Tara Wyatt, owner of Tumbleweeds, is a self-described superwoman and multi-tasking queen. Get to know her along with me, and you’ll see how these words ring true.
Tumbleweeds is a niche shop – a haven for music enthusiasts that includes a range of merchandise for music lovers. It’s a record store and hippie boutique all rolled into one. Here, you’ll find records for all music genres, tie dye and incense. Tara works hard to select used records to sell in her shop, in keeping with her commitment to protect the environment. The majority of apparel, accessories and gifts are either locally made or certified fair-trade items.
Tara handpicks everything in the shop and has been doing so for nearly twenty years. She listens to her customers and their interests, and she thrives on meeting their needs. In fact, Tumbleweeds is known for their selection, quality and knowledge.
While Tara grew up in Old Lyme, her extended family all hails from Niantic. She has been working in the shop since she was 15 years old. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Marine Science from University of Connecticut at Avery Point. Though she planned to do a lot of great things with her degree, life took Tara in a different direction.
In 2006, her dad, David “Pops” Wyatt, passed away unexpectedly. Tara says, “He was the founder and original proprietor of Tumbleweeds, a walking encyclopedia of music and absolutely a character and legend.”
With the invaluable help of devoted friends and family, Tara decided to try to keep the business going. She especially credits her cousin Alex Fatone and her dad’s former employees Pat Perry (whom they very recently lost) and Brian Napiani as key to helping her keep the doors open in the early stages of taking the helm. Since then, many wonderful employees have been by her side. Some have been family members including her sister, Samantha Speirs, and others have become family over the years. All have very much contributed to the business’s continued success.
Tara’s father loved everything about living in Niantic – the beach, the close-knit community and his long-time friends. He moved here from East Hartford in the 70s and opened the shop in 1974. Tumbleweeds was originally opened up the street in the Parisi Building at 388 Main Street. The shop sold records, air-brushed t-shirts, incense, tapestries and more.
When they moved into their current location, they were able to expand, and that’s just what they did. Tara says they would welcome even more space.
They have patrons who have supported them from the beginning, and they have been thrilled to welcome countless new customers. Many have been shopping at Tumbleweeds for the nearly 47 years they’ve been in business. Some bought their first record from the shop and are now sharing their love of music with their children and grandchildren. Without their loyal customers, who her dad would refer to as music junkies, Tara is quite sure her business would not be here today.
The music industry has taken some twists and turns over the past 30 years. Vinyl records were followed by cassettes and CDs. Now, music can be easily downloaded. This has certainly presented their business with challenges over the years. To get through the 90s and early 2000s, their shop became more of a boutique and they made it work. They were ready when vinyl came back, and that part of the business is better than ever.
When you enter the shop, you will immediately be immersed in the Tumbleweeds experience. Their unique atmosphere transports you to another time. They often hear visitors comment that the store brings back memories of their high school days or the 60s and 70s.
Tumbleweeds has had to limit the number of visitors at one time to the shop in keeping with Covid-19 guidelines. Tara was proud of their cleanliness prior to the pandemic, but they have stepped up their cleaning guidelines to be sure their patrons are safe. They have also directed more business online to their website.
When asked about future plans for the shop, Tara says she wants to build up the brand and continue to serve current customers while reaching new ones. They plan to continue online access to their products. She also says working a few less hours would be nice, too!
Tara is so thankful to everyone who has stuck with them all these years, and even more so during this tough time. She has been overwhelmed with gratitude for the support she has received from the community. Local businesses are working together, sharing information on social media, sharing resources and even helping out financially or with advice.
Tara says, “A little goes a long way in a small community, and I’m so appreciative of all efforts. Business owners in the community all know each other by first name. We connect and network on so many levels and bring each other up, rather than work against each other.”
Stop into Tumbleweeds for a little nostalgia and experience their ever-changing merchandise selections. Please visit their website and follow them on social media for up-to-the-minute product offerings, hours and additional information.
Tumbleweeds Music Shop and Boutique
325 Main Street, Niantic
Monday through Thursday: 10am – 6pm
Friday and Saturday: 10am – 7pm
Sunday: 11am – 7pm
About Our Main Street Blogger:
Joanne lives in, and loves, our community. She was looking for an opportunity to help share all that our local businesses do to make East Lyme such a special place to call home, and she is excited to contribute to our blog. Joanne brings to the role her experience from New London Main Street where she contributed content to their website, newsletters and email communications for many years.