known during the school year as the primary Friday afternoon destination of Saxe Middle School kids who pile their backpacks outside the door, Mackenzie’s came to Weinstein and Berry when their son purchased more than a decade ago, and they kept operating it even after he took a different job some years ago. Under Weinstein and Berry, the South Avenue mainstay has evolved from a convenience store to a true party and affordable gift store.

“We felt we’ve kept up with the newest trends for kids and tried to give a lot of personal service, with gift-wrapping and delivery of balloons and basically to be responsive to our customers’ needs,” Weinstein said.

This photo of Tango Weinstein and a regular customer, Grace, lives behind the counter at Mackenzie’s. The selfie was taken in the summer of 2014. Tango, a 7-year-old golden retriever, passed suddenly and unexpectedly in April 2015. Credit: Michael Dinan

Tucker Murphy, executive director of the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce, said Weinstein and Berry “awesome supporters of this town in every way.”

“They are great, they treat those kids so nicely and he [Berry] is just so happy, just such a happy guy and I love dealing with them,” she said. “Just a lovely couple and I’m thrilled that they will still be involved.”

Murphy called the sale of Mackenzie’s “a passing of the baton.”

Weinstein said the new owners plan to continue Mackenzie’s as locals have come to know it, with the candy and balloons and items they love, “and new fresh ideas.”

“We expect them to bring Mackenzie’s to another, even better level,” Weinstein said.

A celebration of Tango’s life at Mackenzie’s.

A large part of the family’s legacy at Mackenzie’s revolves around the beloved family dogs that became fixtures there sought out by patrons. Locals will remember Tango, a handsome golden who in April 2015 died suddenly at age seven, and Tahoe, who has emerged as a customer favorite since he took up “residence” at the back of the store three years ago as a puppy.

Weinstein said that with Berry continuing part-time at Mackenzie’s, she plans to volunteer in the area now and spend time with Tahoe, including at Spencer’s Run, where they’re members. 

“I think people will miss Tahoe more than anything,” she said.

Here are a few photos of Tahoe Weinstein as a puppy:

3 thoughts on “‘It’s Bittersweet’: Mackenzie’s Is Sold

  1. Mike….thanks for the kind words and your support thru the years.

    Thanks to our valued customers. Jim/Phyllis

  2. Jim and Phyllis are the best! Always so welcoming when you shop at McKenzies and true supporters of the community. When my kids ventured to make lip balm with our home harvested bees wax, they were so supportive and sold it on their counter. I love Going in and chatting with them and seeing their dogs. I wish Them the best of luck as they enter a new chapter!

  3. Wishing you well, Phyllis, Jim and Tahoe! I am happy to hear I will still get to see Jim’s happy face at the store!!

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