Category Archives: Local business

Here’s How To Vote!

Matt Murray’s tongue is planted firmly in cheek when he writes:

I have never been more proud of our local politicians and their minions than for re-setting the yard signs at the intersection of Cross Highway and Roseville Road after an accident knocked them — and the guard rail — down.

Campaign signs

Without those signs, I would never be able to decide who to vote for.

Goodbye, Cocoa Michelle. Hello, Bonjo!

Cocoa Michelle — the long-lived, very popular coffee-croissants-and-chocolates spot across from the train station — is closing today.

They’ve been bought out by their coffee roaster. On Monday, they reopen as Bonjo.

The current staff is staying. And Bonjo will feature an expanded selection of food.

For the rest of the week, there’s still Commuter Coffee. And — on the other side of the tracks — Steam.

(Hat tip to John Hartwell.)

The cozy interior of Cocoa Michelle.

The cozy interior of Cocoa Michelle.

Compo Acres Construction To Be Halted

Equity One has heard the pleas of Compo Acres Shopping Center merchants.

They’ve agreed to a new construction schedule. The parking project and sidewalks are now slated to be completed by November 15 — if possible. The holiday season will not be impacted.

While it’s not a perfect solution — renovations on 2 storefronts will continue — it’s far better than the previous plan, which would have devastated merchants during the crucial holiday season.

Who says you can’t fight City Hall corporate America?

The sidewalk in front  of Compo Acres Shopping Center may soon be finished.

The sidewalk in front of Compo Acres Shopping Center may soon be finished.

 

 

Compo Acres Renovation: The Sequel

The renovation of Compo Acres Shopping Center has been controversial for several reasons.

As noted yesterday, merchants worry that the ongoing, long-running project will run through the make-or-break holiday season.

They’re not the only ones upset. Neighbors have put up with noise and dust, as the upper back parking lot has been leveled.

The resulting one-level lot is intended to be easier for shoppers and employees — few of whom ever ventured back there.

But it’s also resulting in a loss of privacy. A number of trees were felled and shredded this week.

Compo Acres trees

It may not quite be “paving paradise” to put up a parking lot. But those trees sure were nice.

 

Steve Silver: Compo Acres Is Open For Business!

There’s never a good time for a commercial property owner to do a major renovation.

But there is a worst time: the holiday shopping season.

Steve Silver has lived or worked here his entire life. He and his sister Sue have a combined 70 years’ experience with Silver of Westport, the store their father founded in 1951. It’s the oldest continually operating store in town.

Their lease in Compo Acres Shopping Center has 16 years to go. Since April, though, they’ve been looking for someone to join them, or take over their luggage and gifts store. Nearing retirement, they want fresh ideas (and legs).

April is when construction began on the center. Steve says their landlord — Equity One — “seems to be doing everything possible to make our business fail.”

The company — which owns 2 other shopping centers in town — has simultaneously blasted and reshaped the back hill into level parking spaces; installed new sidewalks  and curbs around the building, and gutted 2 stores for new tenants.

The front of Compo Acres Shopping Center...

The front of Compo Acres Shopping Center…

The results will be nice, but timing is everything. Compo Acres has been a mess for 7 months. And Equity One plans to continue work straight through Christmas.

The Silvers — and several other tenants — asked for a break from November 1 through December 25. That’s the period when most businesses make most of their money. The landlord said no.

“We all love what we do here,” Steve says. “Our staff has stayed with us for over 15 years. Endless numbers of young people pass through here every Christmas, helping us. Many of them come back to visit, and remember their experience.”

Silver of Westport has supported nearly every charity that knocks on their door. That’s what locally owned businesses do. Steve himself was a 33-year United Way volunteer, and chaired 2 preschools.

“I always hear about mom-and-pop businesses failing,” Steve says. “I want people to know that it is landlords you have to look at — well, at least Equity One. And if nothing happens here, Equity One — which has already forced out businesses at Fresh Market center — needs to know how much Westporters care about their hometown.”

...and the rear.

…and the rear.

In 1963, Silver’s burned to the ground. Townspeople, fellow merchants — and a caring landlord — helped Steve and Sue’s father get back on his feet.

Silver’s asks area shoppers to help them and their retail neighbors out this holiday season. Ignore the parking mess. Ignore the scaffolding that makes it seem like the shopping center is closed.

Instead, help support the many local businesses that make Westport what it is.

And, if you’d like, contact Equity One to ask for a holiday season without hassles. Project coordinator is Michael Lai (mlai@equityone.net); leasing agent is Eliot Fierberg (efierberg@equityone.net), and COO is Michael Makinen (mmakinen@equityone.net).

Dave Elgart: “Southern Hospitality Exists In Westport”

Most Fridays starting at age 7, Dave Elgart took a taxi — by himself — to Grand Central. He’d buy a ticket, and board a train. His father — divorced from Dave’s mother — would meet him in Westport. They’d spend the weekend here; then Dave would return — alone — to New York.

The routine continued from 1955 to 1962. That year Dave’s dad moved away. Soon, Dave’s mother moved to West Virginia.

Dave joined the Navy, earned a master’s, became a partner his 1st year at Bear Stearns, and moved way up the financial services ladder.

But — more than 50 years later — the pull of Westport is strong. A couple of weekends ago, Dave found himself at an industry conference in Greenwich.

David and Barbara Elgart.

David and Barbara Elgart.

He lives in Atlanta now. Except for a trip to a Turtles concert at the Westport Country Playhouse, he had not returned. His wife Barbara had never even been to New England.

So they drove up the Merritt, to revisit the town of his youth.

One of the first places Dave wanted to see was a store his father had once co-owned. Called the House of Buys, it sat next to a gas station he remembered was owned by Joe DeMattia.

The House of Buys lasted only a few years. The spot is now occupied by Torno Hardware. DeMattia’s service station was in business much longer — until just a year or so ago. It’s now being renovated into a Wheels store, next to Target Training.

As a teenager, Dave bought his first suit at a new men’s shop called Ed Mitchell’s. That tiny spot — now a People’s bank near Planet Pizza — has grown into the the luxury Mitchells of Westport store. Dave found Jack, Ed’s son.

The original Ed Mitchell's, on the corner of the Post Road (State Street) and North Compo Road.

The original Ed Mitchell’s, on the corner of the Post Road (State Street) and North Compo Road.

They talked for a long time. “He was a font of history,” Dave says. “And the store is amazing. They fawn over you, even if you don’t buy anything.”

Dave’s visit here was filled with similar propitious encounters. “The people could not have been nicer,” he says. “Everywhere we turned, they were so wonderful and kind. Southern hospitality definitely exists in Westport.”

Some places remain the same. The railroad station — where he spent so much time — looks no different (though the pot-bellied stove is gone).

Other places have changed. The state police barracks near the Sherwood Island Connector is now a Walgreens. There was no sign of a doctor he remembered, named Eldridge.

But the new Westport is as welcoming as Dave remembered the old. They ate dinner at Arezzo, where the owner “couldn’t have been nicer.”

Even Westport’s infamous drivers are “no crazier than in Atlanta,” Dave says.

“The roads aren’t great” here, he notes. But they’re “charming.” In fact, he calls the entire town “bucolic.”

Despite new construction, Westport looked "bucolic" to Dave Elgart.

Despite new construction, Westport looked “bucolic” to Dave Elgart.

Westport was “gorgeous,” Dave adds. “It’s even more beautiful than I remember it. It’s so much fun.”

Dave’s visit was so great, he and his wife will return this spring — with friends. They’ll tour the area, and take the train to New York to see a show.

It will be a reverse route than the one Dave was so used to taking, more than half a century ago. Of course, Metro-North has replaced the New York, New Haven & Hartford.

But sometimes, it seems, you can go home again.

Bagel Maven Bounces Back

Living in Cos Cob, Phil Nourie and his wife loved walking to their neighborhood bagel shop on weekends. So they were delighted when — moving to Westport — they discovered Bagel Maven on a weekend stroll.

After their son was born in 2009, owner Alex Perdomo delivered bagels and coffee to their home.

That’s the kind of guy Alex is. And it’s the kind of place Bagel Maven was.

But in mid-September, Alex told Phil that he might have to close. He’d missed a rent payment last winter. He took 4 months to pay back, and his landlord was unwilling to take another risk.

Phil — whose day job is in PR and marketing, with plenty of experience in crisis management — offered to help.

He advised Alex not to disparage the landlord — not that Alex would have. He knew he’d made a mistake, and that commercial real estate is a business too.

Alex Permodo on September 30. Despite closing that day, he managed a smile.

Alex Perdomo on September 30. Despite closing that day, he managed a smile.

Phil suggested Alex give away bagels on his last day. “You don’t know what can happen,” Phil said. “You never want to burn bridges.”

“06880” broke the story on Bagel Maven’s closing. WestportNow and News12 followed up.

Phil created a Facebook page and Twitter account. Strangers emailed, asking how they could help.

The Sunday after he closed, Alex met with Phil and another patron. They talked about the possibility of wholesaling, or finding new space in Westport.

Bagel Maven logoAlex was receptive. But research showed those options were not viable.

Phil suggested Alex talk to his landlord.

The conversation went well. Alex was forthright about his past error, and his current situation. The landlord — who had seen the press stories and social media activity — realized Bagel Maven was not just another shop.

Alex got a new lease. The landlord agreed to pay for painting.

Two patrons offered to pay for renovations. Alex and some friends have already taken apart the floor. The oven will be upgraded, and the interior opened up so customers can see the bagels being made. They’ll smell them, too.

Alex and some friends have already started renovating the interior.

Alex and some friends have begun renovating the interior.

The target date for reopening is November 8.

Phil calls this one of the most gratifying projects he’s worked on.

“It’s a great story about how people can come together, and do more than anyone thought possible,” he says.

“And it’s been done without any sense of outrage. This is a story of reality — of mistakes, and what can come out of them.”

Phil adds, “I got way into this — far more than I thought. But I couldn’t just walk away.”

Soon — thanks to Phil Nourie, and a community-wide effort — all of us can walk back into Bagel Maven.

And In More Shopping Center News…

It looks like the rumors are true.

Both Chipotle and SoulCycle are coming to Compo Acres Shopping Center.

In fact — according to Equity One’s site plan — they’re already there.

As shown below, SoulCycle is located next to Patriot National Bank, at the west end of the shopping center (furthest away from Trader Joe’s). Chipotle is 2 doors away.

Equity One

Equity One has become a big player on Westport’s commercial real estate scene.

The firm — which owns 135 properties, primarily in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and South Florida, and whose mission is to “develop, redevelop and invest in ‘A’ quality retail properties in the most desirable and productive urban markets in the United States” — already owns the Fresh Market shopping center, and the one across the Post Road (think Dunkin’ Donuts).

As “06880” reported yesterday, 4 of the 6 easternmost storefronts in the Fresh Market center are vacant. Nearby Patio.com recently moved, too.

Sources say that Equity One hopes to demolish the old Patio.com and the closed stores, and erect a new building.

Sources add that Equity One also has its eye on the Terrain property.

Now if they can only do something about that long-abandoned Westport House of Pancakes…

Post Road Ghost Town

Ospreys are not all that have fled the Fresh Market shopping center.

4 of the 6 easternmost storefronts are vacat.

So is Patio.com, which recently decamped for new digs on the site of the old Brook Cafe, across the street from Starbucks.

Fresh Market shopping center

Is it a sign of a changing economy? Rents that climbed out of whack? Competition from other shopping centers, or other towns?

The good news: There’s plenty of parking.

Take 3 spaces. No one will care.

Returning A Few Crumbs

The Y in downtown Westport is closed, and it won’t be coming back.

But Crumbs may be.

Business Insider reports that the luxury cupcake chain will begin reopening stores this month. They were shut in July, due to a cash crunch.

A Manhattan store will reopen Tuesday. Another 25 will follow, including the Westport location behind Tiffany.

That’s good news for cupcake lovers. Even better: With the Y gone, there’s plenty of parking nearby.

(Hat tip to Stacey Henske)

Crumbs