Category Archives: Local business

Picture Wendy Nylen’s Gallery

For 20 years, Picture This owner Wendy Nylen enjoyed a good relationship with her landlord.

Her art gallery and custom framing shop was in Village Center, aka “the strip mall with Dunkin’ Donuts opposite Fresh Market.”

Six years ago, her lease ran out. Since then, she rented on a month-to-month basis.

Last year, Equity One bought the shopping center. They offered Wendy a new lease — almost exactly double what she’d been paying. They would not negotiate.

Wendy moved out (to the former Great Cakes, just down the road). She paid Equity One the rent and property taxes, up to her move date.

Picture This in its new location, the former Great Cakes. (Photo/Billy Scalzi)

Picture This in its new location, the former Great Cakes. (Photo/Billy Scalzi)

The owners now claim she owes $576.73, for some maintenance charges — not damage to the space — and for removing the sign. Wendy says that neither were her responsibility while Kowalsky owned the building.

She told Equity One exactly that, and noted that she had no lease with them.

Wendy was rewarded with a letter from a law firm threatening to sue her business — and “enter litigation against the principals on a personal basis should the corporate judgment appear uncollectible.”

“They may be counting on the fact that hiring a lawyer to defend myself would cost me more than the amount they claim,” Wendy notes. “I find this bullying and despicable. What do you think?”

Hey, don’t ask me. Ask the readers of “06880.” I’m sure they’ve got opinions!

Skate Park Utopia

Last fall, when the skate park was threatened during controversial plans for the Compo Beach renovation, dozens of sk8trs and their parents spoke eloquently for its survival. They described its importance for kids in passionate, athletic, community-building — even life-saving — terms.

It was spared the hook. This summer, I — and I’m sure many other Compo lovers — have looked at it with new, more appreciative eyes.

Recently, the skate park has sported a new look. Colorful, mural/graffiti-type painting has turned gray concrete into something much jazzier.

Skate park - Compo

But some Westporters wonder about the advertisement (top) for Utopia Skate Camp. It’s also visible from other angles. A bit out of place — and overly commercial — they say.

Time for an “06880” debate. What do you think about the new look of the Compo skate park? Have you had any personal experience with it? Who (or what) are these Utopia dudes? Click “Comments” — and please use your full, real name.

Phyllis Kurzer’s Karma Mala

Talk about good karma.

After Westporter Phyllis Kurzer finished yoga teacher training, she wanted to wear a mala (a string of beads or knots, used in praying or meditating) to enhance her spiritual connection.

She could not find a mala with the unique, artistic design and metaphysical properties she was looking for. So she taught herself how to make one.

She found a source in Nepal, and created her first hand-knotted mala with a prayer box pendant.

The interest it generated launched a business. It’s called Karma Mala.

One of Phyllis Kurzer's malas.

One of Phyllis Kurzer’s malas…

Phyllis designs every mala. She acquires pendants from India and other tribal reaches. She pairs them with beautiful semi-precious stones, hand-knotting between each bead.

It’s a meticulous process, but true to tradition.

...and another.

…and another.

Phyllis’ goal is to make malas that are beautiful to wear — and also offer hope to the most vulnerable people.

The Westport artist learned that every year, 20,000 girls are trafficked in Nepal. Within 2 years, most become HIV positive. By age 20, they are dead.

Phyllis discovered the American Himalayan Foundation’s Stop Girl Trafficking project. It prevents young girls from becoming victims of their family’s poverty and desperation, by putting them in school, then weaving a safety net around them.

The program provides everything a girl needs. It then mentors her, and educates her family and community about the dangers of trafficking.

There are now over 10,750 girls in more than 550 schools throughout Nepal. Once enrolled, not a single girl has been lost to trafficking.

Amazingly, Phyllis says, it takes only $100 to keep a girl safe and in school for one year.

Phyllis Kurzer

Phyllis Kurzer

Where does the money come from?

A lot of it comes directly from Karma Mala. Phyllis donates 100% — yes, every penny of profit — to Stop Girl Trafficking. Since she began last year, that’s over $20,000.

Phyllis has just introduced a brand-new collection. Half malas (54-bead malas that can be worn alone, or layered with others), traditional malas, wrist wraps, featherweight designs and gemstone layering necklaces are all available. They’re beautiful to wear, and functional for meditation.

Not to mention, life-changing for vulnerable, at-risk girls, halfway around the world from Westport.

(For more information or to order, click www.karmamala.com. Phyllis’ direct email is karmamalallc@gmail.com. For a video on Stop Girl Trafficking, click below. Hat tip: Jamie Camche)

Elvira’s: “Sales Rumors Are Untrue”

Stacey Yiozanakos has had a few offers to buy Elvira’s.

But, the owner of the very popular/always welcoming/tab-running deli/grocery store/community center says, the rumors that she’s already sold are not true.

Elvira's: the heartbeat of Old Mill.

Elvira’s: the heartbeat of Old Mill.

“Nothing is decided,” she says — firmly.

“And if I ever decide to sell, everyone here” — she gestures around the busy place — “my customers, my friends who have supported me, they’ll be the first to know.”

So head on down to Elvira’s. Enjoy the hospitality, and the food.

That gyro I had last night was particularly good.

Stacey Yiozanakos waves to one of her many customers/friends, from behind the counter.

Stacey Yiozanakos waves to one of her many customers/friends, from behind the counter.

 

Posh Nail & Spa Replies

I got an email this morning from a woman named Tracy at Posh Nail & Spa. It was in response to Tuesday’s post, which reported that — despite a prominent “Stop-Work” order on their front door — the Post Road West salon remained open.

Tracy wrote:

I would like to talk to you about our salon (posh spa) being posted in your blog. They now have took the stop work sign off as of today. I would really appreciate it if you can take our article down from your blog. The  reason is alot of our clients think we are not running business any longer.

I said I would be happy to do that — if she could answer the question of why they defied the Connecticut Department of Labor notice.

Posh Nail & Spa's doors were open Tuesday, despite the stop-work sign on the door. They're now legally open, they say.

Posh Nail & Spa’s doors were open Tuesday, despite the stop-work sign on the door. They’re now legally open, they say.

The next email came from Ahyoung Oh, who said:

Yes so the department of labor came out on monday suddendly and asked for all the proof of documents of all the employees in our salon. The reason why they put up that stop work sign just because we didnt have those files right at that moment which we keep all in our office. We were very shocked and scared at the moment. After that incident we spoked to our lawyer and had the stop work sign taken off.

Which still did not answer the question. Ahyoung Oh then said:

The reason why we had to stay open despite the sign was because we have known our clients for a really long time and the appointments were fully booked so we wanted to keep promise to our clients.

There you have it. I’ll leave it to “06880” commenters — clients and others — to discuss the ethics of this situation.

Sweet Pete!

Pete Romano is a legend.

The native Westporter has followed his parents — PJ and Joan — as an avid supporter of everything every local kid does. He’s now one of the prime movers behind Al’s Angels, touching youngsters and their families in extra-special ways.

He’s helped build his company — Landtech — into a well respected civil engineering and environmental consulting firm.

Pete Romano

Pete Romano

Pete was a driving force behind the long-running, very popular Festival Italiano, and now he’s a leader in the redevelopment of Saugatuck.

But — in the same way Paul Newman is known to a new generation as a food purveyor rather than a movie star — many Westporters know Pete only as an owner of Saugatuck Sweets, the riverfront ice cream-and-candy shop that will be remembered fondly years from now by every kid growing up today in town.

So it’s fitting that Saugatuck Sweets is the site this Saturday (August 8) of Westport’s celebration of Pete’s 60th birthday.

The festivities go on all day. At 2 pm, First Selectman Jim Marpe will present an official town proclamation.

At 7 p.m. there’s a concert with Silver Steel at 96 Franklin Street, near Luciano Park. There’ll be ice cream, zeppoles and soft drinks, plus a chance to “touch a fire truck” from the Saugatuck station.

The event would have been held at the plaza Pete helped create next to Saugatuck Sweets. A noise complaint earlier this summer shut that concert series down.

But Pete and his pals are problem solvers. Their creative solutions have helped make Westport a better place for — well, in Pete’s case, 60 years.

Happy birthday, Pete! See you in Saugatuck on Saturday!

Saugatuck Sweets

 

 

 

They’re Closing The Nail Salons. Guess What’s Next To Pop Up Everywhere.

Donald Trump may not like it.

But the Mexicans are coming. Or at least, their restaurants are.

We’ve already got Viva Zapata, Villa del Sol, Border Grill, Bartaco, Cuatro Hermanos, Qdoba, Chipotle and Señor Salsa.

Opening soon:

Rio Bravo

Rio Bravo (“tacos and tequila”) is located near Pier 1 Imports — right next to the old V restaurant. Which is near Bravo Pizzeria and Wine Bar.

I assumed the popular Italian eatery was branching out into Mexican. Just to be sure, I called Bravo.

¡No!

“It’s a very strange coincidence,” said a Bravo (Italia) spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the Saugatuck rumor mill has yet another Mexican restaurant headed to the former post office, near the westbound train tracks.

Hey: If The Donald decides to campaign here, at least we’ll know where not to take him for dinner.

Azena Nailed, Too

Azena Nail Spa is the 2nd Westport salon to be slapped with a Stop-Work order by the state Department of Labor.

Like Posh at the other end of town, Azena — next to Barnes & Noble — was charged with “misrepresenting employees as private contractors.”

However, unlike Posh — near Whole Foods — Azena actually followed the order, and shut its doors.

A handwritten sign above the official notice reads:

Dear Customer,

For some reason we close today! Sorry for all the inconvenience!! And we will open tomorrow!

Azena Management

(Photo/Dr. Edward Paul)

(Photo/Dr. Edward Paul)

Nailed?

An alert “06880” reader emailed yesterday. She noticed a “Stop-Work” order taped to the front door of Posh Nail & Spa, next to Whole Foods, and wondered what was up.

I checked it out today. There it was, bright red and very official looking:

Posh Nails 2

Dated yesterday (August 3), the notice from the State Department of Labor Wage & Workplace Standards Division explained the violation: “Misrepresenting employees as private contractors.”

It added that if an employer conducts business operations in violation of the stop-work order, a penalty of $1,000 a day would be assessed.

Posh Nails doesn’t care.

As I took photos of the notice, 3 customers opened the door and walked right in.

An employee — perhaps an owner or manager (definitely not a private contractor, though) — came out.

Posh Nails

When I asked if they were open, she said yes.

When I said, “What about this notice?” she said “No comment.”

Then she took my picture too.

Billy Shot Me — And Your Business?

There it is. After googling a business, you find — along with links and directions — a tab inviting you to “See Inside.” One click brings up handsome, wide-angle exterior and interior views of the store or office that you can pan, rotate and zoom in on — just like Google Earth.

You might think — if you think about it at all — that the owner did a nice job hiring a good photographer who can stitch photos into 360-degree views, then had his webmaster post them nicely.

You’d be wrong. As with all things Google, a very regimented, standardized tool runs the program they very boringly call “Google Business Photos.”

A screenshot of part of The Spotted Horse's virtual tour. Clicking on one of the circular arrows on the bottom images brings up the panoramic view.

A screenshot of part of The Spotted Horse’s virtual tour. Clicking a circular arrow on the bottom images brings up the panoramic view. (Click or hover over to enlarge.)

To get those images posted with a “See Inside” link — available through generic search, Business Pages and clicking on a Google Maps icon — a business owner must use a Google photographer.

The photographer’s training process takes 6 months. The certification process is very rigorous. Mistakes made at the pixel level must be fixed.

Just half a dozen Connecticut photographers have gone through the long process. Westport’s Billy Scalzi is one of them.

A 40-year area resident, he was an institutional bond broker who owned 2 companies. He left Wall Street in 1996, to become a real estate speculator. Photography is Scalzi’s 3rd career.

Billy Shot MeHis company is called Billy Shot Me. Using a DSLR camera — and the same technology as Google Street View — he takes Google Business Photos all over the state. Locally, he’s shot The Spotted Horse, Mumbai Times, Picture This and Volvo of Westport. (He’s also done all the rest stops on I-95 and the Merritt Parkway. The owner is very proud that they’ve all been renovated.)

Outside of Westport, Scalzi has shot doctors’ and dentists’ offices — even a psychiatrist’s. (“He wanted that little balloon man in Google Maps,” Scalzi says.)

Scalzi’s fee begins at $350. But that’s the only charge. Google offers its service for free. And because business owners can embed the photos on their own website and in social media, they’re available to users who find them even through search engines like Bing or Yahoo.

On his own — and gratis — Scalzi is shooting and creating virtual tours of Compo Beach, Longshore and Grace Salmon Park. He wants those to be available to anyone who clicks their links on Google Maps.

Taking a virtual tour before you go — to a restaurant, car dealer or psychiatrist’s office — appeals to some people.

To some business owners too — though not all. “It’s simple marketing,” Scalzi says. “I’m amazed that half of all businesses in the U.S. don’t even have websites.”

Billy Scalzi's 360-degree view of Picture This gives potential customers a great idea of what they'll find.

Billy Scalzi’s 360-degree view of Picture This gives potential customers a great idea of what they’ll find.