Category Archives: Downtown

Coffee 101

Alert “06880” photographer Lynn U. Miller spotted this sign yesterday, outside SoNo Baking Company downtown:

SoNo Bakery - Lynn U Miller

To which we can only add that famous soccer cheer, heard worldwide:

Au lait! Au lait au lait au lait…!

From Brooklyn To Westport: Life In A Changing “Hometown”

Antonia Landgraf was born and raised in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. It was a tight-knit Italian neighborhood — like long-ago Saugatuck, perhaps — and she loved it.

Her grandfather — born on the same block — was a mailman. Her grandmother worked in a school cafeteria.

Her parents worked for the government. They lived on the bottom 2 floors of a brownstone, and rented out the rest.

In the mid-1980s, yuppies began to move in. Bodegas and religious artifact stores gave way to crêperies, boutiques and bars.

“The good part was there were nice restaurants and shops. Not everything was a chain,” Antonia recalls.

A

A “Farmacy” has probably replaced a pharmacy in Carroll Gardens.

Real estate prices rose. Some renters were priced out. Antonia’s parents and grandparents owned their property, and benefited.

Many of her friends stayed in Carroll Gardens. On Facebook, she reads their comments about the changes.

“It’s not like the days when everyone knew everyone,” she says. “That’s ironic, because the first people who came did it because it was a great Italian-American neighborhood, with everyone sitting out on their stoops.”

The oldtimers-versus-newcomers debate is not confined to Carroll Gardens. It echoes in many places — including Westport. Which is where, since 2013, Antonia and her husband have lived.

They moved first to New Jersey, in 2002, because they could no longer afford Brooklyn. Then they had kids. Her husband’s company has an office in Darien. They started looking for bigger, suburban homes.

Antonia and her husband visited Westport on a beautiful September day. The water sparkled under the Bridge Street bridge. Downtown, they walked past the gorgeous Christ & Holy Trinity church, and stopped at the Spotted Horse. “It felt like we were on vacation,” Antonia says.

Moving here has been wonderful. The town is gorgeous. Folks have been welcoming. She could not be happier.

Her 3 sons — the youngest was born here — are busy, and thriving. On the day we talked earlier this summer, one was collecting crabs on Burying Hill Beach. Another was at sports camp. This is their home town.

Antonia's boys have discovered the magic of Burying Hill Beach.

Antonia’s boys have discovered the magic of Burying Hill Beach.

Antonia sees parallels between Carroll Gardens and Westport. Both places are changing. Some longtime residents resent what’s happening. Recent arrivals feel the undercurrent. They try to be sensitive — but this is their town too.

“We moved because of the beauty, the downtown, the historical homes,” Antonia says. Some of her new friends are natives. One of them lives in new construction, she laughs.

“We’re new, but we still respect what there is here, and what there was.” Yet, she adds, Westport is always changing. “This used to be onion farms.”

She followed the Red Barn closing on “06880.” “We went there once. We were not impressed. But I understand it was an institution.”

The same thing is happening in Carroll  Gardens. Antonia pointed me to a New York Daily News story about the demise of a beloved restaurant there.

“It’s not just Westport,” she says. “It’s everywhere. If your secret gets out, that’s it.”

So, I wonder, does Antonia have any message for Westporters of every era, seeking to understand what’s going on here today?

“Not everyone who comes here is not uninterested in the town and its past,” she says.

Antonia Landgraf and her husband understand the importance of the Westport Historical Society.

Antonia Landgraf and her husband understand the importance of the Westport Historical Society.

“My husband and I are very much invested in Westport. We want to contribute to the community.

“We’re not just passing through. We’re here for at least the next 16 years, through high school for our youngest. We might stay here after retirement.

“New people come in all the time. They may be different from those who were born here. But don’t assume they don’t respect all that has made the town what it is.”

You Can’t Get There From Here

Elm Street was partially closed today, as part of the ongoing Bedford Square construction project.

Traffic was detoured into the Christ & Holy Trinity Church parking lot.

Elm Street

That made sense — except the only way out of there is Elm Street.

There’s an entrance to the lot on Myrtle Avenue. But it’s clearly marked one-way. You can’t use it to exit the lot.

So perplexed — and none-too-happy — drivers circled through the parking lot, exited back to the open section of Elm Street, and turned onto Main Street.

The same way they’d come.

Smokin’ The Westport Blues

As a new member of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association 8 years ago, Bob LeRose wanted to make an impact on the area.

LeRose — the “Bobby” of Bobby Q’s restaurant — zeroed in on his 2 passions: barbecue and music.

The result — organized in conjunction with the DMA, 2nd selectman Shelly Kassen, the Westport Library and Levitt Pavilion — was the 1st-ever Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.

The name might be a bit clunky — what’s up with “views”? — but it quickly became a fixture of the downtown late-summer scene. Its attraction spread far beyond Westport — kind of like Festival Italiano — but like that Saugatuck celebration of yore, it’s still ours.

Westport's Emergency Medical Services staff participated in last yeear's hotly contested barbecue competition.

Westport’s Emergency Medical Services staff participated in last year’s hotly contested barbecue competition.

The 8th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival is set for Labor Day weekend (September 5 and 6) at the Levitt Pavilion and library and Imperial Avenue parking lots.

Once again, there’s kick-ass music (including Westport’s own Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Mark Naftalin); cooking demonstrations by top local chefs (including Da Pietro’s, Vespa and of course Bobby Q’s); rib- and pie-eating contests; bull riding; a drum circle; kids’ activities (from bounce houses to face painting), and the very popular Kansas City Barbeque Society competition.

The Levitt Pavilion is the perfect spot to hear great, get-up-and-move blues. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The Levitt Pavilion is the perfect spot to hear great, get-up-and-move blues. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

A specialty food court is filled with wood-fired, grilled and roasted meats, and handcrafted beer.

New this year: a “People’s Choice Wing Contest.” Whole Foods is donating the goods.

I’ve heard a few snarky comments about the price (tickets range from $30 for Sunday bought in advance, to $85 for a two-day pass bought onsite). Children under 12 are free with a paying adult.

But the event sells out. And plenty of out-of-towners seem thrilled to be there.

This couple was VERY happy to be at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

This couple was VERY happy to be at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

More importantly, it’s a way for the DMA to continue their great job of keeping downtown attractive and lively; promoting commerce, culture and community, and bringing something unique and fun to the area.

The DMA uses its funds to improve downtown. They also support other organizations like the Westport Woman’s Club, Rotary, Levitt, Library and First Night.

The Blues, Views & BBQ Festival does not fall out of the sky. It costs money to produce. There are bands and police to hire, port-a-potties and fencing to pay for, signs and programs to produce, tents to erect, and clean-up to be done.

Oh, yeah: rental for the Levitt too. (Plus sound guys, lighting guys, and ribs for the bands.)

Vegans are welcome at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. But meat-lovers will have an especially great time.

Vegans are welcome at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. But meat-lovers will have an especially great time.

It’s all worth it. As Bobby LeRose says, “Thousands of people support this event each year. We get support from everyone. We see smiles all around. People are so happy with the music, food, activities and sense of community.

“You just don’t see this caliber of talent on one stage for the price we charge this close to home, in our beautiful and intimate Levitt Pavilion.”

Westport was recently named one of Connecticut’s 10 Most Boring Towns. Any of the thousands of happy folks who ever heard 2 days of fantastic music, scarfed down ribs, ridden a bull or done anything else fun at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival would beg to differ.

(The 8th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival is set for Saturday, September 5 [11 a.m.-10 p.m.] and Sunday, September 6 [11 a.m.-9 p.m.] For ticket options, daily schedule, and entry forms for the eating and BBQ competitions, click on www.bluesviewsbbq.com.) 

BBQ_FEST_Logo

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #33

Last week’s photo challenge was tough. You don’t expect mechanical plans to be part of a sculpture. But the image Lynn U. Miller captured was just that: a description of the old Post Road drawbridge on the Saugatuck River. The sculpture — with that plaque — is located near the current, “new” (and modernized in the 1990s) bridge, near the library at the lower parking lot. (Click here for the photo and comments.)

Congratulations to Melissa Crouch Chang, Grover Fitch, Jamie Walsh and LuAnn Giunta for your superb powers of observation (and memories).

This week’s photo challenge is here:

Oh My 06880 - August 16, 2015

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

If you recognize this shot, click “Comments.” And add any info about the site you’d like.

Meanwhile, here’s a bonus: Lynn U. Miller’s photos of the full plaque describing the bridge, and the entire sculpture, that were part of last week’s photo challenge.

Post Road bridge plaque

Post Road bridge sculpture

(Photos/Lynn U. Miller)

 

Lighting It Up On Main Street

To some, the Main Street improvement project is moving slower than Main Street traffic.

Eversource is the cause: making improvements to their underground vaults and wiring, while contractors lay underground electrical conduits to power new street lights.

But the 1st lampposts were installed this week, and they are definitely worth the wait.

They’re street scale — not highway scale, like the current high-intensity “cobra head” lights — and blend in well with their surroundings.

The new Main Street lamppost (smaller) stands in contrast to the older, taller, "cobra head" light.

The new Main Street lamppost (lower) stands in contrast to the older, taller, “cobra head” light.

The new ones feature high-efficiency LED lights, which will project a “warm light” at the proper intensity.

They’re equipped to hold a decorative banner and flower basket too.

There will be 20 lights in all. The design was chosen by the Downtown Steering Committee, on recommendations from 2 consulting firms and the Village District Study (which included a historical consultant).

First Selectman Jim Marpe has named a new Downtown Implementation Committee. Next month, they begin implementing the rest of the downtown plan.

Meanwhile, the sidewalk project has moved to the east side of the street. Target date for completion — including some new trees — is the end of September.

Finally, we see the “light” at the end of the tunnel Main Street.

Intriguing Real Estate Trends: 2050 Estimate Now Available

The good news is: By 2050, Westport will have plenty of new waterfront property.

The bad news: Current waterfront property will be worthless. It will sit underwater.

Want to check out if you’re a winner or loser? Head to Climate Central. They’ve spent 2 years developing interactive maps for coastal states. You can see — if you dare — estimates of areas vulnerable to flooding from combined sea level rise, storm surge and tides, or to permanent submergence by long-term sea level rise.

The site also offers reams of statistics. But the maps are the money shots.

2050 Westport coastal map

This is a very pretty map. Until you realize that blue represents water. Nearly everything south of the Post Road could be submerged. And look how far over its banks the Saugatuck River flows. Hover over or click to enlarge.

The above map is based on a 2-degree Celsius average rise in temperature.

Virtually everything south of 95 is gone. So is all of downtown, as the Saugatuck River surges over its banks.

Alert “06880” reader Glenn Payne — who we can thank (or blame) for sending the link along — notes:

While the attached is somewhat alarmist (it shows all land within 20 feet of high tide underwater), and the timing is likely beyond most readers, it does paint a very different picture of Westport sometime in the future. While some may be relieved that their house has not been submerged, their commute will be challenged, as I-95 will be.

He poses some interesting questions:

  • What is Westport without a beach and downtown?
  • Who pays the bills if the biggest taxpayers (Nyala Farms, Beachside homes) are not there?
  • And who lives in the rest of Westport if much of Manhattan (and the financial district) is gone?

So don’t sweat the details of the new downtown plan. Who cares if there’s a new traffic pattern at the beach. Neither will be around forever.

But until then, be careful where you park. “06880” will move to higher ground. We’ll still be watching.

Welcome to Westport!

Welcome to Westport!

(To see the interactive Westport map, click here. For Climate Central’s “Surging Seas” page, click here.) 

The Rumor Mill Churns

Anthropologie has announced its move to bigger digs in Bedford Square. A new tenant will eventually move into the current location on Post Road East.

But big changes may be in store for Balducci’s next door too.

Several folks have contacted “06880,” saying that — just a few months after renovation — the store may close. Rumors swirl regarding rent issues.

Architect types have been spotted touring the buildings and parking lot.

If Balducci’s goes — and with Garelick & Herbs moving to the Southport line — the east end of Westport may soon become a gourmet food desert.

Balduccis

Down By The River

It’s a beloved tradition: In mid-July, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association  hosts a Fine Arts Festival on Parker Harding Plaza and Gorham Island.

Across the Post Road, the Westport Library fills a jinormous tent with over 80,000 items, for its annual books (and much more) sale.

Part of the tradition: It’s always held on the hottest day of the year.

Today marks a nice break from that tradition. Rain did not keep 300 folks from lining up before the book sale opened. Every artist, sculptor and photographer was good to go too.

By mid-afternoon the clouds lifted. Over 3,000 books-and-more lovers hauled boxes and bags to their cars. A similar number strolled along the river, admiring (and buying) artwork.

The 42nd annual Fine Arts Festival continues tomorrow (Sunday, July 19) 10 a.m.-5 p.m..

The “Bookstravaganza” continues tomorrow and Monday (July 19-20), 9 a.m.-6 p.m. It ends Tuesday (July 21), 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Scores of artists invited art-lovers to admire their works.

Scores of artists invited art-lovers to admire their works…

...like this painting...

…like this painting…

...and this piece of glass.

…and this piece of glass.

Parker Harding Plaza is a great location for the art show. The river provides a welcoming backdrop -- and permanent art lines the walkway.

Parker Harding Plaza is a great location for the art show. The river provides a welcoming backdrop — and permanent art lines the walkway.

Living art was on display too this afternoon.

Living art was on display too this afternoon.

Noted art patrons Bill Scheffler and Ann Sheffer enjoyed the show today, with Ann's daughter Betty Stolpen (she works at the Whitney Museum) and her friend Matt Glick.

Noted art patrons Bill Scheffler and Ann Sheffer enjoyed the show today, with Ann’s daughter Betty Stolpen (she works at the Whitney Museum) and her friend Matt Glick.

Meanwhile, at the Westport Library book sale, there was something for everyone...

Meanwhile, at the Westport Library book sale, there was something for everyone…

...no matter what your taste in books ... (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

…no matter what your taste in books … (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

... or magazines. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

… or magazines. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

New library director Bill Harmer does not officially begin until July 27. But he was at the book sale today, checking out the legendary event.

New library director Bill Harmer does not officially begin until July 27. But he was at the book sale today, checking out the legendary event.

One satisfied customer, among thousands.

One satisfied customer, among thousands.

 

 

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Because There Is Such A Huge Gap In The Number Of Nail Salons Downtown…

Amenity Nail and Spa