Category Archives: Saugatuck

Remembering Buck Iannacone

Alphonse “Buck” Iannacone — the 2012 Memorial Day parade grand marshal, a 61-year PAL volunteer, and a Bronze Star and Purple Heart winner for his military service during the Battle of the Bulge — died Friday. He was 88.

In his 6 decades with PAL, he did just about everything. He was a coach, an organizer, a board member, a field maintenance guy, a fundraiser, and a good friend to thousands of young athletes.

A former US Postal Service worker and local union president, he was also a member of the Saugatuck Volunteer Fire Department, Laurel Athletic Club and a dedicated volunteer with both Special Olympics and Star.

Buck Iannacone (left), the 2012 Memorial Day parade grand marshal this year, with his son and granddaughter. One of Buck's 4 great-grandchild had been born 10 days earlier.

Buck Iannacone (left), the 2012 Memorial Day parade grand marshal this year, with his son and granddaughter. One of Buck’s 4 great-grandchild had been born 10 days earlier.

Buck received plenty of honors, including a National PAL Award in 2008. He was cited by the Sportsmen of Westport, Norwalk Old Timers and the Connecticut Sports Writers Alliance. Three years before leading the Memorial Day parade, he served as grand marshal of Festival Italiano.

But of all the kudos Buck Iannacone got, one was extra special. In 2001 — dressed in caps and gowns, and marching across stage — he and 5 other World War II veterans from Norwalk received high school diplomas.

Like the others, Buck had left school to join the military. The shrapnel he took in the Battle of the Bulge put him in a British hospital for 8 months.

Buck Iannacone served his country well. And — for the last 61 years — he did the same for Westport.

(Services will be held on Wednesday, July 30, at 9:30 a.m. at Harding Funeral Home, 210 Post Road East, and 10 a.m. at Assumption Church, 98 Riverside Avenue. Internment, with full military honors, follows at Assumption Cemetery, Kings Highway North. Friends may visit the family on Tuesday, july 29, from 4-8 p.m. at the Harding Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Buck Iannacone’s name to the Westport PAL Scholarship Fund, c/o Sam Arciola, 50 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880.)

Buck Iannacone and Roberta Troy at the 2009 Italian Festival. He served as grand marshal that year.

Buck Iannacone and Roberta Troy at the 2009 Italian Festival. He served as grand marshal that year.

 

 

 

Putting A New Stamp On Saugatuck

If you’re one of the many Westporters peeved by the Playhouse Square post office: Help is at hand.

A new branch opens next month in Saugatuck. Located on Ketchum Street, just off Franklin Avenue — the one-way street running from Tarry Lodge underneath I-95 — it’s got 2 things our itty-bitty shopping center post office lacks: parking, and interior space larger than, um, a postage stamp.

Saugatuck post office

The Saugatuck branch replaces the old building next to the train station, which was followed by a grim temporary trailer in a parking lot opposite Dunville’s.

As a resident of the condos behind Playhouse Square, I strongly urge everyone to use this new branch for all your postal needs. (Or not. As noted in the comments below, it’s for post office boxes only.)

And — once you’re there — bop over to Garelick & Herbs. WestportNow reports that the popular gourmet food store opens soon at 580 Riverside Avenue, across from Downunder. It replaces CM, another gourmet market.

Garelick & Herbs is also vacating its Post Road East location, opposite Stop & Shop. It will move to the Southport line, site of the former Double L Market.

Which is not far from the Green’s Farms post office. Where you can also go, to avoid the Playhouse Square mess.

Another Park. Another Plan?

For many years, Luciano Park was a thriving neighborhood playground.

For 2 years during college, in fact, my summer job was supervising the small Saugatuck spot, between the railroad station and parking lot. Another counselor and I kept an eye on kids, organized a few games, and set up bus trips to amusement parks and Yankee Stadium.

Luciano Park, looking from Railroad Place and Charles Street toward the parking lot. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Luciano Park, looking from Railroad Place and Charles Street toward the parking lot. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Later, when Parks and Rec stopped funding the positions — and the area changed — Luciano Park was known mainly as the site of the annual Festival Italiano.

These days, it’s largely forgotten. And almost completely unused.

Home plate remains, but the rest of the softball diamond is gone. View is toward Railroad Place. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Home plate remains, but the rest of the softball diamond is gone. View is toward Railroad Place. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

The reasons are varied. Saugatuck is no longer a place of small homes and large families.

The few kids with free time in the summer don’t play baseball in parks. They don’t swing on swings.

No one does, anywhere in Westport — except for the very creative Compo playground, which has sand, water and food nearby.

The seldom-used playground equipment in Luciano Park. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Seldom-used playground equipment in Luciano Park. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

I was reminded of all this after receiving an email and photos from alert “06880″ reader JP Vellotti. Walking through Luciano Park at 12:30 last Friday afternoon, without a soul in sight, he thought: “If there is a park in Westport that needs a master plan, this is it!”

He added:

As Westport thinks about its future, let’s give this park some thought. It need not only be for kids. Hundreds, maybe more, quite literally ‘park’ nearby every day.

Could this be a quiet place to sit before or after work? Why not add a fitness station as an alternative to the gym?

Good questions, all. And as Railroad Place prepares for the next stage of Saugatuck’s redevelopment, and residents throughout town ponder both Compo Beach and downtown improvements, why not add this tiny, valuable parcel into the planning mix?

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

A Good Westport Parking Story: The (Unfortunate) Sequel

Earlier today, “06880″ posted a rare good parking story: An electric vehicle was actually able to find a spot by the railroad charging station.

Not so fast.

Ernest Lorimer — the alert “06880″ reader who sent in the original photo and story — provides this afternoon update:

charging station - 2

Seems the owner of the BMWi3 didn’t have a parking sticker.

So while he got a free charge today, he also got a ticket.

Westport is a green town, sure. But also a very tough one.

 

They Said It Couldn’t Be Done: A GOOD Westport Parking Story

And one involving a BMW, no less.

At first glance, this looks simple enough: A car parked where it’s supposed to be:

Charging station

But alert “06880″ reader Ernest Lorimer — who spotted this, and sent along the photo — provides an intriguing back story:

For several years, Lot #1 at the Westport train station has had a charging station.  Every time I’ve passed by, it’s been blocked in by non-electrics, usually Jeeps.  They would have lots of spaces just a step away, but no.

This morning, there was a hybrid charging there! It was the 1st time I’ve ever seen it. I prefer to think that anyone there first was thoughtful enough to keep it open.

Or maybe it was just a case of the early bird gets the cord.

Meanwhile, file this one away for posterity. We may never see it again.

 

Westport As You’ve Never Seen It Before

If you liked Melissa Beretta’s tribute to Westport this morning, you’ll love this next homage.

Taken from a drone a month ago, the video soars at just the right height. From Saugatuck Shores to Longshore and Compo, past Schlaet’s Point and over to Old Mill, before heading west back over the beach and Owenoke, it’s the best 6 minutes you’ll ever spend.

We all have a “mental map” of Westport in our heads. This gives you a totally new perspective on this amazingly beautiful town.

(Click the “YouTube” logo in the video above for a larger view. Try this link if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube. Hat tip to Jeff Reilly for spotting this video — which at the time of this posting had only 133 views.)

Sweet Sounds Of Summer

First came the redevelopment of Saugatuck.

Then came Saugatuck Sweets.

Now we’ve got “Sweet Sounds of Summer.” It’s a weekend concert series promoted by (cue the marketing tie-in) Saugatuck Sweets, the candy and ice cream store that is part of a sizzling new riverside scene.

The series kicked off Saturday night, on the plaza between Sweets and The Whelk. The band – Adult Swim — proves you’re never old to play rock ‘n’ roll.

Members include Westporters Karen Greenblatt, Trish Boyle and Jonathan Schwartz. They met at Fairfield’s School of Rock (which should change its tagline of “Inspiring Kids to Rock on Stage”).

Adult Swim rocks along the river.

Adult Swim rocks along the river.

The 2 female guitarists started playing a couple of years ago. Greenblatt took piano lessons as a youngster, but stage fright prevented her from even playing at a recital.

She’s now following through on a dream of playing in a band — and in public.

Public it was on Saturday. The plaza is right off Riverside Avenue. So besides the good-sized crowd, everyone walking and driving by saw and heard the music.

The Adult Swimmers have fun. But they’re serious about their craft. They rehearse once a week. They performed recently at the Acoustic Cafe in Bridgeport, and have 2 upcoming gigs at Bobby Q’s.

Their music spans several decades. It includes lesser-known songs, like the Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup.”

A small portion of the big crowd, after the sun went down.

A small portion of the big crowd, after the sun went down.

The concert series continues Fridays and Saturdays, with new groups and singers all the time.

How sweet is that!

(Hat tip to Fred Cantor, for the story idea and research.)

 

Matt Mandell: Chamber’s New Chief — And Cheerleader

When Matthew Mandell told his wife he’d been offered the position of executive director and president of the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce, her reaction was quick:

“Well, now you’ll get paid for doing what you’ve been doing all along.”

She’s right. Mandell — who began his new job last week — has served Westport in many capacities for years.

Matthew Mandell

Matthew Mandell

He’s a 5-term RTM member, chairing its Planning and Zoning Committee and serving on 5 others. He helped save the 22-acre Partrick Wetlands, along with 11 acres adjacent to Hiawatha Lane and 6 acres at the White Barn Theatre.

He championed the movement of the Kemper-Gunn House from Elm Street to the Baldwin parking lot; preservation of the building next to Terrain, and is working now to save the Geiger’s barn. He’s an Earthplace trustee, too.

Mandell also helped found Slice of Saugatuck. In fact, his work on that food-and-fun festival was a major reason the Chamber sought him out when they needed a new leader — for the 3rd time in 2 years.

After its 1st 2 wildly successful runs – organized entirely by volunteers — the Chamber offered to take over the event. But they dropped the ball last fall. So Chamber officials asked to meet with Mandell.

He thought they were talking about how to make the next Slice work. They were interviewing him for a job.

The Slice of Saugatuck drew huge crowds, thanks in large part to Matthew Mandell's hard work. (Photo by Terry Cosgrave)

The Slice of Saugatuck drew huge crowds, thanks in large part to Matthew Mandell’s hard work. (Photo by Terry Cosgrave)

The Chamber wanted Mandell because of his great track record promoting businesses and jobs in Westport. It’s a town he’s known since 1972, lived in part-time since 1987, and moved to permanently in 2005.

Mandell first came here as a summer resident, with his mother. He attended Indian Walk Day Camp — and, through a former fellow camper, met a woman 14 years later who eventually became his wife.

The Mandells weekended here for over a decade, before buying a home on Ferry Lane East. That’s a short walk over the little-known railroad pedestrian bridge from Saugatuck, which Mandell quickly discovered has great history and neighborhood charm.

As Saugatuck boomed, Mandell became one of its biggest boosters. That brought him to the Chamber’s attention, and led eventually to his new post.

The director is blunt about the Chamber’s past few years. It’s been in Westport since 1931, but recently slid toward irrelevancy.

Chamber of Commerce“We have to be more about community and interaction,” Mandell says. “Businesses will thrive because of that.

“We need to use the same model that worked for Slice of Saugatuck. If we bring people in, and they walk around and see what we’ve got, there will be a real sense of community.

“I don’t know what’s in half of the Post Road malls. But I know there are hidden gems there. We have to find them, and show them off.”

Mandell — who earned an MFA in film from New York University — will use video and social media much more than the Chamber did before.

“I’m not a businessman. I have no firm marketing background,” the new director admits. “But I do know how to advocate, and get people out.”

He was also the New York state champion debater in high school. “My wife says I can talk to anybody,” Mandell notes.

He embraces the challenges ahead. “People think the Chamber of Commerce is stodgy,” he says. “We have to give them people information so they think of us as more modern, as an important part of the community.”

His goal in his new role is to make Westport “even better than it is. The Chamber needs to be a cheerleader for the town — not just its businesses, but its residents too. If we achieve that, we’ll all thrive as a result.”

 

 

This Is Literally A Scoop

Saugatuck Sweets has its official, grand opening, ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, May 3 (12 noon).

What? You heard rumors already? What makes this a “scoop”?

Well, Saugatuck Sweets is that neighborhood’s newest (and only) ice cream shop.

Sure, they also sell high-quality desserts, yogurt and great candy. But you can’t make those into clever headlines.

Saugatuck Center is Westport’s hot new neighborhood. Ice cream from Saugatuck Sweets will be the perfect way to chill.

(Saugatuck Sweets is located in the former Craft Butchery on Riverside Avenue, next to The Whelk restaurant.)

Saugatuck Sweets

 

The 3rd Time’s The Charm

Actually, the 1st 2 are pretty charming as well.

Bill Taibe — owner of Le Farm and The Whelk — will open his 3rd Westport restaurant early this summer.

CT Bites reports that the site is the short-lived Bistro 88 space in Bridge Square — formerly Peter’s Bridge Market. It’s just a few steps away from The Whelk in Saugatuck Center.

Bill Taibe serves up octopus and squid at The Whelk.

Bill Taibe serves up octopus and squid at The Whelk.

Taibe — much beloved for his fierce dedication to locally sourced farms and distributors — told the food blog that the new spot will “take its culinary and design inspiration” from Japanese pubs. The emphasis is on small dishes, and great drinks.

He called it an Asian version of The Whelk — including a communal table — offering a mix of Japanese and Chinese dishes. You can also buy a bottle, write your name on it and store it for later.

Saugatuck has been on the culinary map for a couple of years now. In June, a new kitchen warms up — and the area will be even hotter.