Category Archives: Local business

Slice Is Nice!

Hundreds of Westporters — and many more out-of-towners — poured into the narrow streets of Saugatuck today.

They ambled along Riverside Avenue, Railroad Place and Saugatuck Avenue, enjoying our 3rd annual Slice of Saugatuck festival.

Food and drink was the main attraction. Over 25 restaurants and merchanats — including Viva’s, Mansion, Rainbow Thai, Craft Butchery, Saugatuck Sweets, The Duck, Chinese Takeout, Cuatros Hermanos — even 99 Bottles and Dunkin’ Donuts — offered treats.

But there was music too, ranging from School of Rock and folk to steel drums, along with stuff from hair salons, galleries and a tae kwan do place.

The weather was perfect. The vibe was cool.

And — because most people stayed off the roads — even the traffic was fine.

It was a fantastic slice of life, on a wonderful Sunday afternoon. With proceeds benefiting the Gillespie Center food pantry too, what’s not to like?

Tutti's was 1 of many Saugatuck restaurants dishing out some of its most popular items. Lines formed instantly, and stayed long.

Tutti’s was one of many Saugatuck restaurants dishing out some of its most popular items. Lines formed instantly, and stayed long.

The plaza between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk rocked all afternoon long.

The plaza between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk rocked all afternoon long.

What's a street festival without a bounce house? This one was in the Rizzuto's parking lot.

What’s a street festival without a bounce house? This one was in the Rizzuto’s lot.

Mr. Sausage showed up too, to help promote Saugatuck Craft Butchery's carnivorous samples.

Mr. Sausage showed up too, to help promote Saugatuck Craft Butchery’s carnivorous samples.

Downunder was busy all day, offering kayak and paddleboard rides. Nearby, boat owners tied up at the dock.

Downunder was busy all day, offering kayak and paddleboard rides. Nearby, boat owners tied up at the dock.

 

What Do Baseball, The Internet, Grandkids And Oscar’s Have In Common?

That kid-gives-a-foul-ball-to-the-girl-behind-him story has legs.

Alert “06880” reader Tom Orofino follows up with this PS:

His son and son’s wife were in California showing off their new 9-week-old baby Colin to the wife’s family. While there, they took the infant to Dodger Stadium.

Colin had a cute little shirt on, with a sign saying it was his 1st baseball game.

A Dodgers’ PR guy took a picture, and posted it to their Twitter feed. It’s gotten over 53,000 likes.

Tom Orofino grandkid

Yesterday, Tom was in Oscar’s. He proudly showed Colin’s photo to owner Lee Papageorge.

Lee promptly introduced Tom to another set of grandparents: those of the kid who caught the ball at the Red Sox game last week, and gained his own viral following.

What are the odds that 2 grandchildren of Westporters would earn internet fame in the same week — and that both sets of grandparents would be at Oscar’s at the same time?

One more Westporter — Rod Serling — would be proud.

Ode To Jordan’s Joe: The Sequel

Last December, “06880” reported on Jordan Teske’s blog, “365 Days With Joe.” For a full year, the 1999 Staples graduate promised daily posts about Trader Joe’s: her favorite store thing in the world.

She’s nearing the home stretch, with less than 50 days to go. As the year winds down, Jordan’s ardor for all things Joe has not waned.

If anything, it’s increased dramatically.

Last Valentine’s Day, Jordan’s home store — on 72nd and Broadway in New York — held a “Love Letter to Joe. contest” She won. The lovely prize: a love letter from Joe, flowers and chocolate.

Jordan Teske, outside her New York City Trader Joe's.

Jordan Teske, outside her New York City Trader Joe’s.

Waiting in line last month, she saw a sign for another contest. This was called “Kingdomwide King Joseph Fairy Tale.”

Crazy! Jordan writes children’s fairy tales or a living, and for the past year has been working on a documentary about royalty.

So she wrote a fairy tale called “King Joseph’s Magical Carrot Cake of Many Colors.” The moral of the story was that children should eat Trader Joe’s vegetables. The idea came from overhearing parents in line sharing secrets on how to disguise vegetables in their kids’ food.

Trader Joes logoThe fairy tale incorporated (of course) Trader Joe’s food throughout. She included a carrot cake recipe — all with TJ ingredients.

And even though the contest was technically for children — Jordan won. Again.

Also last month, Trader Joe’s Biggest Fan had her very own storytelling hour in “her” New York store.

Perched on (ahem) beer boxes, toddlers listened raptly to Jordan’s stories. The staff presented her with flowers, a card, and a Trader Joe’s gift card they labeled “manna.”

Employees called her their “Favorite Customer of All Time,” and named her the store’s “Official VIP Customer.” A flyer thanked Jordan for her commitment to the 72nd and Broadway store — which she walks to every day, a 3.2-mile round trip, from her Upper East Side apartment — and advertised her blog.

Jordan Teske with her carrot cake fairy tale, and a Trader Joe's flyer promoting her blog.

Jordan Teske with her carrot cake fairy tale, and a Trader Joe’s flyer promoting her blog.

“It was the best way to finish this year-long Trader Joe’s fete,” Jordan says.

“I’ve taught myself how to cook and eat. I’ve lost a bit of weight, and survived in the most expensive city on earth without a full-time job, solely on Trader Joe’s.”

Sounds like a good reason to celebrate.

Perhaps with a little King Joseph of Struedlburg’s plumcot pudding?

CVS Pulls The Plug

Earlier this year, CVS announced it would stop selling cigarettes by October.

They beat their self-imposed deadline by a month. As of today, you can’t buy cigarettes at any of their 7,700 stores nationwide. Including ours.

The nation’s largest drugstore chain has stopped selling them (and other tobacco products), in part because its 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners are tired of treating problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease — all linked to smoking.

CVS will lose about $2 billion in sales — less than 1% of its $123 billion total last year.

Years ago, cigarette sales no doubt accounted for much more. I remember those days well.

Cigarettes 1There were cigarette machines in nearly every store. Westport Pizzeria had one, as a longtime customer noted on Facebook. (When she was underage and tried to buy a pack, owner Mel Mioli warned her of the dangers of smoking.)

Across the street, a popular store selling food and featuring pinball games was called “Bill’s Smoke Shop.”

When I was in 8th grade, some Long Lots Junior High friends and I were “hired” to help construct the carnival that set up every May in the vacant lot that is now the Barnes & Noble shopping center. Our pay? Cigarettes.

(The wisdom of using 14-year-olds to build Ferris wheels and tilt-a-whirls is the subject of another story.)

cigarettes 2And for well over a decade at Staples, there was a designated “smoking area.” The blacktop just outside the cafeteria — next to a basketball hoop, and where principal George Cohan once grilled hamburgers — was called (by some) “Cancer Plaza.” Many other students called it “home.”

Things are different now. According to a 2011 survey, 11% of Staples juniors — and just 3% of sophomores — said they smoked cigarettes. That was a 10-fold drop from a similar survey 11 years earlier.

I spend a lot of time around Staples students. I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone mention cigarettes. I’m not at their parties, true — but smoking among Westport teenagers seems to be dying a slow death.

Now CVS is doing its part to hasten its demise.

If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.

Max’s Art Supplies Lives On — For One Day

When Max’s Art Supplies announced it was closing, Amy Kaplan shared the sadness of many. The Westport artist mourned not only the end of a special place, but the loss of a community.

Though Max’s is closing August 30, it will reopen on Friday, September 5 — for one night only.

Amy is organizing a special pop-up art show in the Post Road venue. Owner Shirley Mellor and longtime associate Nina Royce have given their blessings. Supporters include the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, John Hartwell and the Westport Democratic Town Committee, Rockwell Art and Framing, and Parkway Liquor.

From 6-9 p.m. that evening, a juried exhibit will feature some of the area’s most talented artists. The event is free, and open to the public.

Max's Art Supplies will open soon after it closes -- for a special, one-night only event.

Max’s Art Supplies will open soon after it closes — for a special, one-night only event.

“Max’s has been a pillar of the local art community,” Amy says. “I can’t think of a more fitting sendoff for Max’s than this show. It gives artists a chance to show and sell their work, and also reminisce about the role Max’s has played in their lives and development as artists.”

10% of the commission of any sales at the show will go to Max’s.

To help organize the show, submit works, or donate food and beverages, email amykaplanartwork@gmail.com, or call 203-247-3910.

Any Way You Slice It…

Whatever goes around, comes around.

And on Sunday, September 14, a couple of thousand folks will go around and around in Saugatuck.

That’s the date for Slice of Saugatuck. All afternoon long, for just $10 ($5 for kids 6-12), people will wander up Riverside Avenue, along Railroad Place, and out Saugatuck Avenue. Every restaurant offers food; others businesses hand out coupons, gifts or anything else they want. There is bands, street artists and a bouncy house. It’s the best street party since, well, Festival Italiano.

The Slice of Saugatuck drew huge crowds in 2011 and 2012. (Photo by Terry Cosgrave)

The Slice of Saugatuck drew huge crowds in 2011 and 2012. (Photo by Terry Cosgrave)

It’s the 3rd “Slice” in 4 years, and that’s what the “goes around, comes around” line is all about.

RTM representative Matthew Mandell created the festival back in 2011. After 2 wildly successful years, he handed it off to the Chamber of Commerce. But the director did not see the benefit — for either the Chamber or the merchants — and last year the Slice was iced.

Now the Chamber of Commerce has a new executive director: Mandell. One of his 1st moves was to serve up the Slice.

Nice.

Saugatuck has always been about food. The Slice of Saugatuck festival is too.

Saugatuck has always been about food. The Slice of Saugatuck festival is too.

“It’s a quadruple win for the town,” Mandell explains.

“One, it brings people to Saugatuck, and promotes the merchants and the area.

“Two, it’s a fantastic community event. It’s great for people-watching, and it brings everyone together.”

“Three, it raises money for the homeless and hungry. The Homes With Hope Gillespie Food Pantry received $5,000 from the 2012 proceeds, and once again they’re our beneficiary.

“Four, we hire Homes with Hope residents to work at the festival.”

Slice of Saugatuck is not just about food. In 2012, free kayaks brought plenty of people to Downunder's riverside dock.

Slice of Saugatuck is not just about food. In 2012, free kayaks brought plenty of people to Downunder’s riverside dock.

Mandell seems to have thought of everything. Including — 4 years ago — the perfect name.

“Saugatuck is shaped like a slice of pizza,” he says. (It is, if you consider its boundaries to be the train station at one end, and the intersection of Riverside and Saugatuck Avenues the other.)

For many years, of course, Saugatuck was a thriving Italian neighborhood. There are still restaurants like Tutti’s and Julian’s, and quasi-Italian spots like
Tarry Lodge and Rizzuto’s. Mario’s and Tarantino’s are long-time classics. Dunville’s, Mansion, Viva and the Duck are not Italian, but they’ve outlasted even some of the oldtimers.

Newcomers like The Whelk, Rainbow Thai and Saugatuck Sweets — plus merchants like Downunder — have brought new life to the old area. So there will be plenty more free food than pizza available at the Slice.

Though I’m betting those slices will go real fast.

Max’s Time To Go

After reading yesterday’s “06880” post about the final days of Max’s Art Supplies, local artist Miggs Burroughs hustled down to the store he’s loved for so many years.

He wanted the iconic Karron’s Jewelry clock, rescued once from another Westport store and long a symbol of the famed art store.

He was just a minute late. Sherri Wolfgang — a close friend — had already bought it. She told Miggs she’d wanted it since she was 8 years old, and bought her first sketch pad at Max’s.

“At least I got to take this historic photo with Shirley Mellor, Rita Ross Englebardt, Jay Cimbak, Nina Royce and Sherri, who was in tears the whole time,” Miggs says. “It was very emotional moment for everyone.”

The clock and (from left) Nina Royce, Rita Ross Englebardt, Sherri Wolfgang, Shirley Mellor, Jay Cimbak.

The clock and (from left) Nina Royce, Rita Ross Englebardt, Sherri Wolfgang, Shirley Mellor, Jay Cimbak. (Photo/MIggs Burroughs)

 

Counting Down The Minutes At Max’s

The countdown has begun for Max’s Art Supplies. The legendary 59-year-old downtown store’s last day of business is Saturday, August 30.

Much of the stock has already been sold. But intriguing items remain. They include:

  • a vintage Karron’s Jewelry clock
  • a set of 32 oak flat shelves that holds 30″ x 40″ paper
  • an oak drawer 95 1/2″ long by 25″ deep
  • a paper cutter
  • an artograph
  • a never-opened “winner waxer
  • Letrasets
Some of the special items still available at Max's.

Some of the special items still available at Max’s.

  • Paper of all kinds
  • Sign cloth
  • Picture frames and mats
  • Pens
  • Fabric paint
  • Dyes
  • Markers
  • Back-to-school stuff galore
  • Plenty of fixtures
A few of the fixtures being sold at Max's.

A few of the fixtures being sold at Max’s.

The day after closing — Sunday, August 31 (2 p.m.). — owner Shirley Mellor and her staff will hold a “festive celebration” to say goodbye to the community. A special invitation goes to “the artists who have long been with us, and will always be a part of our extended family.”

One more bit of Max’s news: Jay Cimbak, the master picture framer there for the past 25 years, will be the new manager at Rockwell Art and Framing in Westport. It’s just a few doors east of Max’s, on the Post Road.

For nearly 6 decades, Shirley and the rest of the Max’s crew have served Westport with distinction. They’re going out with plenty of class.

More at Max's Art Supplies.

More at Max’s Art Supplies.

Digging An ALS Challenge

You’ve probably heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: the video craze in which someone pours (or has poured) ice water over his or her head, and challenges others do the same within 24 hours. If not, they make a donation to fight ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Plenty of folks are doing it creatively, wetly and freezingly. The videos are clever and funny.

But you’d have to go a long way to top this, from Westporter Jake Sussman:

Jake dedicated his video — created with the help of Peter Greenberg, of Able Construction — to a contractor who died of ALS. Jake also donated $100 to the ALS Foundation.

He hopes his video goes viral. Feel free to pass it along — and take the Ice Bucket Challenge yourself, too!

iFloat’s David Beats Goliath

For a year and a half, David Conneely had Westport floating on air.

Okay, water.

His iFloat therapy center above Oscar’s provided a unique way for thousands of men and women to relieve stress and rejuvenate bodies.

But — starting a year ago — even floating quietly in the dark, suspended in a warm solution of Epsom salt, could not relieve David’s stress.

Ten weeks of construction at a women’s store downstairs caused iFloat to close often. Then — after sheet rock ceiling was removed — the store’s music, telephones, even sounds of conversation and laughter shattered the tranquil time that iFloat clients cherished.

One of the iFloat relaxation tanks.

One of the iFloat relaxation tanks.

David tried to work with the store. But months of phone calls, emails and meetings produced no remedy. The store was not legally liable to solve the problem, so David could not sue. Besides, he’s not that type of guy.

David spent plenty of time and money consulting with contractors. No one could help.

He spent more time and money searching for a new site. He did not want to leave Westport, but he’d already lost six figures of income.

In May David spoke with landlord Lee Papageorge about leaving.

iFloat logo

As they worked on a mutually beneficial exit strategy, David’s father died. David spent time in Boston with family, including his brother Martin.

Martin — who owns Conneely Contracting in nearby Arlington — had been one of their father’s primary caregivers. He also had 4 girls, so he’d been unable to help David.

Finally, though, he had time to come to Westport.

Martin assessed the situation. “I can fix this,” he said.

He ripped out a wall and the float tanks. He elevated them — no easy task — and uncoupled the entire float room from the floor and walls. He installed vibration isolators — shipped overnight from California — along with sound-isolating glue and soundboards. Then Milton added new woodwork.

He did not charge his brother a dime.

It all worked perfectly. iFloat is back.

David Conneelly, in iFloat's warm and welcoming lobby.

David Conneelly, in iFloat’s warm and welcoming lobby.

True to his nature — and that of his low-key business — David is not shouting the news. But he is thrilled to offer floats again, proud of the support of his family, and honored by the staunch support of customers like Jamie Walsh, Grayson Braun, Betsy Wacker and Bill Donaldson.

“They kept me motivated and involved,” David says.

At last, David can relax.

Along with thousands of satisfied, gratefully floating customers.

(Click here for hours of operation and more information.)