When Kathy Bruin first opened Bus Stop in 1975, each item sold in the store was handmade. In half the space she now operates out of, Bruin found enough room to set up a sewing machine and ironing board to craft baby bonnets, quilts, the occasional sundress, made with the assistance of her sister, and even what she says is the very first Marblehead T-Shirt.
While Bruin no longer handcrafts each item she sells (she said she made the switch in the early 1980s), and Bus Stop is no longer the cramped space it used to be, she still makes it a point to embrace the history of the store, keeping a trove of old photographs and advertisements readily accessible.
Nowadays, the store sells a wide range of items — mittens, glasses, socks, scarves, bags, sweaters, and even folk art pottery made by a local artist were all on display on a recent visit.
Bruin said there is no uniting theme in all the objects for sale at Bus Stop, but she tries to make sure the store is “carefully curated.”
“A little fashion, a little funk vintage,” she said, adding that Bus Stop once sold Grateful Dead tees. “I kind of look for things that are a little bit artistic and have a look to them or a flair so a lot of scarves, a lot of hats.”
Bus Stop, situated at the corner of Washington and Mugford Streets, gets its name from the fact that it used to be home to an actual bus stop, serving the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s 441 and 442 bus routes. A few years ago, Bruin said, the stop moved up the street two doors, leading some to joke she should change the name.
“The town called this corner the bus stop way before the store was here,” she said. “My husband and I were in the sandwich shop … and there was an older guy, elderly sitting there and … he said ‘you know what you better call that place the bus stop.’ And it’s like ‘bingo.’ … it’s not the official bus stop anymore and one customer said you gotta rename … it ‘Ye Olde Bus Stop.’”
Among the many items for sale in the store, one brand, Cut Loose, which is based in California, has persevered for four decades, Bruin said.
“Cut Loose is a company I’ve carried for 40 years, made in California, still made in California. It’s a great company,” she said.
Bruin has developed a number of regulars over the years, and said she’s received lots of positive feedback from the community.
“I get so much positive, touching feedback really, it warms me. People love the store. I’m kind of amazed,” she said. ‘People come to visit their family and they say, ‘oh, it’s on our list. We always have to come to Bus Stop.’ And I’ve watched families grow up, kids grow up, now they have kids.”
With almost 50 years under her belt, Bruin said she would like to pass on custodianship of the store to someone else, as she said she’s been telling people she’s going to retire for a decade. But, she said, she hasn’t been actively looking for a successor.
“I would love to see somebody take it over and work with it, because it has a great foundation. And some new young blood would be great,” she said. “I’m thinking about it, but I don’t have any ideas in mind. Somebody that might love it as much.”