Nefaire Rejuvenates Downtown

When you work 100 hours a week, you need a good way to relax.

But, Michael Chang found, traditional resort or day spas were not it. They lacked the services, schedules and ease of booking a hard-charging private equity guy like he demanded.

So — even though his firm owned a massage franchise — he looked for a fresh approach.

Which is how he created Nefaire.

The spa — designed for busy people, with a “kitchen” where many oils, masks, cucumbers, and other fresh stuff used in its facial and aesthetic services are produced — opened earlier this month. It’s located on the Post Road, next to Westport Pizzeria.

The kitchen at Nefaire.

The kitchen at Nefaire.

Nefaire — its name comes from an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph denoting beauty and health — offers short, rejuvenating services. They’re convenient enough to fit into busy lifestyles.

Chang chose Westport because he’d worked at Bridgewater. Despite his long hours there — and his need for relaxation — he got out enough to realize downtown is a great destination. He’s excited about Bedford Square, and the new retailers arriving soon.

He likens his new spa’s vibe to the reasons he’s attracted to Westport. “It’s got the aesthetics of a city,” Chang says. “But I’ve never seen any place like it in Connecticut. You can walk around and enjoy it. It’s not super crowded. It’s a special place.”

Soon, Nefaire will launch an app. Clients can book massage or facial services to their home, office or hotel in just an hour.

Then: Back to work!

The Rubber Band STARs

On Thursday night, STAR held its annual “Galaxy of Gourmets” event.

Among Fairfield County’s many worthy organizations, STAR is a star. Since 1952 it’s offered programs and services for anyone in the area, of any age, with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The fundraiser was certainly fun. Aitoro turned its appliance showroom into a showcase for nearly 2 dozen restaurants, delis and caterers. Westport was represented by A & S, Grana Pastificio, Le Rouge, Winfield Street Italian Deli and A Dash of Salt Catering.

The food was fantastic. Meeting and mingling with STAR families and supporters was rewarding.

Pork, chicken and spicy meatballs were part of the treats.

Pork, chicken and spicy meatballs were part of the menu.

But one of the biggest treats was the Rubber Band.

Formed 15 years ago to provide an outlet for STAR-related musicians, the hard-working rock group includes staff members Nancy Armstrong and Mark Minnock, who lead 6 or more STAR participants and occasional guest performers.

The group rehearses a couple of times a month, and performs many times a year.

They play for STAR’s Music Club, and are regular participants at the Oyster Festival, Norwalk Concerts on the Green, Sono Arts Festival and  STAR’s Walk, 5k Run & Roll at Sherwood Island each May.

They’ve ventured further afield too, to venues like Toad’s Place, the Georgetown Saloon, Cobb’s Mill Inn and the Ridgefield Playhouse.

Here’s their version of “Johnny B. Goode.” Chuck Berry — move over!

 

Y Seeks Clarification Of “Membership Cap”

During the many long months years decades it took for the Y to move from downtown, I thought the result would be a traffic disaster.

I envisioned lines of cars backed up and down Wilton Road, all the way to the Post Road. I’ve seen bad traffic there; I could not imagine it wouldn’t get worse.

Well, the Y has been out there next to Exit 41 for more than 2 years. And — you could blow me over with a feather — the traffic is not only not worse. It may even be better.

Maybe the lights have been rejiggered. Maybe everyone hops onto the Merritt and gets off at Exit 42. Maybe everyone jogs there.

Whatever the case, the traffic apocalypse never happened.

And next Thursday (March 2, 7 p.m., Town Hall), the Planning & Zoning Commission may discuss a membership cap for the Y.

The (relatively) new Westport Weston Family YMCA.

The (relatively) new Westport Weston Family YMCA.

According to an email sent to members, in 2008 — when the Y sought approval to build — the P&Z established certain conditions. One was a “membership cap” of 8,000.

The Y says they’ll ask the P&Z to clarify that the 8,000 “pertains to individuals that are of driving age.”

That makes sense. The fire marshal should care how many people are in the building. The P&Z should concern itself with the number of cars.

The Y did not ask me to write this. They don’t know I’m doing it.

But as someone who spent years imagining gridlock — and hailed the cap when it was first announced — I might as well admit how wrong I was.

Smile! You’re NOT On Candid Camera!

The new Main Street traffic lights — at the Avery Place/Parker Harding and Myrtle Avenue/North Kings Highway intersections — have some Westporters spooked.

An alert “06880” reader sent photos of what he thought were surveillance cameras:

traffic-light-not-camera-2

Were they installed to catch drivers zooming through the light?

Or — worse — some kind of nefarious, Big Brother spy cams?

traffic-light-not-camera-1

This called for a call to Westport’s top cop.

Have no fear, Police Chief Foti Koskinas responded quickly. There are no cameras on any traffic lights in Westport.

These are traffic control devices. They replace the strips that previously lay under the pavement, sending signals to the lights to determine if cars were waiting in line. That’s why sometimes a light allows a left turn on red, while other times it turns green for everyone.

In the past, Foti said, every time a road was repaired or repaved, the strips were torn out and replaced.

Now — sitting high above ground — they’re much safer.

Until the next wind storm.

Friday Flashback #29

As Bedford Square nears completion, it’s shaping up as a handsome addition to downtown. David Waldman has taken the original lines of the Bedford Building — the Tudor YMCA, built in 1923 — and extended them along Church Lane, then up across Elm Street.

But Bedford Square has nothing on the grandeur of its namesake’s estate.

E.T. Bedford —  director of Standard Oil, and philanthropist of (among others) Bedford Junior High and Bedford Elementary School — lived on Beachside Avenue, next to Burying Hill Beach.

Here’s what his house looked like in 1920:

e-t-bedford-estate-beachside-avenue-1920

He wasn’t the only wealthy Beachside resident. This is a view of “Nirvana” — E.B. Sturges’ home (and personal dock) — in 1909:

nirvana-e-b-sturges-residence-beachside-avenue-1909

Yet the Bedford influence was hard to avoid. That’s his windmill in the distance, toward the right side of the photo.

(Hat tip: Ken Bernhard)

Academy Awards Come To Westport

The closing of Oscar’s Delicatessen ended a great Westport tradition: the annual Oscars at Oscar’s pre-party.

But the Westport Cinema Initiative has filled the gap.

A number of local businesses have  become “polling places” for a contest. Just stop in and vote for who you think will win awards this Sunday in a variety of categories: Best Leading Actor and Actress; Best Supporting Actor and Actress; Best Director; Best Picture; Best Animated Feature; Best Documentary and Best Foreign Film.

Winners receive prizes donated by those merchants.

The contest ends this Sunday (February 26) at 4 p.m. You can vote at these locations:

  • Le Rouge by Aarti
  • iFloat
  • Francois du Pont Jewelers
  • Organachs Farm to Skin
  • Vincent Palumbo Salon
  • The Brownstone
  • Green & Tonic
  • The UPS Store
  • Downunder
  • Westport Hardware
  • Saugatuck Sweets
  • Joe’s Pizza
  • Simon Pearce
  • Body Quest
  • Soleil Toile

PS: As you enjoy the Oscars Sunday night, raise a glass in memory of Oscar’s.

Last year's pre-Oscars party at Oscar's was also deli owner Lee Papageorge's 65th birthday. His daughter Missy presented him with his very own statue. (Photo/Diane Lowman)

Last year’s pre-Oscars party at Oscar’s was also deli owner Lee Papageorge’s 65th birthday. His daughter Missy presented him with his very own statue. (Photo/Diane Lowman)

How The Earthplace Garden Grows

Like the perennial plants that bloom, then disappear there, the native garden in the Earthplace atrium has cycled through periods of growth and dormancy.

Designed in 1960 by Eloise Ray — a noted landscape architect — at what was then called the Mid-Fairfield County Youth Museum, the handsome garden was filled with indigenous species.

Eloise Ray, in the natural garden she conceived and designed.

Eloise Ray, in the native garden she conceived and designed.

Over the years — as the name changed to the Nature Center — the garden became a favorite spot. A bronze statue and bench added to its serenity.

In 1977, the Greens Farms Garden Club took over maintenance. They continued until 2011, when the board of trustees changed the courtyard focus. For a few years, the garden fell into disuse.

But in the fall of 2015, the garden club revived it. They weeded vigorously. Working from Ray’s original blueprints, they planted 17 new shrubs, and 42 native plants. Last year, they added 12 more perennials.

Greens Farms Garden Club members (from left) Ann Watkins, Barbara Harman, Wynn Herrmann, Rivers Teske and Donnie Nader take a rare break from their Earthplace work.

Greens Farms Garden Club members (from left) Ann Watkins, Barbara Harman, Wynn Herrmann, Rivers Teske and Donnie Nader take a rare break at Earthplace.

Today the garden is once again a delight. It supports local wildlife like grey tree frogs. Honeybees pollinate the flora. Birds and butterflies abound.

Staff and visitors love it. And, says Greens Farms Garden Club past president Wynn Hermann, members and Earthplace employees enjoy a “wonderful partnership.”

Earthplace's atrium garden blooms again.

Earthplace’s atrium garden blooms again.

On Saturday, March 11, guests will gather there for a Garden Party Gala. There’s great food and music, plus an auction. It’s a fundraiser for Earthplace’s education programs.

The theme of the evening is “Help Our Garden Grow.”

Which makes perfect sense. Whether it’s flowers or the environmental awareness of children, Earthplace plants seeds, nurtures and grows.

(The Garden Party Gala is set for 7-11 p.m. on Saturday, March 11. For information and tickets, click here.)

 

Saugatuck Night Lights

Lynn U. Miller had dinner last night at Parker Mansion.

If you or I were there, we would have eaten, chatted, maybe glanced out the window of the former Mansion Clam House.

Not Lynn. The wonderfully talented photographer — who knows Westport better than just about anyone — snapped this shot:

(Photo copyright Lynn U. Miller)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo copyright Lynn U. Miller)

She calls it “Saugatuck Night Life.”

I call it beautiful.

Deli Owner Tries To Solve Pickle

The state Department of Transportation calls the Post Road/Riverside Avenue/Wilton Road intersection one of the most dangerous in Connecticut.

Everyone in Westport agrees. But every day, Breno Donatti gets a first-hand view of exactly how horrible it is.

In just the few weeks since he took over Art’s Delicatessen, the owner of what is now Winfield Street Italian Deli watches pedestrians run for their lives as they cross the street.

He gets plenty of lunch and catering orders from the Wright Street building and the offices on Wilton Road. His employees are terrified to deliver, though. At least twice, they’ve nearly been hit by cars.

The Winfield Street Deli on Post Road West.

The Winfield Street Deli on Post Road West.

It cuts both ways. “People who work across the street don’t feel like risking their lives to get coffee here,” Breno says.

And customers parking in front of Winfield Deli are beeped at constantly, as they back into a space.

This morning, Breno emailed First Selectman Jim Marpe. He asked for a simple “Yield to Pedestrians” sign, or maybe a pedestrian button on the traffic light.

What happened next made him realize that — despite the Post Road hassles — he opened his store in a great town.

Within minutes, Kirsten Carr from the selectman’s office wrote back. She said that although the streets are state property, she would forward his concerns to the town’s traffic control officer.

And just a few minutes after that, 2 police officers — Ashley Del Vecchio and Al D’Amura — strolled in.

They told Breno that they’d already called state officials, to plead for more signs or a renovation of the intersection. And they assured him they’ll do everything in their power to help the state make the area safer for pedestrians.

“They were so courteous, gracious and responsive,” Breno says. “Wonderful people!”

Breno Donatti (right) and Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

Breno Donatti (right) and Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

The intersection won’t improve instantly. But plenty of people are working on it.

Including the concerned — and now pleased — owner of Winfield Deli.

Town Site Needs Help

If you had to use one word to describe the Town of Westport’s website, what would it be?

Mine is “utilitarian.”

For one thing, it’s a town site. It’s not supposed to be exciting.

For another, it was last redesigned in 2011. In technology terms, that was when fish first crawled out of the sea.

But the site is being upgraded soon. It will be coded for use on those newfangled smartphones and tablets, as well as desktops and laptops.

And the designers want us to help.

Users can offer feedback on how they use the current site — and what they’d like to see in the future — by answering a quick survey. The basic questions are kind of blah, but the opportunity to expand on your answers at length is a good one.

Click here for the survey. Your town government wants to hear from you!

(My 2 cents: Get rid of that tagline “New England in tradition; cosmopolitan in outlook.” Yikes!)

Everything you need to know about the Shellfish Commission is on our town website. But not one photo of a clam!

Everything you need to know about the Shellfish Commission is on our town website. But not one photo of a clam!