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Syd’s Book Shack & Boutique was inspired by Sydney Daggett, a 17-year-old girl with an immense love of books, telling jokes and eating Chinese food. Sydney, who is on the autism spectrum, uses a “talking device” to communicate in her daily life. She is the inspiration for this all-in-the-family business, founded by Sydney’s mom Meredith Daggett, which aims to help others with autism in their Connecticut community.

Key Takeaways

  • Community members come together to support unique nonprofit bookstore
  • The ability to communicate through “talking devices” changes the lives of those diagnosed with autism
  • Proceeds from Syd’s Book Shack & Boutique will help fund talking devices available for others with communication challenges

Sydney, a Girl Who Loves Books

“In the first meeting I had with Meredith Daggett, founder of Syd’s Book Shack & Boutique, we hit it off like best friends,” said Amy Koch Moleski, vice president, branch manager, KeyBank, Guilford, Connecticut. “We had a long conversation about the vision for her nonprofit business and how she wanted to help others who also have communication challenges within the community.

“It was clear in that first meeting that Daggett’s book business would be more than just a bookstore,” Moleski continued. “It would be a vehicle for Syd’s future, as well as others’. It would be the heart of a philanthropic effort to help others in the community.”

Ten years ago, Daggett and her 7-year-old twin girls, Sydney and Maddie, moved to Guilford from Texas after her husband passed away. She was looking for a fresh start in a strong community and to be closer to family. Shortly after moving to Guilford, Sydney was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder.

“When Sydney was younger, she would try to say words and then ‘lose’ them,” said Daggett. Many on the autism spectrum lack the ability to communicate verbally, which can lead to frustration and hinder independence, she explained. It was then that Daggett began investigating ways for Sydney to communicate with the outside world and not just with her family. Her research led her to assistive technology, which in Sydney’s case is an electronic tablet with a speech program installed.

The “talker” is worn with straps, as you would a cross-body bag, and the device goes wherever Syd goes – including her volunteer position at her school’s library and her visits to one of her favorite places, Book Barn. Although Syd doesn’t speak on her own, she’s found her voice over the years through the words she’s absorbed on the pages of books.

Opening Syd’s Book Shack

Owning a bookstore has been in the back of Daggett’s mind for a while, but the decision to move forward was rapidly made after a conversation with a counselor at Sydney’s high school. “We were chatting about what Sydney might do after graduation and discussing various opportunities,” Daggett said. “Almost immediately after that meeting, I knew what I wanted to do. Life is short and precious, and opening the bookstore was something I was passionate about. Syd’s would be a place to learn job skills, and with some of the proceeds from sales, to purchase ‘talkers’ for people who didn’t have access to them or didn’t even know they existed.”

In the spring of 2021, Daggett met with Moleski at KeyBank to start a business relationship with Key and pitch her idea. “We immediately connected about the business, as well as many other personal and family commonalities,” said Daggett. “We exchanged phone numbers so we could stay in touch.”

A Sense of Community

With the help of family and friends, Syd’s Book Shack & Boutique officially opened in March 2021. Today, Daggett has expanded to selling books online, along with jewelry, mugs, bags and more. She and Syd have been thriving.

“Community support is so important for people with special needs,” said Daggett. “Everyone knows Syd in Guilford, and they accept and support her. She absolutely loves it here.” Donations from the Guilford Library have come to the shop, as well as many personal donations of used books, including some from KeyBank’s Moleski and her family.

As far as the future of Syd’s Book Shack & Boutique, Daggett is hoping to work with the local high school on a community service program. She looks forward to expanding Syd’s to a larger location with a bakery or coffee shop, and creating a network of bookstores that will serve as support systems for people with special needs.

You can find Syd’s Book Shack & Boutique on Facebook to learn more or visit Syd’s Book Shack at 1300 Boston Post Road, #10, Guilford, CT 06437 to purchase or donate gently used books.

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