Tag Archives: Sally’s Place

Sally’s Door Still Open

Reports that Sally White would closer her beloved Sally’s Place record store this Sunday were inaccurate.

She’ll be open at least a week more. Maybe 2.

So there’s still time to buy some of her great music stock. Or a tschotske off her wall.

Or simply to say, “Thanks for everything.”

The incomparable Sally White.

The incomparable Sally White.

Saying Goodbye To Sally

In July, “06880” broke the sad news that Sally White would close her beloved Sally’s Place record store.

Current and former residents, music lovers far and wide, and everyone who cared about this warm, wonderful mom-shop owner, reacted with sorrow. They also posted heartfelt remembrances, and heaped praise, on this blog.

That last day is now set. Sally will shut her always-welcoming door this Sunday, September 29.

Her many fans have only a few days left. Go in. Say thanks, and goodbye. Buy one last vinyl or CD.

Sally White deserves it all.

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

Sally’s Place To Close; A Westport Era To End

Sally White has been selling music on Main Street since 1956.

Sometime this summer, her song will finally end.

The beloved owner of Sally’s Place — the record/CD store where Keith Richards and Mary Travers shopped (and schmoozed) with Sally, and any other music lovers who wandered up the steps at 190 Main Street — is closing down.

She’s not sure when (probably later this summer). And she has no idea what she’ll do with the hundreds of posters, autographed photos and musical tchotchkes that line the way (maybe sell them?).

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

She does know, though, that she’ll leave a business she’s loved from her 1st day at Melody House, a few doors away, 57 years ago.

She also knows why she’s closing. The internet dragged too many customers away. The stagnant economy dragged business down further.

Sally’s Place has a niche in Westport that will never be replaced. I walked in this afternoon at the same time as another customer. She wanted a vinyl copy of “Rubber Soul.” Sally promised it would be in by Saturday.

When Melody House closed in the late ’50s, Stanley Klein offered her a job in his department store’s record section. Raising 2 sons alone, she said she could work only 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. She also told him how much she needed to be paid. He hired her on the spot.

She worked there for more than 20 years. Her gentle nature, loving presence and encyclopedic knowledge of music influenced generations of Westporters — myself included.

Sally's Place is at 190 Main Street -- on the right, just past Avery Place.

Sally’s Place is at 190 Main Street — on the right, just past Avery Place.

When Klein’s record department closed in 1985, she decided to open her own store. Her brother-in-law wrote a business plan. She showed it to the president of Westport Bank & Trust.

He gave it right back. “We don’t need it,” he said. He trusted her word.

She offered her house as collateral. He refused. He was happy to back Sally’s Place without it.

It’s been an “amazing” 27 years, Sally says. “The bank, the record companies, my landlord — everyone has been fantastic.”

Especially her customers. “They make me feel special,” says Sally. “But I’m just doing what I love.”

Another customer this afternoon asked Sally for a turntable needle. She handed him a phone number. “This is the Needle Doctor,” she said. “He has everything.”

Sally’s musical roots run deep. She’s seen Frank Sinatra on stage. Also Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.

Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan were close friends. So are many customers who never played a note. All are bound by a love of music — and the treasure that is Sally.

Sally doing what she loves most: interacting with one customer. Another one browses in back.

Sally doing what she loves: interacting with a customer. Another browses in back.

“I’ve been working since I was 14,” Sally says. “I’ve been a part of this town for a long time. This is my heart and soul. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.”

She’s survived as long as she has on special orders. Bluegrass compilations, rap, the “Roar of the Greasepaint” soundtrack — all are hand-written, in old-school logbooks. People find her from around the country.

She does not charge for mailing. “It’s my way of saying thanks,” she says.

As if on cue, a customer requested “old Polish-American polka music” for a wedding. She mentioned a composer. “S-t-u-r-r,” Sally spelled. “Right!” the woman said.

There is plenty of new vinyl -- and CDs, and random stuff, and musical knowledge -- at Sally's Place.

There is plenty of new vinyl — and CDs, random stuff, and musical knowledge — at Sally’s Place.

She does not stock Lady Gaga. “You can get that at Walmart for 10 bucks,” she says.

You can get it online, too — along with virtually everything Sally sells. Which is why she has written this message (by hand):

After 27 years of business I have decided to retire. The economy and internet sales have made it impossible for me to continue.

I thank you for your support, and hope you wish me well in retirement. I’ll miss you.

“Quick and easy,” she says. “I don’t need the schmaltz.”

But we need to say “thank you” to Sally White. Please hit “Comments” to share  your memories, or offer praise.

And then — whether you’re a longtime admirer, a former customer who faded away, or someone who always meant to stop by but never did — go see Sally.

She’ll be glad to see you.

And her broad, loving smile will make your day.

(Click here to read a previous post about Sally’s Westport Arts Center award.)

Back to the Basics: A Portrait of Sally White from Claire Bangser.


Sally White: The Original Shazam

Sally White’s first customers followed her from Klein’s.

Over the years, she added more — many more — thanks to adoring word-of-mouth recommendations.

The customers are fewer now. That’s what happens when you own a “record store,” and most folks get their music through cyberspace.

But plenty of people still discover Sally’s Place (it’s on the less-fancy stretch of Main Street, just past Elm Street). Once they find it, they love it. And they love her even more.

Sally's Place, on the 2nd floor at 190 Main Street.

Sally’s Place, on the 2nd floor at 190 Main Street.

Claire Bangser is a huge fan. A lifelong Westporter and 2005 Staples High School grad, she first met Sally at age 14, while writing an article for the school paper about “Westport’s best kept secret.”

They connected immediately. Sally has that effect on whoever walks through her door.

“Her stories resonate with me,” Claire says. “I’m inspired by how much she gives to everyone around her, with absolutely no ego. She reminds me to stay humble.”

But while most fans simply extol Sally — her generosity, her welcoming shop, her encyclopedic knowledge of all things musical — Claire has done more.

She made a video about this quiet Westport legend. It’s called “Back to the Basics.”

Sally White video

Claire had always been an artist. She got into film just last year — traveling on a National Geographic Young Explorers grant to Turkey and the South Caucasus — but she has nailed her 1st-ever video portrait. It’s filled with a little history, a little background jazz music, and a lot of love.

“Sally is the original Shazam,” says Claire, referring to the owner’s astonishing ability to hear 2 bars hummed off-key to the most obscure song, then come up with the title, artist and label. Three days later, the CD is waiting for you. If you decide you don’t want it — hey, no problem.

“I want more people to know about Sally,” Claire says. “The music industry may be moving online, but Sally most certainly is not. She’s a rare gem in a town (and country) that is slowly being overtaken by large chains. She’s a true expert when it comes to music.”

Sally White, in a typical pose: answering a customer's question by phone.

Sally White, in a typical pose: answering a customer’s question by phone.

Claire wishes she could have included more of Sally’s wonderful stories in the video. But she hopes it whets people’s appetites to hear those tales themselves.

Thanks to Claire’s video, you don’t have to actually go to Sally’s Place to experience her wonderfulness.

But you should.

A decoration on the wall says, "Just for the record: Sally I love you."

A decoration on the wall says, “Just for the record: Sally I love you.”

Mount the few steps. You’ll hear great music. You’ll learn a lot. You may even see a devoted fan, like Keith Richards.

Most importantly, you’ll find an amazing woman — a throwback to the days when Main Street was filled with Sally Whites.

And when no one needed a reason to make a video, paying homage to a hometown heroine.

(To watch Claire Bangser’s video, click here.)

$mall Business $aturday

Shoehorned in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is tomorrow’s much-less-ballyhooed event: Small Business Saturday.

I am not making this up. According to (naturally) the Small Business Administration, tomorrow is “a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities.”

As a small person myself, I fully support all small business people.

Here are a few ways to spend Small Business Saturday:

Compo Basin — a holiday card by Kassie Foss.

  • Head across the river to Age of Reason. It and other Post Road  West shops — all worth visiting — were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.  The educational toy store, for example, lost $40,000 in merchandise.
  • Don’t forget Sally’s Place.You might buy all your music on iTunes (or, ahem, not “buy” it at all), but someone on your list still loves CDs or vinyl. And if Sally White’s shop on Main Street (just past Avery Place) is good enough for Keith Richards, it’s good enough for you.

I know there are many more stores worthy of our business on Small Business Saturday. Click “Comments” to add your own.

323: It’s All True

Bogey’s — vacant since Hurricane Irene last August — will reopen soon.

A sign on the new restaurant — named 323, for its location at 323 Main Street — promises “It’s All True.” I have no idea what that means, but it sounds intriguing.

323 will extend the dining options on the non-chain-store end of Main Street. A new wine bar opened recently next to Sally’s Place, and Joe’s Pizza will relocate there soon.

Count one more area of downtown is livening up.

Would I lie?

Sally White, Superstar

With all the merchant-bashing that goes on in town (and here), it’s nice to hear a different perspective. 

“06880” reader Terri Gatti Schure sent this “open letter” to Sally White — the beloved (and longtime) owner of Sally’s Place.  It’s one of the last independent “record” stores in America — and Sally puts the “mom” in mom-and-pop shops.

Terri writes:

Dear Sally,

You were the topic of conversation at our recent Staples High School 40th reunion earlier this month. Several of us reminisced about you, and the memories were so fond and profoundly deep. We all agreed that your love of music came from the heart.  You had such passion — not just for the music itself, but for what the music created for us emotionally.

The incomparable Sally White

In 1967, the highlight of my Saturdays was going to Klein’s and listening to whatever you had on the “record player.”  You’d guide me through the latest and best artists, albums, top 10.  I could walk in and give you 2 or 3 words in the lyrics, and you knew exactly what song it was.

So it seemed fitting that this past Saturday, while in town to celebrate my Staples reunion, I would stop by with a dear classmate to see you.  Plus, I had these 2 songs I hadn’t been able to find…

Even though I hadn’t seen you in 40 years, you were the same old Sally.

And those 2 songs? One was about not paying the rent – an old R&B tune.  You wrote some notes in your spiral notebook — just like you did 40 years ago — and promised to do some research.  If anyone can find the song, it will be you.

The other song was more of a memory.  I told you that I recalled my mother sitting at the kitchen table in the dark,  in the late ’50s, smoking a cigarette, listening to this haunting song on the radio.  I could only recall that it had something to do with the earth being bitter.

You ran around the counter, grabbed a research book and then a CD, and said, “here it is!”

You took the CD out of the cellophane — not even caring that I might not buy it — and put it in your player.  “’This Bitter Earth’ by Dinah Washington,” you said.

As we listened to the song I was overcome with emotion, lost in the memory of my mother that night.  I looked at you through teary eyes, and of course yours were teary too.  That is what was always so special about you.  We could share a small piece of our heart with you, and you loved us all, because the music made it possible.

It was a pleasure and an honor seeing you again.  I want to thank you for sharing your music with me this past Saturday, as well as all those many, many Saturdays over 40 years ago.


Teri Gatti Schure

Best Of The Rest

Last week, “06880” lamented the lack of respect for Westport restaurants in Fairfield County Weekly’s annual readers’ poll.

The 2nd part of the survey is out — covering stores, banks, even doctors — and we’ve fared a bit better.

Winners include:

The incomparable Sally White.

Sally’s Place for “Best Independent CD/Vinyl Store.”  Such shops are fading faster than Donald Trump’s presidential hopes, but as the Weekly notes, owner Sally White is “one of a kind…. Die-hard music fans love Sally’s, and because White’s operation is so nimble, she can accommodate the special orders bigger stores can’t.”  The Weekly‘s readers nailed this one — as Sally’s fan Keith Richards also attests.

Plumed Serpent wins “Best Bridal Salon.”  I know as much about this category as Pakistan claims to have known about bin Laden, but here goes:  “Plumed Serpent, a multiple-year winner, is renowned for its selection of tasteful, stylish, higher-end dresses and excellent customer service.”  That’s almost enough to make me want to walk down the aisle, in a gown.

But a guy’s gotta look good too.  Fortunately, Men’s Wearhouse (4 locations, including Westport) wins for “Best Place for Tuxedos.”  The Weekly cites the chain’s “broad selection of styles and prices and oodles of shops.”  Sweet.

Bonnie and Rick, the great team at Great Cakes.

Speaking of sweet — and weddings — the “Best Place to Buy Your Wedding Cake” is Great Cakes.  I’m more into the  early-morning coffee — and the chance to see everyone from builder Bill Kashetta to surgeon Alan Meinke — but the crew in the back turn out awesome wedding cakes, all from scratch.  Owner Rick Dickinson is often told that his creations taste as good as they look — and how often do you say that about a wedding cake?

Another entry in the okay-I-believe-you department is Soleil Toile (“Best Lingerie Store [Non-Chain]”).  The Weekly praises the store’s attention to proper fit, and “very broad array of sizes and body types.”  O-kay…

Moving quickly along, the “Best Bank” is People’s United.  Ours shares the honor with other locations in the county, but New England’s largest bank earns props for their many locations, community service, and “expert bankers who can do loans and investments.”  (Um, isn’t that what bankers are supposed to do?)

Westport’s final winner is Dr. Mark Oestreicher.  He’s Fairfield County’s “Best Dermatologist.”  Once again, the Weekly voters have made a thoughtful, inspired decision.  Nothing rash about this one at all.

Our Town Crier

Heard you can get 25% off all supplements at Fountain of Youth?

A free in-home consultation from Making Faces by Debbie?  Two free children’s classes at Dynamic Martial Arts?  A $20 blowout at Roots Salon?

Probably not.  Then again, OurTownCrier.com — the website offering these exclusive deals — has been live for only a day or 2.

The site — linking local small businesses with Westporters seeking promotions and bargains — is the brainchild of Betsy Pollak.  A former small businesswoman herself — she owned Sundries Gifts and Homewares in Sconset Square for 5 years, and Westport Gift below Sally’s Place for 7 — she’s closely attuned to the challenges faced by stores not named Gap or Banana Republic.

“Small business owners are overwhelmed,” she says.  “They’re trying to make it in a tough economy, and because they’ve had to lay off staff, they’re having to do it all themselves.”

Spending all their time on basic functions, they can’t think about things like promotions and websites.  So Betsy does it for them.

She advises them how to grow their businesses; takes photos; then gives them an internet presence at minimal cost.  Some — like Great Cakes and Sally’s Place — have never been in cyberspace before.

What they get — and users see — is a clean, easy-to-navigate site, with sections including “Browse by Business Type,” “Featured Promotions,” “Business Spotlight” (Wild Pear and Max’s Art Supplies are in the current rotation), and “Upcoming Events” (like “Basics of Barbeque Cooking” at Bobby Q’s).

“I feel useful,” Betsy says.  “As a small business owner I felt run down.  Now I’m rejuvenated.”

Valentine’s Day offers a great opportunity for local promotions.  Traffic on OurTownCrier.com will build by word of mouth, but for now even a few additional customers are important to local businesses, Betsy says.

“The cost of business anywhere in town — let alone Main Street — is out of control,” she notes.  “You spend $1,000 a month in electric bills alone.

“But we need each other.  Westporters want a town without chain stores everywhere.  And small business want appreciative customers.”

In very old days, town criers gave citizens the news.  In the mid-20th century, the Town Crier was Westport’s local newspaper.  Today we get news of promotions and bargains — and businesses reach customers — with OurTownCrier.com.

Westport is still a small town after all.

Sally’s Very Special Place

Everyone loves Sally White.  But I’ve loved her longer than most.

Sally is the long-time and very legendary owner of Sally’s Place, the closet-sized, jam-packed, homey and way cool record store, located on the 2nd floor of a little shopping center at the un-chain, non-women’s-clothing-boutique end of Main Street.

The wonderful Sally White

I first met Sally when she managed Klein’s record department.  (Newcomers:  Klein’s was a department store at the site of the current Banana Republic.)  Long before it folded, Klein’s torpedoed its record department.  Sally was sent packing, but instead of wallowing in bitterness she took Klein’s lemons, and made Sally’s Place lemonade.

Sally came late to jazz, but she took to it with almost religious zeal.  Her shop — not easy to find, but unforgettable once you found it — became a mecca for jazz aficionados throughout the Northeast.  She’s also a blues expert, and more than once I’ve seen her deep in discussion with Keith Richards about obscure bluesmen.  Most times he listens.  She talks.

Sally’s encyclopedic knowledge includes show tunes, easy listening and ’60s rock.  She remembers nearly every customer, and quickly learns their favorites — but is never shy about suggesting an artist or even genre outside their comfort zone.

In a store crammed with CDs and vinyl, she knows exactly where to find whatever you want to buy — or she wants you to try.

Now a confession:  I have not been inside Sally’s wonderful Place in years.  Like too many folks, my music collections consists entirely of bits and bytes.  I have thousands of songs on iTunes.  I listen to Pandora on my computer and iPhone.  My enormous CD collection is collecting dust, and I took my turntable to the dump back in the Reagan administration.

I know, though, that if I walked up those steps to Sally’s Place — and, thanks to writing this post, I realize I probably should — she will greet me not with a quizzical look, or as a long-lost customer.  She will smile broadly, hug me, call me “Danny,” and point me in the direction of music only she knows I’ve missed, but will love.

(Sally White will be honored by the Westport Arts Center on Thursday, Dec. 10, with a special holiday jazz party.  The 7 p.m. event includes the rhythm section of Adam Nussbaum, Rob Aries and Brian Torff, plus guest artists.  It’s sold out — but if you want further information, call 203-222-7070.)