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'Utopian' enterprise

CAPE NEDDICK -- Open since Oct. 1 on Route 1 in Cape Neddick, Utopia: Ideal Goods and Gifts is an eclectic gift shop that offers a little bit of everything.
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CAPE NEDDICK -- Open since Oct. 1 on Route 1 in Cape Neddick, Utopia: Ideal Goods and Gifts is an eclectic gift shop that offers a little bit of everything.

The creation of Julie Robert and Jeanne Lombardi, Utopia may appear small on the outside, but upon entering its tastefully decorated and thoughtfully laid-out space; patrons have been pleasantly surprised at the wide array of items on display at reasonable prices. Some of the shop's offerings include unique cards, gift bags, table settings, candles, floral arrangements, local artwork, home goods, jewelry, furniture and gift vessels, which are more refined and creative versions of gift baskets.

"Utopia is filled with unique, sometimes one-of-a-kind treasures and pleasures and offers a variety of price points to fit your wallet," Robert said. "Our pieces are one of a kind -- here today, gone tomorrow."

According to Lombardi, about half of the merchandise in the shop is new while the other half is on consignment. However, that does not mean Utopia specializes in antique items or furniture that no longer has aesthetic appeal, as it only considers consignment items in "like-new" condition.

"Our items on consignment are gently re-used," Lombardi said. "There's no rust, no rips, no chips, no stains " Many people have some wonderful things they no longer want or can use, things they bought by mistake or just no longer fit their dcor."

Utopia also has larger furniture pieces as well, including couches, armoires, and dressers that will not fit in the shop, and in such cases the owners can provide customers with pictures of the items and will eventually have them posted on the shop's Web site, which is still in development.

For Robert and Lombardi, the opening of Utopia is only the first step in a year-long project, which should culminate next fall. The gift shop will move to the barn next door by the spring, and the increased space will allow for more of a marketplace feel with artisan stalls. The owners then plan to open a caf in the late 19th-century farmhouse next to the barn and serve soups, sandwiches, salads, and pastries, while the space in which Utopia currently sits will be turned into an ice cream shop.

"We're trying to solve a problem here in this area," said Lombardi. "People can get birthday or wedding gifts here and leave with it in a beautiful bag and a beautiful gift card " Next year they can have some coffee and get a bite to eat. It will bring business to everybody and complement everyone's business."

The future, then, looks bright for Utopia, but that does not mean the present should be overlooked, as the shop also features holiday dcor as well including decorative wreaths, which will be available in the next two weeks.

So far, business has been great, and so the owners hope to build on what has already been an exciting season by continuing to bring in high-quality items and artwork while making their customers feel comfortable and at home in a warm and inviting atmosphere.

"Utopia is about good energy and good thoughts," Lombardi said. "We wanted it to feel like someone's home -- beautifully decorated and appealing."

Utopia is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed on Wednesdays, with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursdays, and open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

For information about Utopia or its involvement in local fund-raising efforts, call 363-2500.