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Norwalk's Pymander Is 'Oldest New Age Shop' in State

NORWALK, Conn. – It doesn't take newcomers to Pymander Book Shop in Norwalk long to realize they have walked into a magical place.

The shop, known for the smell of burning incense and shining gems and crystals, also offers on its shelves New Age books and CDs as well as Egyptian, Indian and American artifacts.

A table is lined with business cards advertising past-life and dream workshops, yoga classes and tarot-card readings. Those who enter quickly discover that this place carved out its niche in the New Age era and survived the superstore and Amazon.com age.

In fact, Pymander — messenger of the gods in Egyptian mythology — is the oldest New Age book shop in Connecticut, thriving after moving four years ago from its longtime location on the Post Road in Westport, to its current space at 37 Wall St. in Norwalk.

Books and CD's on Eastern religions, meditation and the medieval seer Nostradamus; to holistic health, astrology, feminist spirituality, and the early 20th-century "sleeping prophet" Edgar Caycee, can be found in Pymander, in addition to meditation candles and new-age jewelry.

"The kind of spiritual healing, readings and holistic health we specialize in has become mainstream, and yet we're the only shop like this in Fairfield County," said owner Kristen Howard of Norwalk.

Howard, a longtime customer, bought the store seven years ago when the former owner was ready to retire and close up after operating since 1973. Howard moved Pymander to Norwalk in 2007 on a street that includes other New Age specialty shops such as the Stand, a raw juice and salad bar, and the Centre for Natural Healing.

"After obtaining the store, the lease in Westport ran out and it was too expensive to stay there," said Howard, a marketing consultant who has rekindled the store's energy by integrating the New Age movement with such 21st-century technology as an updated website.

But she has also revived the store's long-time emphasis on New Age classes, workshops, spiritual readings and special events, which include appearances and lectures by New Age authors. Spiritual, or psychic readings, and Reiki energy healings are among the shop's most popular regular services, Howard said.

"We have four spiritual readers, each with their own style," said Howard. "What we do don't do is fortune telling. Our readers don't predict the future; they help guide people on their life direction. Our customers and clients come from all over Fairfield County, the state and even beyond."

Mary Yankee, who uses Oracle cards in her readings, recently welcomed regular customer, Mela Rispoli of Ridgefield. Yankee said she uses her psychic and intuitive abilities to provide help through intuitive guidance that "allows them to live richer, fuller and more joyful lives.

"There's a lot going on right now in your life, that's for sure," Yankee told Rispoli after spreading the Oracle cards out on a table. Afterward, Rispoli, 53, said she was again amazed by Yankee's accuracy.

"Mary is phenomenal, and as usual, wowed me with her insights," said Rispoli, who has readings about four times a year. "She is completely authentic. I have friends who are looking for fortune tellers, but that's not what I'm looking for with Mary. She has helped me to focus more on things in my life that are important, and always provides a fresh perspective. She helps me know what I'm supposed to be doing."

Howard said she knew she was destined to buy Pymander. "I always loved Pymander and when (former owner) Nancy Ivison was getting ready to retire I couldn't bear the thought of the store closing," said Howard. "When there wasn't anyone else, I just bought the store myself."

Longtime customers such as Vicki Cook of Norwalk are glad she did. On a visit to Pymander, Cook couldn't resist looking over the small wooden Buddhas lined up on a countertop and the healing feathers hanging on a nearby wall. Her 9-year-old son Ryan Whitney was mesmerized by the high-pitched mystical sound he created while stirring a wooden spoon around the "singing bowls."

"There's really no place like this in Fairfield County, or even Connecticut," said Cook, who visits frequently. "It's a special place, really magical."

Pymander's hours are 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays to Wednesdays; 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays; and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, To learn more about Pymander, visit its website at www.pymanderbooks.com or call 203-854-5596 .

To contact Richard Weizel, email rweizel@maintstreetconnect.us .

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