Category Archives: Local business

Snow Day: Noon Scenes

As the snow continued throughout the morning, alert “06880” readers sent in photos from around town. Here are a few:

Without entitled parking -- at least, none we can see -- the Starbucks near the diner looks positively serene. (Photo/Diane Lowman)

Without entitled parking — at least, none we can see — the Starbucks near the diner looks positively serene. (Photo/Diane Lowman)

Whenever the Minute Man is decorated with a Santa cap or Easter bunny ears, a few folks complain. Today, Mother Nature decorated Westport's favorite figure. Enjoy! (Photo/Anne Hardy)

Whenever the Minute Man is decorated with a Santa cap or Easter bunny ears, a few folks complain. Today, Mother Nature decorated Westport’s favorite figure. Enjoy! (Photo/Anne Hardy)

Staples junior Eliza Goldberg snapped this shot of her dog Gracie.

Staples junior Eliza Goldberg snapped this shot of her dog Gracie.

Rindy Higgins lives on Saugatuck Shores. This morning she saw this sight. Because he's reddish-gray, black behind the ears with a white chest and long tail that stuck out straight when he scooted off, she's pretty sure he's a fox -- not a coyote.

Rindy Higgins lives on Saugatuck Shores. This morning she saw this sight. Because he’s reddish-gray, black behind the ears with a white chest and long tail that stuck out straight when he scooted off, she’s pretty sure he’s a fox — not a coyote.

A meadow view, on Meadow View. (Photo/Krystof Bondar)

The view on Meadow View. (Photo/Krystof Bondar)

Kids Eat Free! (Well, Okay, 10% Off)

On the one hand, Westport teenagers always complain “there’s nothing to do here!”

On the other hand, they love to eat.

In an effort to convince hungry kids that there are things to do in Westport — like, go to a variety of local restaurants — the Youth Commission has created a Student Discount Partnership.

Working with the Downtown Merchants Association and Chamber of Commerce, commission members have signed nearly 30 restaurants (and 2 businesses: Suited.co and Lux Bond & Green). They offer 10% off for Staples, Weston High and Greens Farms Academy students presenting a school ID. Only 2 places said no.

Participating locations sport a sticker. The eye-catching Minuteman design was created by Staples senior Julia Schorr. Baker Graphics printed 70, for free.

Student discount sticker

The program began just a couple of weeks ago, with low-key publicity. But participation — and feedback — has been great. Oscar’s, for example, has seen a definite bump in business, from groups of teens.

Oscar's owner Lee Papageorge gives thumb's-up to the Youth Commission's Student Discount Program.

Oscar’s owner Lee Papageorge gives thumb’s-up to the Youth Commission’s Student Discount Partnership.

A girl reported that she and her friends had a great time at Spotted Horse. They gave everyone a discount, even though a couple of kids forgot their student IDs.

Outside the Spotted Horse, with student IDs from Staples, Weston and Greens Farms Academy.

Outside Spotted Horse, with student IDs from Staples, Weston and Greens Farms Academy.

“We wanted to concentrate on home-owned places, where kids could have an impact,” says Youth Commission member Reece Schachne, discussing why members selected restaurants instead of chain stores.

Publicity has come mainly through Instagram (“wycstudentdiscounts” is the handle). Youth Commission co-chair Kyle Ratner is helping coordinate an official launch this week, with announcements on the “Good Morning Staples” TV show, a story in the school newspaper Inklings, and the website westportyouthcommission.org (launching February 9).

You’re probably wondering: Why do Westport students need a discount for anything?

Lower prices are not the main aim, Reece and Kyle say. It’s more about making sure teenagers know they have plenty of things to do, and many places to do it, all around Westport.

Especially if it involves food.

(For more information, click here. Participants in the program include 323, Acqua, Angelina’s, Arezzo, Bartaco, Black Duck, Blue Lemon, Border Grill, Da Pietro’s, Finalmente, Freshii, Garelick & Herbs, Jeera Little Thai Kitchen, Joe’s Pizza, Lux Bond & Green, Mumbai Times, Oscar’s, Planet Pizza, Rizzuto’s, Señor Salsa, SoNo Baking Company, Spotted Horse, Suited.Co, Sweet Frog, The Boathouse, Tutti’s, Villa del Sol, Viva Zapata and Westport Pizzeria. Any restaurant or business interested in joining the program should email kyle.ratner1@gmail.com or matthew@westportwestonchamber.com)

One More Reason To Love Trader Joe’s: The Sequel

Last week, we gave a shout-out to Trader Joe’s for the very selfish reason that a study shows the store’s presence in a town increases property values.

Today we salute the fun, funky and reasonably priced market for doing good for folks who may not have homes.

Alert “06880” reader Jo Ann Davidson — okay, very alert — noticed something the other day in the little hall near the bathrooms. (You didn’t know Trader Joe’s had bathrooms? They do — and they’re spacious, clean and nicely decorated. But I never spotted what Jo Ann saw.)

A sign nearby notes — proudly, but without bragging — that Trader Joe’s recycles about-to-expire (yet still quite edible) food.

Trader Joe's - 1

As the photo above explains, every store in the chain partners with “reliable and trustworthy” non-profits to pick up nearly expired food. (Flowers too!) Last week alone, Trader Joe’s donated nearly $12,000 worth of food.

But wait! There’s more!

They also collect winter items like coats, hats and gloves in a nearby box.

Trader Joe's - 2

What great ideas! Thanks, Trader Joe’s (and Jo Ann).

Just imagine how much they’d collect though, if they moved the collection box away from the who-knew-they-were-there bathrooms?

Like, say, over by the spot where they hand out (fantastic) free samples every day.

Railroad Place Redevelopment: Still Stalled

The opening of Harvest restaurant — in the former Mario’s space — has brought renewed attention to Railroad Place.

It’s also reminded people of the long-rumored Railroad Place project — a redevelopment plan for a larger area that shares the name of the small but significant street on the westbound side of the railroad station.

With Saugatuck Center completed and thriving — Riverside Avenue is now a hot spot filled with new restaurants, a butcher shop, gourmet food store, sweet shop, paddle rental store, 27 apartments and more — Westporters have waited for the next phase.

It’s unrelated — who’s-who-wise — to the Gault family’s Saugatuck Center work. But it’s been rumored for years, as a natural next step.

Negotiations have proceeded, in fits and starts, since 2011. In 2012, LandTech — the highly regarded engineering and planning firm headquartered on Riverside Avenue — drew up an RFP for the families who have owned the property for nearly 100 years, to seek developers.

It involved all the land bordered by Railroad Place, Charles Street and Riverside Avenue, as well as the private parking lot adjacent to Luciano Park.

All the land, that is, except the Mario’s/Harvest building, and the grim, out-of-character office building at 21 Charles Street. They have their own owners. All the rest of the property in the plan is owned by 2 families.

An aerial view of the proposed Railroad Place development. Charles Street (including the office building is at left); the train tracks run diagonally across the top. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

An aerial view of the proposed Railroad Place development. Charles Street (including the office building) is at left; the train tracks run diagonally across the top. Luciano Park is at the bottom. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

LandTech’s proposal — in collaboration with Westport architect Peter Wormser — envisions an entirely new look for the 3-acre space.

Steps next to Harvest will lead to a bluestone plaza, similar to the one between the Whelk and Saugatuck Sweets that draws musicians, sunbathers and people-watchers.

A view from the westbound train platform across Railroad Place.

A view from the westbound train platform across Railroad Place.

Surrounding the plaza will be a mix of retail stores and apartments. There’s room for a small movie theater and boutique hotel.

A closeup of the rendering above. Mario's is, of course, now Harvest restaurant.

A closeup of the rendering above. Mario’s is, of course, now Harvest restaurant.

Nearby, planners envision an enclosed, year-round green market.

Two levels of underground parking would accommodate 480 cars.

It’s not a done deal, of course. The 4-story development would need a zone change, to embrace Transit-Oriented Development (programs to link transportation centers with surrounding neighborhoods). The floor area ration would require a text amendment.

The view across Riverside Avenue, from Tutti's. The buildings in the artist's rendering would replace the current cleaners and adjacent buildings.

The view across Riverside Avenue, from Tutti’s. The buildings in the artist’s rendering would replace the current cleaners and adjacent buildings. The Charles Street office building is on the far right.

The project has moved very slowly, in part because of land valuation questions. No developer has yet signed on.

But Railroad Place — the property — is an unpolished gem, waiting to shine. Bordered by existing businesses and a train station — with a major highway nearby — it’s ripe for development.

Stores and shops in the proposed Railroad Place development.

Stores and shops in the proposed Railroad Place development.

Exciting plans have been available for several years. They’ve been shopped around, creating excitement among everyone who’s seen them.

The 2 families that own most of Railroad Place have not yet agreed on the next steps. When — that is, if — they do, the future of one of Westport’s most intriguing, often-underutilized sections of town could be very, very cool.

Tyler Mitchell Dresses With Levatee

Mitchells does not sell t-shirts.

But Tyler Mitchell does.

The 1997 Staples grad — a 3rd-generation family member, who co-owns and runs Mitchells’ 2 Wilkes Bashford luxury stores in San Francisco and Palo Alto — has embraced the Bay Area’s entrepreneurial, tech spirit.

And — although this is a solo, private venture — he’s married it to the apparel business he knows so well.

The Levatee app offers plenty of options.

The Levatee app offers plenty of options.

Tyler — who hangs with friends like the co-founder of Instagram — has created an app. Users can quickly and easily design t-shirts with their own words or phrases, in different colors, styles and fonts. Shirts are printed within 24 hours of an order.

They’re available in V-neck, crew, neck and tank styles. (Of course, they’re made from high-quality material.)

Tyler is not the first person to offer the service. But, he says, his shirts are digitally printed, creating a better look. And the ordering process seems quicker than competing companies — 30 seconds, not 30 minutes.

Users can share their design by text, or on Facebook and Instagram (duh). Shirts can be sent as gifts via a phone’s contact list.

The app is called Levatee. “Levity” and “t-shirts” — get it?

You can’t get it at Wilkes Bashford. Or at Mitchells.

Tyler’s out in San Francisco. This is all about the web.

Tyler Mitchell poses with a vareity of Levatee shirts. (Photo/San Francisco Chronicle)

Tyler Mitchell poses with a vareity of Levatee shirts. (Photo/San Francisco Chronicle)

Nothin’ But…

In 2008, Jerri Graham was not happy with snack bars. The ones on the market lacked the taste, texture and ingredients she wanted to eat — or feed her family.

So the Westport woman created her own. Her “Nothin’ But” bars were a hit, at local cafes, farmers’ markets and gyms. Yet as a solo entrepreneur, she could not take advantage of their surging popularity.

Around that time, Steve Laitmon tried a bar at Doc’s — the old Saugatuck coffee shop. Impressed he stepped into the parking lot, found Graham’s number and called her.

An attorney who also owns the Calendar Group — a Westport-based staffing firm for high net worth individuals and families — Laitmon asked where Nothin’ But was sold besides Doc’s. She was in the farmers’ market, a couple of gyms and cafes, and Arogya.

Jerri Graham and Steve Laitmon.

Jerri Graham and Steve Laitmon.

Laitmon went door-to-door — literally — expanding the market. His 1st target: the Hamptons. He was successful — and so were Graham’s bars.

A few years later, Nothin’ But is now sold in a couple of thousand outlets. Costco and Whole Foods carry them, in 3 regions each. Hudson News sells them nationally. In March, they’ll be at 7/Eleven.

Last year, the company grew by 300%. Sales are in the low 7 figures.

Laitmon did it by old-fashioned pavement pounding. He also brought in a vice president of sales, a sales assistant and an operations guy. That’s it, though. Nothin’ But is nothin’ but them.

Success comes from the product itself, Laitmon says. “We’re taste-driven, with clean ingredients. Nothing artificial. No garbage.”

Right now there are 4 granola bar flavors, and 4 types of cookies. The Nothin’ But brand has plenty of potential, Laitmon notes. But they’re solidifying their current offerings, before expanding.

Nothin' But

Speaking of expansion: Nothin’ But’s offices just moved from Westport to Stratford. The company needed a loading dock — and that’s hard to find here.

Doc’s — where Laitmon made that 1st phone call to Graham — is no longer around. But Nothin’ But bars are.

Thanks to that Westport connection, they’re more popular than ever. And all over the country.

Chopper!

It’s one thing to read on “06880” that Eversource is using helicopters with high-res cameras to inspect transmission lines, looking for problems like lightning strikes and corrosion.

It’s another thing entirely to actually see one hovering outside your window.

Helicopter over Westport

An alert — and frightened — “06880” reader writes:

That was right outside my front door, near Hillspoint Road. It was so loud and low. It really scared me, since I thought it would crash. It would have been nice if the residents were alerted.

Consider this your alert.

Meanwhile, does anyone know anything about the helicopters that regularly fly over town, usually at 7 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.? I’ve always thought they belonged to some very wealthy Westporter, commuting to and from work.

If you know anything more — or, even better, if you’re That Guy — click “Comments” below.

One More Reason To Love Trader Joe’s

Everyone knows that our strong school system keeps property values high.

But who knew Trader Joe’s does the same?

According to the Huffington Post, a recent study found that 2 years after a Trader Joe’s opens, the median home within a mile of that store increased in value 10 percent more than others in the same town.

One economic engine...

One economic engine…

Homes within a mile of a Whole Foods also gain value faster than others in the surrounding area.

...and another.

…and another.

That’s not only good news for Westport — where we enjoy both a Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

It’s also a solution to the teardown battles. Instead of building big new homes everywhere in town, we just need to erect more Trader Joe’s and Whole Foodses!

(Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)

Blizzard Of 2016: Noon Report

Here’s how Westport looked a few minutes ago. Most of us — except those with water in our yards — seem to be doing okay.

As always, click on or hover over photos to enlarge. And let us know what’s happening in your neck of the snowy woods.

Water seeps into Kendall Gardiner's back yard. But the view across Sherwood Mill Pond is magnificent.

Water and ice seep into the back yard. But the view across Sherwood Mill Pond is magnificent. (Photo/Kendall Gardiner)

High tide on Saugatuck Shores this morning does not bode well for tonight's expected even-higher tide. (Photo/Gene Borio)

High tide on Saugatuck Shores this morning does not bode well for tonight’s expected even-higher tide. (Photo/Gene Borio)

One view of high tide at Saugatuck Shores...

One view of high tide at Saugatuck Shores…

...and another. (Photos/Gene Borio)

…and another. (Photos/Gene Borio)

High tide, as viewed from Harbor Road. (Photo/Bart Shuldman)

High tide, as viewed from Harbor Road. (Photo/Bart Shuldman)

A tag sale at 24 Ferry Lane East had few visitors. It's been extended to tomorrow. But hey -- items are available for all seasons! (Photo/Alison Fisher)

A tag sale at 24 Ferry Lane East had few visitors. It’s been extended to tomorrow. But hey — items are available for all seasons! (Photo/Alison Fisher)

Colonial Druggists is open -- and if you've got an antique car, you can get there! (Photo/Ellen van Dorsten)

Colonial Druggist is open — and if you’ve got an antique car, you can get there! (Photo/Ellen van Dorsten)

Blizzard bonus: Jeff Scher created this video about (of course) snow. Much of the film is based on footage he shot in Westport in the 1970s and ’80s — especially at Longshore, when the skating rink was next to the inn. The wide shot was Round Pond Road in the late 1960s. Get your hot chocolate, and enjoy!

Wilkes Bashford And Westport

Today’s New York Times carries the obituary of Wilkes Bashford. The “clothier whose eponymous emporium is famous for having dressed affluent, elegance-conscious San Franciscans for the last half-century” died Saturday at 82.

Why is this “06880”-worthy?

In 2009, the Union Square store and its affiliate in Palo Alto were bought by Mitchells of Westport. Third-generation family member Tyler Mitchell now runs the 2 California locations.

And — in a typical Mitchell move — the company allowed Bashford to continue working there. Which he did, until nearly the end of his life.

Wilkes Bashford (2nd from left), flanked by Mitchell family members Tyler, Jack and Andrew.

Wilkes Bashford (2nd from left), flanked by Mitchell family members Tyler, Jack and Andrew.