Category Archives: Organizations

Doggin’ It

Westport’s annual calendar is packed with celebrations.

With the rest of America, we honor service members (Memorial Day, Veterans Day), high school students (Graduation Day) and ourselves (4th of July).

Locally, we single out artists (Westport Arts Awards), Saugatuck (Slice), even barbecue chefs (Blues, Views & BBQ).

On Sunday, June 5 we add one more group: dogs.

Westport’s 1st-ever Dog Festival is set for Winslow Park. All day long, there will be contests (Best Trick, Best Tail Wagger, Dog That Most Resembles Its Owner), demonstrations (rescue dogs, police dogs, guide dogs) and lectures.

Dogs: Start practicing now for the obstacle course!

Dogs: Start practicing now for the obstacle course!

Plus (of course!) a doggie obstacle course, food trucks and more.

Everyone canine-related can come: pets and owners, sure, but also groomers, sitters, veterinarians, vendors (dog food, dog supplies…) and non-profits.

The event is sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, in association with TAILS, a spay and neutering group. (No word yet on whether they’ll offer fixing services on the spot.) (Or on Spot, ho ho.)

Merchants and sponsors can sign up now. Click here for details; email matthew@westportwestonchamber.com, or call 203-227-9234.

I guess this confirms it: Westport is really going to the dogs.

Dog festival promo

Curio Cottage: The Little Fundraising Shop That Could

From the outside, it doesn’t look like much.

It doesn’t advertise. Even the name — Curio Cottage — seems musty and old-fashioned. Better suited to rural New Hampshire than dynamic Westport, perhaps.

But the Curio Cottage — the little thrift shop next to the Westport Woman’s Club, perched on the Imperial Avenue hill not far from Jesup Road — is filled with wonderful curios merchandise like glassware, tableware, frames, jewelry, furniture, clothing and books.

The Curio Cottage looks small. But wait till you see what's inside.

The Curio Cottage looks small. But wait till you see what’s inside.

And it’s all for a good cause. Over the past 15 years, the shop has raised nearly $400,000. The funds go directly to local charities and need-based scholarships.

That’s fantastic work for any organization. It’s particularly impressive for an all-volunteer, low-key (but very energetic) group like the Woman’s Club.

And it’s even more noteworthy because the prices are so reasonable.

Those prices go even lower from February 8-13. Everything is half off.

The Curio Cottage women — an amazing bunch, led by Karen Eickhoff — call this “a sweetheart of a sale.” They suggest buying something for Valentine’s Day. And then — always thinking of the town — they hope you’ll purchase something from a local merchant, to fill it with. For example, a Curio Cottage bowl, which you’ll then fill with chocolates. A vase (and roses). A pair of wine glasses (duh).

Curio Cottage director Karen Eickhoff, among a few of her many treasures.

Curio Cottage director Karen Eickhoff, among a few of her many treasures.

The merchandise always changes. The volunteers always know what’s new and interesting.

And the charities and students who benefit from the Curio Cottage sales are always very, very grateful for its patrons.

(Curio Cottage special sale hours are Monday, February 8 through Saturday, February 13, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, non-sale hours, and details on how you can donate your own items, click here.)

Westport Woman's Club member (and frequent "06880" commenter) Bobbie Herman shops in the Curio Cottage.

Westport Woman’s Club member (and frequent “06880” commenter) Bobbie Herman shops in the Curio Cottage.

Westport’s Place In World History Up For Sale

The commercial real estate listing is pretty straightforward: An 11,000-square foot brick and stone office building on Saugatuck Avenue, close to I-95 and the train station.

There’s a photo —

Eno Foundation

— and a name: The Eno Foundation Building.

But the listing doesn’t give a hint what the Eno Foundation was.

It’s named for William Phelps Eno. He was a Westport businessman known as the “Father of Traffic Safety.” His innovations included the stop sign, pedestrian crosswalk, traffic circle, 1-way street, taxi stand and pedestrian safety island. He designed traffic plans for New York, Paris and London.

For many years, his worldwide traffic institute was headquartered on Saugatuck Avenue, near the Norwalk line.

Believe it or not, Westport — with all our traffic woes — was once the place where transportation ideas that transformed the world were hatched.

William Phelps Eno — who (you can’t make this up) never learned to drive — is no longer around to solve our current traffic issues. He died in 1945. If he were, he could start right around the corner from his headquarters, then work his way through town, ending up at the Merritt Parkway Exit 42/Weston Road/Main Street/Easton Road goat rodeo.

But you can now buy his building. It’s a beauty.

And there’s plenty of on-site parking.

 William Phelps Eno was honored with a plaque at the old Westport YMCA.

William Phelps Eno was honored with a plaque at the old Westport YMCA.

(For more information on the real estate listing — or to buy it! — click here. Hat tip: Kate Schwartz.)

 

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)

Water, Electricity From Westport And Israel Transform Uganda

Nearly every day, the “06880” tagline — “Where Westport meets the world” — is proven true.

Today’s story takes us to Uganda.

Last year, the Kaners — 2nd selectman Avi, his wife Liz and their 3 kids — were looking for a new charity for their family-owned supermarket to support.

Innovation: Africa seemed perfect.

Drinking water, for many Africans.

Drinking water, for many Africans.

The 8-year-old non-profit uses Israeli solar technology to bring electricity and clean water to African villages, dramatically improving and transforming lives in 7 nations.

Morton Williams Supermarkets’ annual golf tournament raised enough funds to develop a solar-powered system in Bukaduka, Uganda. Pumping water from deep underground, it saves women and young girls from walking several kilometers, many times a day, to fetch parasite and worm-filled water, shared by livestock, that causes diseases like cholera and typhoid.

The water is also tied in to a drip irrigation system, which provides food and income for farmers and their families.

That’s great stuff. But the Kaners did not stop there.

Last month, Liz — an extraordinary volunteer with a variety of local organizations — and her daughter Julia headed to Uganda. They got a first-hand glimpse of the lives changed by their water system. It pumps 16,500 liters of fresh water a day in the village.

The water supply today, thanks to Innovation: Africa.

The water supply today, thanks to Innovation: Africa.

Touring Bukaduka and other villages, the pair saw the incredible impact solar-powered water and electrical systems have on schools, orphanages and religious institutions. Hospitals too — lights have replaced kerosene lamps, while refrigerators can store medicine and vaccines.

The Kaners were greeted with skits, songs and dances. They were presented with homemade gifts.

But none of those gifts compared to the smiles on the faces of the men, women and children Liz and Julia saw — and the water and electricity that flowed — as they traveled to the remote Ugandan villages that now enjoy the fruits of innovation.

Liz and Julia Kaner, with some new friends.

Liz and Julia Kaner, with some new friends.

Watch Liz and Julia Kaner turn on the solar-powered fresh water system for the first time in Bukaduka Village, Uganda:

Watch Julia speak to the villagers during the water system dedication:

(Click here for many more photos and videos from the Kaners’ journey.)

Entree Nous: For Valentine’s Day

No, the headline above is not misspelled.

Just between us: “Entrée Nous” is a beautifully produced, creatively conceived and cleverly named concept.

The hard-cover book features a dozen Fairfield County restaurants.

But it’s more than just gorgeous photos of food. If you call for a reservation, tell the restaurant you’ll be using “Entrée Nous” — and bring the book — you’ll receive 1 complimentary entrée.

That sure beats flowers for a Valentine’s Day gift.

“Entrée Nous” is the brainchild of Weston residents Mica DeSantis and Elizabeth Menke. They met through the Weston Women’s League.

Mica DeSantis and Elizabeth Menke.

Mica DeSantis and Elizabeth Menke.

Mica is a New Jersey native with an IBM marketing background, and plenty of volunteer experience with charities.

Elizabeth grew up in Minnesota, earned an MBA and spent years in Europe as an investment banker. Overseas, she was intrigued by “passport-style” guides that introduced residents to area restaurants, while offering complimentary meals and donating part of the proceeds to charity.

For the Fairfield County edition — the prototype of an idea they hope to replicate in similar areas around the country — they sought an interesting, eclectic mix of dining options. They wanted a variety of price points, cuisines and towns.

Westport is represented by Kawa Ni. The women like Bill Taibe’s concept, and strong flavors.

Kawa Ni's photo in "Entree Nous." (Photo/Lauren Santagata)

Kawa Ni’s photo in “Entree Nous.” (Photo/Lauren Santagata)

Other “Entrée Nous” restaurants near Westport include The Spread and Cafë Chocopologie in SoNo, Barcelona and Martel in Fairfield, and Artisan in Southport.

Like a chef who sends out an unexpected dessert, the book delivers a couple of delightful surprises. A section toward the end explores Fairfield County’s “food support system,” including the Westport Farmers’ Market.

And a page dedicated to Community Plates explains how the non-profit transfers fresh, usable food that would otherwise be thrown away by restaurants, markets and other food industry sources, to folks who need it.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will benefit Community Plates.

Mica and Elizabeth plan to keep that concept — a wide range of restaurants, a focus on local markets and farms, and a page dedicated to a food-oriented  volunteer organization — in every “Entrêe Nous” they produce.

"Entree Nous" features a handsome hard cover, and gorgeous photos inside.

“Entree Nous” features a handsome hard cover, and gorgeous photos inside.

A US Customs delay pushed delivery of the books to December 22. Elizabeth drove to New Jersey, then hand-delivered pre-ordered copies in time for Christmas.

Reaction has been very positive. In addition to introducing newcomers to the culinary delights of Fairfield County — and expanding the horizons of longtime residents — “Entrêe Nous” is popular with realtors and stores specializing in local products.

The dozen restaurants featured are happy to spread the word about their menus. They appreciate the luscious photographs, showing off their food and decor. (None of them paid for inclusion.)

And, of course, lovers everywhere are delighted they can give the gift of a complimentary meal — not chocolates or flowers — on Valentine’s Day.

(To order a copy, click on http://www.entreenous.net. For information on bringing “Entrêe Nous” to your community outside of Fairfield County, email info@entreenous.net.)

Comin’ Down The Pike

Turnout was low last week at Town Hall, as the Connecticut Department of Transportation unveiled plans for an I-95 bridge renovation plan that could have dramatic effects on Westport traffic.

The 2-year project — beginning in the spring of 2018, and including decking and girder replacement — would run from Norwalk’s Yankee Doodle Bridge (Exit 16) through the span high above the Saugatuck River.

It would entail lane closures (with the familiar miles of safety cones set out long before actual work), and possible rerouting of traffic along Saugatuck and Riverside Avenues, the Post Road and Sherwood Island Connector.

The specter of enormous tractor-trailers making that tight Riverside/Post Road turn is bad enough. With everyone nowadays using Waze, many drivers would instead try to use the Bridge Street/Greens Farms Road shortcut. If, that is, the Bridge Street Bridge were not being rehabilitated at the same time.

The Saugatuck River bridge, under construction in 1957. Back then, I-95 was called the Connecticut Turnpike.

The Saugatuck River bridge, under construction in 1957. Back then, I-95 was called the Connecticut Turnpike.

But wait! There’s more!

The DOT also hopes to resurface nearly 5 miles of the Merritt Parkway, from Newtown Turnpike to Congress Street in Fairfield. That project — planned to begin in the spring of 2017 — would also include bridge work. (Hopefully, the interminable North Avenue bridge renovation would finally be done by then.)

A public hearing is set for Wednesday (January 27, 7 p.m.) in the Town Hall auditorium.

No one denies that our 2 major highways need work.

But it’s clear too that the twin projects will have major impacts not only on those roadways, but many others throughout Westport.

Downtown Salt Marsh Threatened By Development

Last Sunday’s photo challenge showed a sign for “Taylortown Salt Marsh.” Though the 3.2- acre preserve sits in the heart of Westport — the Saugatuck River, off Wilton Road and Kings Highway North, opposite the “Fort Apache” medical complex — it’s unknown to many Westporters.

That will change soon.

Tomorrow night (Thursday, January 21, 7 p.m., Town Hall), the Planning and Zoning Commission discusses a proposal for a 45,796-square foot, 5-story, 48-unit apartment building planned for 122 Wilton Road.

122 Wilton Road -- site of the proposed 6-story, 48-unit apartment building -- sits at the corner of Kings Highway North. The property abuts the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

122 Wilton Road — site of the proposed 6-story, 48-unit apartment building — sits at the corner of Kings Highway North. The property abuts the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

The developer — Garden Homes Management — is using Connecticut’s Affordable Housing Statute. Known as “8-30G,” it allows developers to add “affordable units” that override local zoning regulations, in towns where less than 10 percent of the housing stock is considered affordable.

In this case, 30 percent of the units — numbering 15 — would be “affordable,” as defined by state housing law.

Th3 8-30G regulation was part of a 2014 plan to build 200 apartments on the site of the Westport Inn. First Selectman Jim Marpe and P&Z chair Chip Stephens instead found a local buyer who understood the importance of maintaining the lower-impact inn on that small-footprint, already-crowded stretch of the Post Road.

The Aspetuck Land Trust — which owns the Taylortown tract, and spent the last 3 years saving the marsh from invasive weeds — is not pleased.

An email from the organization warns of negative environmental impacts to the marsh and river, as well as destruction of views of the estuary.

Garden Homes believes that development of the site will not impact the wetlands.

One view of the Taylortown Salt Marsh...

One view of the Taylortown Salt Marsh…

Interestingly, the Aspetuck Land Trust itself is a direct result of a struggle to save the salt marsh from being filled and developed in the 1960s.

Back then, there was no legal protection of tidal marshes. Inland wetlands were thought of as boggy areas to be filled for level building lots, the Trust says.

When Barlow  Cutler-Wotton learned of plans to build a geriatric hospital on the Wilton Road/Kings Highway North corner, she contacted attorney Leonard Schine. He based his case on traffic congestion. The P&Z denied the application.

...and another.

…and another.

Cutler-Wotton went on to form the Aspetuck Land Trust, for Westport and Weston. The Trust buys, or receives as gifts, property that it then preserves in natural states as open space. The organization acquired Taylortown Salt Marsh in 1987.

The Trust will have to work hard now to keep it. 830G is a powerful state statute. It overrides most local rules and regulations — except those related to the environment or safety.

Let Westport’s newest battle begin.

(Tomorrow’s Planning and Zoning Commission evening meeting is open to the public. So is a P&Z field trip tomorrow morning to examine the property. It begins at 8:15 a.m., at 122 Wilton Road.)

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #55

Last week’s photo challenge was not much of one.

From the moment the image of a waterfall was posted, correct answers cascaded in.

Susan Shuldman, Diane Silfen, Rich Stein, Tom Ryan, Marcella Lozyniak, Hallie Stevens, Ann Moore, Gerald Romano, Bruce Kent, James Weisz, Virginia Clark, Robert Swift, Gary Singer, Jill Turner Odice, Eva Toft, Tor Sporre, Morley Boyd, LuAnn Giunta, Tom Wall, Claire Ford and Jill Nash (of course) von Schmidt all knew it was the dam at Nash’s Pond, visible from Kings Highway North.

Also, apparently, from the Great American Toy Company.

“Anyone ever shopping for a playground set there would know that,” sniffed Seth Schachter.

Well, I never have. So excuse me.

To see last week’s photo challenge (and comments), click here.

Now on to this week’s shot:

Oh my 06880 - January 17, 2016

It don’t take no Einstein to figure out this is the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

But where is it located? (No Googling!)

Bonus questions:

  • Who was Taylor?
  • And when was this section of Westport called Taylortown?

Click “Comments” below to show off your knowledge reply.

Bye, Bye Bertucci’s

For years, Westport Sunrise Rotary met at Bobby Q’s. When they needed bigger digs, they moved to Bertucci’s.

Earlier this month, Bobby Q’s announced it will close on March 31.

Once again, the Rotarians will need a new spot. At their meeting this morning, they learned the restaurant — a Westport fixture for about 20 years — will close on Wednesday.

Bertuccis_thumb

An employee answering the phone this morning said the reason was a failure to come to an agreement with the landlord.

The Westport location is the only one in the chain that will close.

There is no word on what will replace the family-friendly Italian restaurant. Longtime Westporters remember the location as the site of the long-running, much-loved Clam Box — and after that, briefly, Tanglewoods.

Sorry - voting is limited to current restaurants only.