Category Archives: Local business

Vive Le Rouge!

Once you’ve earned post-grad degrees in economics and finance, started a company representing international buyers, raised 2 children, and lived around the world — from India and Hong Kong to Minnesota and Weston — what do you do next?

If you’re Aarti Khosla, you open a fantastic chocolate shop in Westport.

Aarti Khosla, in her red-and-black-themed chocolate shop.

Aarti Khosla, in her red-and-black-themed chocolate shop.

Le Rouge celebrates its grand opening this Friday (November 28, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.). Tucked away in a former optical shop below the old Sally’s Place (190 Main Street), it’s an intriguing — and different — addition to Westport’s retail scene.

As is obvious from her bio, Aarti is a high achiever. She is detail-oriented. Her store is beautifully decorated, in red (her favorite color) and black (duh).

She designed everything — from the decor to the gift boxes — herself. She makes, then brushes each creation by hand.

She has spent the last 2 years learning everything there is to know about chocolate. She took online courses, and traveled to Vancouver to learn about coloring.

A close-up of some of Aarti's creations.

A close-up of some of Aarti’s creations.

Aarti drew on her international background — and love of cooking — to create delicate flavors. Her chocolates incorporate Szechuan pepper, wasabi ginger and apple pie truffle. (My favorite is saffron and pistachio in a white chocolate ganache.) She uses no preservatives or additives, and minimal glucose.

Le Rouge’s market is world travelers, who appreciate artisanal flavors beyond Westport.

Though most chocolates are taken home or shipped, Le Rouge is also a cafe. Aarti sells cappuccino, espresso (plus of course hot chocolate), and plated desserts.

And — in a nod to 21st-century sensibilities that even the most traditional chocolate-lover could appreciate — there’s free Wi-Fi.

200-Unit Apartment Proposal Galvanizes Westporters

Just 24 hours after it went online, a petition opposing the proposed 200-unit apartment complex on the site of the Westport Inn gained over 300 signatures.

Residents in the Long Lots area have formed a group: Westport United for Responsible Development.

Their petition — available at Change.org and addressed to 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — reads:

Ranger Properties, the current owner/developer of the Westport Inn at 1595 Post Road East, proposes to demolish the Inn and to replace it with a 200 unit multi-family apartment complex. The developer is using the Connecticut Affordable Housing Statute to bypass Westport’s zoning laws and build an apartment complex that would never be permitted under the existing local zoning laws.

A drawing of the proposed apartment complex, as seen on Change.org.

A drawing of the proposed apartment complex, as seen on Change.org.

The proposed complex would contain 363,328 square feet, 5 stories (with balconies and roof amenities), and 370 parking spaces on less than 3 acres of land. This unprecedented development would rise in excess of 80 feet above an already elevated grade and tower over adjacent residential neighborhoods. The proposed project violates numerous Westport zoning laws concerning height, density, wetlands and use.

It would irreversibly alter the small town character of Westport, and would place undue burdens on schools, traffic and emergency response; resulting in significant public health and safety concerns.

The project is in the early stages of development.

And — clearly — so is opposition to it.

(To view the petition, click on change.org.) 

New Sign Gets In The Spirit Of Things

On Friday, driving from the Y on the sparkling new Merritt Parkway Exit 41 ramp, I saw a guy with a truck putting up a sign.

Check it out — it’s the sparkling new white one, at the bottom of all the others.

Merritt Parkway sign

Call me crazy, but I’m guessing this is not an official — or legal — Department of Transportation project.

At Least It’s Not A Bank, Nail Salon Or Frozen Yogurt Place

After weeks of work on the old Boccanfuso auto body shop on the Post Road opposite Starbucks, the new tenant was unveiled yesterday.

Boccanfuso

Should Crate & Barrel, or Restoration Hardware, be worried?

Golden Shadows, Compo Acres, And Eternal Vigilance

Planning and Zoning Commission meetings are often humdrum affairs. Applications are presented, text amendments debated, building sites approved. Much of the action is conducted not in English, but Legalese.

Occasionally, however, real interesting stuff happens. That was the case last Thursday.

At the end of a P&Z session — right before adjourning — chairman Chip Stephens announced 2 extra pieces of business.

First, he talked about the houses on Baron’s South. The property has already been approved for senior housing — which may be built in time for today’s kindergartners to use — but in the meantime, he’s concerned about 3 houses there.

Calling them “beautiful and historic,” Chip noted that the Baron’s old residence — yes, there was an actual baron; he was a perfume magnate, and named his home “Golden Shadows” after one of his creations — is in disrepair.

Westporters toured Golden Shadows several years ago, after the town bought  the property.

Westporters toured Golden Shadows several years ago, after the town bought the property.

The library is storing books inside, and the weight has caused part of the foundation to crack. Copper gutters have been stolen, and Belgian block along the driveway has disappeared.

The Tudor house next door — used as a guest house — is being used too. (Chip did not say so, but I’ve heard it’s a haven for the homeless.)

The Tudor house next door to Golden Shadows.

The Tudor house next door to Golden Shadows.

And another guest house — the white one, which sits on South Compo Road — is being used for storing furniture. (I’ve heard it comes from foreclosed homes.)

The 3rd town-owned house, on South Compo Road.

The 3rd town-owned house, on South Compo Road.

Chip’s questions are simple: What is happening to these town-owned houses? And do we care about saving them?

New Canaan did it (with Waveny House). Norwalk did it (Cranbury Park). We seem to be losing a “golden” opportunity, at a similarly well-suited spot.

Chip then asked about work being done on the parking lot behind Compo Acres Shopping Center.

Excavation work behind Compo Acres Shopping Center.

Excavation work behind Compo Acres Shopping Center.

P&Z director Larry Bradley reported that the project has “gone beyond” what the P&Z approved.

The hillside was excavated more extensively. More trees were removed. And more will have to come down, as a result of the work already done.

He said that the P&Z permit will be revoked. A new one must be applied for, and approved.

The only reason the revocation did not come earlier was because immediate cessation of work could endanger stability of the hillside.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. It’s also, apparently, the price of construction in Westport.

And of preservation of what we already own.

(To view the entire P&Z meeting, click on the town website. To see only the Baron’s South and Compo Acres portions, slide the timer to 1:23.)

Everyone Lift! Kemper-Gunn House Move Set For Tuesday

It’s not the Saugatuck Congregational Church move. But it should be pretty cool anyway.

In 1950, the church — sanctuary, bell tower, hymnals and all — was moved from its longtime location near Baron’s South (the site today of a gas station) across the Post Road (then called State Street) to its current spot on the corner of Myrtle Avenue (where it now looks like it’s been all along).

How do you move a church? In 1950, this way.

How do you move a church? In 1950, this way.

The move — accomplished thanks to a series of logs — took 10 hours. Life Magazine spotlighted the event. (It was a slow news week.)

This Tuesday (starting at 6:30 a.m.), the much smaller Kemper-Gunn House makes a much shorter trip. The 1890-era building will be wheeled — or in some other way conveyed — across Elm Street. Its new home is the Baldwin parking lot.

An artist's rendering of the Kemper-Gunn House, after it is moved to the Baldwin parking lot.

An artist’s rendering of the Kemper-Gunn House, after it settles in at the Baldwin parking lot.

Lost in the mists of history is what those mid-20th-century Westporters did while watching the church make its verrrry slooooow trip down Route 1.

But we do know what will happen Tuesday. Java — the 1-year-old coffee shop across Church Lane from Kemper-Gunn —  will hand out free coffee and baked goods (courtesy of the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce).

Pray for good weather.

Frontier Justice

Late last month, Frontier took over AT&T’s Connecticut telephone service.

As “06880” reported, the move did not go smoothly.

On Wednesday, Frontier emailed its TV customers. Every one in the state will receive a $50 billing credit.

Frontier Communications“We understand that our customers are the reason we exist and we are working very hard to earn your trust and confidence,” the message said.

“We are committed to making sure that every resident and business in Connecticut knows that Frontier is a company that stands behind its services, products and people.”

“06880” won’t take credit for being the only media outlet to publicize the changeover snafu.

But we won’t deny it, either.

No Joe

Earlier this fall, the downtown Starbucks closed for more than a week of renovations.

Today they’re closed again. A fire extinguisher blew last night, damaging the newly redesigned interior.

Starbucks interior

They hope to reopen this weekend.

Meanwhile, there’s always Java.

A Developing Story

Ever since the Wright Street and Gorham Island buildings were erected in the 1970s — and those were quite some erections — Westport has been consumed by construction.

Even so, 2014 stands out as a landmark year.

Here are some of the developments — as in, real estate developments — that have occurred in the past few months. Or are occurring right now.

  • The Y moved into its new home. The Kemper-Gunn House is being moved across Elm Street to the parking lot, and Bedford Square will soon rise downtown.
  • The Levitt Pavilion finally completed its renovation. Nearby, plans for Jesup Green — with possibly reconfigured parking, a new Westport Arts Center and a renovated library — are in the works. And, of course, committees and commissions have been talking all year about new ideas for all of downtown.
  • Across the river, Save the Children has skedaddled. That fantastic waterfront property will be redeveloped, such as the adjacent Bartaco/National Hall buildings have been reimagined recently.
The west side of the Saugatuck River is also part of the new downtown plan. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

The west side of the Saugatuck River includes the old National Hall and the relatively new Wright Street building. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

  • Compo Acres Shopping Center is being renovated. The Fresh Market shopping center — and the one across the Post Road, with Dunkin’ Donuts — will get a facelift (and new tenants) soon.
  • Applications have been made for housing on the site of the Westport Inn. Across town, there are rumors of new housing on Hiawatha Lane, near I-95 Exit 17.
  • Senior housing has been shot down on Baron’s South. But it won’t remain undisturbed forever.
  • Phase II of Saugatuck Center has been completed. Phase III — on  Railroad Place — is coming down the tracks.

That’s a lot — as in, lots of building lots.

And nearly 2 months still remain in this year.

P.S. Oh, yeah. The beach too.

 

Vigilante Justice

At first glance, this seems like one more instance of a Westporter stealing campaign signs. Not cool, but unfortunately not out of the ordinary either.

Last night around 7 p.m., an alert “06880” reader was driving on Greens Farms Road.  At the intersection with Hillspoint, he saw a silver Subaru pulled over on Hillspoint. The hazard lights were on, and the rear door opened.

A man pulled a bunch of political signs out of the back of the car, and dumped them on the ground.

Here’s where the tale gets interesting. A photo — taken this morning — shows the pile:

Signs dumped

It includes campaign signs for Republicans and Democrats — along with one for the Community Nursery School.

So the skunk-like thief/litterer was not out to create political mischief.

He just doesn’t like lawn signs, period.

So he took the law into his own hands.