Category Archives: Downtown

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.

 

 

Image

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

Amenity Nail and Spa

Arezzo Launches National Line

There is only one Arezzo.

It’s in Westport. Since opening nearly 2 years ago at the corner of the Post Road and Riverside Avenue — a location that over the years had seen many restaurants come and go — the Italian place with a killer patio out back has become one of our town’s most popular spots.

The caponata earns raves. The sauces are fantastic.

Arezzo caponataSo owner Juan Ceballos is making a smart move: He’s including them in a new multi-item product line. They’ll be available at retailers in the tri-state area — and nationally soon after that.

For 15 years — at his Arezzo Ristorante & Bar in New York, then at his New Canaan restaurant — customers have asked Ceballos to package his signature items.

But he worried about quality control. Now — assured of full control over the ingredients, preparation and production — he’s good to go.

In addition to the caponata and sauces (garden tomato, classic marinara and fra diavolo), Arezzo Authentic Fine Foods will include biscotti and lemon sauce (great for salads, vegetables and fish).

Westporters who know restaurants know Arezzo. Soon, the rest of the country — at least, those who love fine Italian food — will know it too.

Sidewalks Still On Sale

Every year around this time, I trot out the same lame joke. It’s Sidewalk Sale time downtown, so I say: “Why would anyone want to buy a sidewalk?”

Ba-dum!

This year though, I was all set to tee up a new version. With Main Street sidewalks torn up in the midst of a renovation project, I thought I’d say:
“Times are so tough, you can’t even buy a sidewalk now.”

Ba-DUM!

Sidewalk_SaleFortunately for the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — if not for my “humor” — this weekend’s Sidewalk Sale should go just ducky. Construction will not force racks of clothes and women’s shoes onto the road. They’ll stay right where they belong: on the sidewalk.

Both sides of Main Street are open for business. And if you don’t find what you want, just keep shopping the old-fashioned way.

Inside.

(The Sidewalk Sale is set for Friday through Sunday, July 10-12, on Main Street and surrounding areas.)

The Way We Were — And Are (Sequel)

If you’re like most “06880” readers, you enjoyed this morning’s photographic trip down memory lane.

You admired the photos. They jogged memories — or, if you’re a newcomer (or just young), you tried to imagine the Westport of yore.

If you were Mark Potts though, you headed straight to Google Street View.

Mark — a 1974 Staples grad who co-founded WashingtonPost.com, served as editor of Philly.com, and is a consultant with clients like the Los Angeles TimesVariety and Silicon Valley startups — now lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

But his heart is still here. And one of his many hobbies is taking creating “then and now” images with “06880” photos. (Click here for last October’s shots.)

Today’s batch was tough, he says. A few unusual photo angles could not be duplicated (the Merritt Parkway shot, for example, was taken from the side of the road). And Mark couldn’t figure out where the Post Road import car shop was.

But the rest worked out fairly well. Enjoy his trip back in time — and back to the present.

Then and now 1 - Saugatuck

Then and now 2 - train station

Then and now 3 - train station

Then and now 4 - downtown

Then and now 5 - Merritt Parkway exit 41

 

The Way We Were

For some reason, people have started emailing me great photos of the Westport of yore.

I know plenty of “06880” readers like them. Longtime residents, expats, even recent arrivals appreciate seeing where what’s changed in our town — and what hasn’t. (Click on or hover over any photo to enlarge it.)

So, without further ado:

A dealer called simply “Foreign Cars” did business on the Post Road near the Southport line, just past Barker’s (or, as we know it today, Super Stop & Shop).

Foreign cars - 1950s - Post Road
This looks familiar: near the train station. In the 1950s, it was Frank Reber and Charlie Cole’s Imported Cars. This photo, and the one above, came from Hemmings Daily, thanks to David Pettee.

Frank Reber and Charlie Coles Imported Cars

A few years earlier, this was the scene around the corner, at the train station. There’s Black Horse Liquors on the corner. The newsstand was Baer’s.

Train station 1950s - courtesy Debbie Rosenfield
Here’s the eastbound view. Both photos are courtesy of Debbie Rosenfield.

Train station 1950s eastbound - courtesy Debbie Rosenfield
This 1949 view of downtown comes (as do all the photos below it) from the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut, via Brian Pettee. Colgan’s Pharmacy was where Tiffany sits today. Across Taylor Place was the trolley-shaped diner. Opposite that — hidden by trees — was the small park behind the old Westport Library. And that car in the middle of the intersection? It was turning onto the Post Road from Main Street, which had 2-way traffic.

Downtown 1948 - copyright Thomas J. Dodd Research Center UConn
Main Street Mobil occupied the current site of Vineyard Vines. In the distance you can see what for many years was Westport Pizzeria.

Main Street Mobil station 1949 - copyright Thomas J Dodd Research Center UConn
Back when the Merritt Parkway was for motoring, this was the signage (watch out for those jagged edges!).

Merritt Parkway exit 41 sign - 1949 - copyright Thomas J Dodd Research Center UConn
And when you came off Exit 41, this is what you saw. Underneath the “Westport” arrow, the sign says “State Police 3 mi.” The barracks were located on the Post Road where Walgreens is now — opposite the diner. Pretty close to I-95 — though in 1949, the “Connecticut Turnpike” had not yet been built.

Merritt Parkway exit 41 - 1949 - copyright Thomas J Dodd Research Center UConn

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #26

Summertime, and the livin’ is — well, for this week’s photo challenge Lynn U. Miller has gone to her wintry files. If you think you know where she shot this scene, click “Comments” below. Of course, add any back stories you wish.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Meanwhile, last week’s photo challenge was the toughest yet. It took 3 days, but thanks to a cross-continental collaboration between Wendy Cusick of Norwalk and Nancy Hunter (Vancouver, British Columbia), Lynn U. Miller’s mystery was finally solved.

The image was part of a plaque from the Lions Club, commemorating America’s bicentennial in 1976. This was the clue:

Oh My 06880 - June 21, 2015

Here’s the full image:

Lions Club plaque - Jesup Green flag pole

It was located — still is, in fact — at the base of the flagpole on Jesup Green. As I said, hidden in plain sight. Lynn and I got all of you (except Wendy and Nancy!)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

 

Downtown Changing Daily

With Bedford Square construction kicking into high gear, Westporters are treated to scenes we’ve never seen.

Like this view of Bobby Q’s patio, from Elm Street:

Bobby Q patio

Meanwhile, across the way in the Baldwin parking lot, workers are busily converting the Kemper-Gunn House into the home of Serena & Lily:

Kemper Gunn house

Want a different view? Developer David Waldman offers 2 drone videos of downtown.

The first (click here) shows the Bedford Square project and environs. The second (click here) is a broader perspective, including the Saugatuck River and former Save the Children property — the next property set for redevelopment.

A view of downtown, from David Waldman's drone.

A view of downtown, from David Waldman’s drone.

No Moon This jUNe

This Saturday (June 27), Westport marks its 50th jUNe Day.

For half a century on the last Saturday of June, we’ve welcomed guests from the UN. Lawyers, staff members, security guards — they and their families come here for a full day of sports, beach-going, shopping and fun.

You’d think the organizers would go all out to celebrate 50 years. They’d plan great new activities. Shoot off fireworks. Bring Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to town for a ceremonial something.

Not gonna happen.

Longshore is a favorite destination for jUNe Day guests. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

Longshore is a favorite destination for jUNe Day guests. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

In keeping with the theme of jUNe Day — a low-key chance for UN workers to get out of the city, and Westport to show off its beauty and hospitality — the event will consist of the usual: a brief hello at Saugatuck Elementary School (10:30 a.m.), then the rest of the day filled with soccer, tennis and golf; tours of Earthplace, the Westport Historical Society, downtown and the Westport Arts Center — and of course, Compo Beach.

Okay, the welcome ceremony will include Senator Richard Blumenthal and recent UN special coordinator for the Ebola risis Tony Banbury. But Banbury lives in Westport. And Blumenthal shows up anywhere there’s a camera.

Children of UN staffers enjoy Wakeman Town Farm. Many UN families seldom leave New York, jUNe Day organizers note. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

Children of UN staffers enjoy Wakeman Town Farm. Many UN families seldom leave New York, jUNe Day organizers note. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

For all the joy, fun and relaxation it brings more than 300 UN folks and their families, jUNe Day is organized by a tiny group. Just a few core volunteers plan everything. (UN, and every other governmental organization: Take note!)

Michaela MacColl got involved 15 years ago, at the invitation of jUNe Day founder Ruth Steinkraus Cohen. MacColl — whose day job is children’s author — liked what she saw. When Steinkraus Cohen died, MacColl took over.

“I love Westport, but sometimes I’m frustrated by the homogeneity,” MacColl — a 20-year resident — says. “For one day, things are different.” Last year, 35 countries were represented at jUNe Day. (Their flags are the ones you’ll see flying on the appropriately named Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge this Saturday.)

On jUNe Day, the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge brims with flags from around the world. (Photo/Jeff Simon)

On jUNe Day, the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge brims with flags from around the world. (Photo/Jeff Simon)

“It’s always nice to see people gob-smacked by Westport’s beauty,” MacColl says. “But they also meet very kind people here. Westporters really like showing off the town, and they help out in any way they can.”

Local businesses do too. Most of the food is donated by area businesses. (The kitchen is run by a teenager, William Amon.)

Little things stand out. A Syrian family is always the first to arrive, MacColl says. They’ve come every year since their son was born. He’s 20 now.

The weather is usually fantastic. One year though, it rained hard. A Filipino man came, with 2 small children. He told MacColl he’d considered staying in New York. But when he thought about how much work Westport put into the event, he realized he had to be here.

Fifty years is indeed a great achievement. But you won’t see or hear jUNe Day organizers boasting about it on Saturday.

They’ll be too busy helping 300 guests, from all over the globe.

(Volunteers are always needed. To help, contact Andrea Dostal: 203-526-3275; andreasusa@yahoo.com. For more information, contact Michaela MacColl at 203-227-9461, or Bill Hass at 203-454-7685.)

United Nations