Pic Of The Day #675

Sunrise at Staples High School — back parking lot and athletic fields (Photo/Colin Neenan)

$10,000 Non-Profit Grants Available From Westport Woman’s Club

In 2015, a $5,000 grant enabled Earthplace to update maps of their 74-acre sanctuary. Visitors can now find all trails — including those suitable for wheelchairs and strollers.

In 2016, a gift of $10,000 helped Project Return repaint their historic North Compo Road home.

A 2017 grant of nearly $5,000 gave the Westport Astronomical Society a new solar telescope for its Rolnick Observatory.

Last year, Wakeman Town Farm used $1,200 to purchase an innovative mobile chicken coop.

Wakeman Town Farm’s mobile chicken coop.$10.

All of those “Ruegg Grants” came from the Westport Woman’s Club. Established in 1995 by former member Lea Ruegg, they’re given each spring to a local non-profit with a project that makes a meaningful difference in social services, health, safety, the arts or education.

Other previous recipients include ITN Coastal Connecticut, CLASP Homes, the Westport Police Department, Hall-Brooke Hospital, Interfaith Housing, Mercy Learning Center, Toquet Hall, the Westport Rotary Club, Staples Players and the Westport Library.

Your organization could be next. The Woman’s Club is accepting submissions now through March 8.

The Westport Woman’s Club is no Jenny-come-lately to the field of philanthropy. Since 1907 they’ve supported area educational, charitable, cultural and health services. (Their first projects: sidewalks, bathrooms at Compo Beach, and hot lunches and vaccinations in schools.)

Ruegg Grants are now one of their signature projects. For an application, click here. To learn more about the Westport Woman’s Club, click here or call 203-227-4240.

Ed Vebell, Austin Briggs, And A Wonderful Studio With Northern Light

In 1953, Ed Vebell was starting to make a name as an artist. He’d spent World War II as an illustrator/reporter for Stars and Stripes. He stayed in Europe a while, covering the Nuremberg trials and drawing 18-year-old Grace Kelly.

Now he, his wife Elsa Cerra and their 3-year-old daughter Vicki lived in New York. He hung out at the Society of Illustrators, eating and schmoozing with well-known artists.

One day, he spotted a bulletin board notice of a house for sale. He knew nothing about the town — Westport, Connecticut — but it had an artist’s studio with a large north light window.

That was huge: No shadows or highlights on the canvas or drawing board.

The artist’s studio.

The seller was Austin Briggs. A renowned illustrator — he drew “Flash Gordon,” worked for Reader’s Digest and the Saturday Evening Post, and was later elected to the Society of Illustrators’ Hall of Fame — that was enough to assure Ed that he was making the right move for himself and his family.

He bought the house, for $29,000 — sight unseen.

When Ed arrived for the first time, he looked down the end of Roosevelt Road. Something blue caught his eye. What was it?

“That’s Long Island Sound, sir,” the broker replied.

Okay, he thought. That’s nice.

Ed Vebell wrote his memoirs — and illustrated the cover.

The house served Ed and his growing family well. Working in that wonderful studio — enjoying the large north light window — he contributed to Time, Reader’s Digest and other publications. Specializing in military art, he drew uniforms from around the world for encyclopedias and paperback publishers. He worked for MBI too, illustrating the history of America from Leif Erikson through the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, and every war up to Vietnam.

Ed designed US stamps too — some with military themes. The studio was strewn with uniforms, helmets and boots. There was not even enough space for Wild Bill Hickok’s hat. So Ed stashed it in the bathtub.

Last February — less than 2 weeks after appearing at a Westport Historical Society show honoring his long career — Ed Vebell died peacefully, at home. He was 96.

It’s taken his daughters a year to clear out the house, and auction his collections.

But now the home — 9 Quentin Road — is on the market.

Ed Vebell’s home, 9 Quentin Road,

Audra Vebell says she and her sisters hope to find someone with “an appreciation of the history and special nature of this house.”

It really is special. For nearly a century, not one but two of America’s most famed illustrators lived and worked there.

In fact, just before he sold it to Ed, Austin signed his name in the garage concrete. It’s still there.

So history — and the spirit of 2 of Westport’s most prominent citizens — still remain.

When it comes to Ed Vebell and Austin Briggs, there must be something in the water.

(Click here for the real estate listing.)

Pic Of The Day #674

Moody Compo Beach, mid-February (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

UPDATE: Make It Monday For Mystic Market

Earlier this afternoon, “06880” reported that Mystic Market’s final walk-through was scheduled for next Tuesday. The long-awaited Saugatuck store would open the next day.

But that final town approval was all that remained. Owners were ready. The staff was champing at the bit.

Town officials had first said they’d do that walk-through this week. Then they put it off until Tuesday.

Now it’s back on for this week. So, Mystic Market says, it looks like they’ll open at 10 a.m. Monday.

Just a bit of Westport — and Mystic — magic.

Mystic Market takes over the former Blu Parrot, Jasmine and Arrow property.

Mystic Market Opens Wednesday

When the Blu Parrot closed in 2013, Saugatuck lost a great venue for live music.

For more than 4 years, the Charles Street property — the gateway to Westport off I-95 Exit 17, and for decades the site of the beloved Arrow restaurant — sat vacant. Weeds grew near boarded-up windows.

Then Mystic Market announced they’d move in. Area residents — many of whom still mourn the loss of Peter’s Bridge Market — rejoiced. Those who knew of Mystic’s 3 other locations in eastern Connecticut were particularly pleased.

Mystic Market, on Charles Street.

Mystic Market touts “gourmet quality products, at marketplace prices.” They offer groceries, soups, salads, wraps, sandwiches, grinders, a coffee bar, and a bakery serving breakfast goods, breads and desserts. Catering is also available.

That was November 2017. “A spring opening is planned,” “06880” cheerily reported.

Spring 2018 came and went. So did summer, fall and most of winter. Spring 2019 is exactly 28 days away.*

But good things are worth waiting for. Owner Charles Spathakis says they’ve passed their health inspection. They should get their certificate of occupancy on Tuesday. They’re shooting to open the next day.

Final work is being done now. The interior looks great. The state-of-the-art kitchen gleams. Staff is being trained.

The Saugatuck arrow definitely points in the right direction.

* Hallelujah!

Biscotti are ready for sale.

Unsung Heroes #86

A few weeks ago we honored Vautrin Auto Service as our Unsung Hero.

Turns out there’s another Unsung Hero almost directly across the street. Alert — and very satisfied — reader Charmian Valante writes: 

My daily read of “06880” helps me feel a little bit closer to the town I love. Last year, as you highlighted the closing of some of my favorite businesses — Crossroads Hardware, Christie’s Country Store, Commuter Cafe — I thought about my own shopping behavior, and how I could do more to support the remaining stores that are so vital to our community.

Cooper’s Auto Parts in Westfair Center is at the top of my list. I hope you might adding them to your Unsung Hero list.

Sandy, who runs the store, has uncanny ability to know exactly what part is needed for your. Then he takes the time to talk me through the installation process.

 

On Yelp he has a legion of fans who treasure his advice and guidance as much as I do. The reviews include:

  • “These are the nicest most accommodating, most helpful guys who an old auto nerd could ever hope to do deal with.”
  • “Coop knows parts and problems always willing to sell you only what you need to get the job done.”
  • “This is what an auto parts store should be.”
  • “They are the Car Talk guys of Westport.”

When my daughter’s friend’s tail light went out, I went to Cooper’s to get a replacement bulb. Sandy immediately knew the halogen light needed for her 2007 Camry. He gave me a box so I wouldn’t touch the bulb, and explained to me how the oils on my hand could transfer to the bulb and crack it when we installed.

On other occasions, he has come out of his shop to look at a windshield wiper, top off fluids, and help me remove bumper sticker residue (insisting on using his sample of Goo Gone Automotive rather than me buying a bottle).

I am always surprised how many Westporters don’t know about Cooper’s, considering how long they’ve been serving Westporters. Thank you for considering this.

Consider it done. Cooper’s Auto Parts: You’re our Unsung Heroes of the Week!

Mark Lassoff: A Framework For Technical Education

WWPT-FM — the Staples High School radio station — dates back to the 1960s. The first TV production class was held in 1982.

Both programs were flourishing in 1988, when Mark Lassoff moved to Westport. He still remembers guidance counselor Paul King proudly showing off the  studios, to the incoming freshman.

Lassoff had never thought about TV or radio. When he graduated 4 years later, he’d made a major mark in both. He also starred on the wrestling team.

After the University of Texas — where he majored in communications and computer science — Lassoff stayed in the Lone Star State. He worked for himself, training startup companies’ staffs about technology.

Ten years ago, he moved back to Connecticut.

Mark Lassoff

His timing was fortuitous. Almost immediately, Lassoff was diagnosed with colon cancer. Here, self-employed people could get health insurance. In Texas, that was impossible.

Though he’d traveled far and wide for work, cancer kept him close to home. So he developed online courses. He started with Introduction to JavaScript, then added more. He was one of the first entrepreneurs to sell $1 million worth of courses online.

Over the past decade though, the business model changed. As the barrier to entry got lower, more courses flooded the market.

Lassoff found a new platform in digital TV. Roku, Hulu, Amazon Fire — all seemed ripe to deliver technical education.

So Framework TV now offers tech ed streaming videos on the web, and online. The goal is to prepare people for jobs in the digital world.

And, Lassoff says proudly, it’s done “at prices people can afford.”

Mark Lassoff (upper right), as part of a Framework TV offering on Roku.

In fact, the first step — certification in HTML – is free. Users can move on to professional-level certification in areas like CSS and upgraded JavaScript for $10 a month. Then come deeper dives into web development, iOS and Android.

Lassoff recently opened a studio at the Palace Theater, the newly renovated and very funky South Norwalk space.

Among the Framework crew: video editor Jack Smith, a 2011 Staples grad. After taking TV and radio production at Staples — like Lassoff — he majored in digital media at Sacred Heart University.

Jack Smith, at work in Framework’s South Norwalk studio.

Today, anyone can access Mark Lassoff’s technical education courses, from any device anywhere in the world.

But he could not be happier providing it just a few miles from where his love affair with TV and technology all began: the Staples High School media lab.

Pic Of The Day #673

Downtown by drone (By John Videler/Videler Photography)

Parker Harding Garbage: The Sequel

This morning’s post –showing garbage where the dumpster once sat in Parker Harding Plaza, just a few yards away from the finally-working compactor — drew plenty of comments from readers.

And this email from Scott Martin:

I own the Rye Ridge Deli. Someone sent me the pic of the garbage by the compactors.

That is a mix of garbage from various tenants there. A couple of those boxes are ours: the bacon, avocados and Rockland bakery.

I just spoke to a number of my employees who take garbage out at night and during the day. Last night, the compactors were completely filled and overflowing. Everything was stuffed in them to the top. They would not compact any more.

The mess this morning. The dumpster — across from the compactors — is no longer there.

Maybe they were a day late picking up due to the holiday. We are not sure. But when they come to remove the compactors it seems they cannot drive away with them overflowing so they knock it out, and when they return from the dump or wherever they take the trash they fill it back with what was knocked out.

There have been many occasions since the compactors have been installed with them not functioning at all. I guess the kinks are being worked out back there.

Going forward my guys have been instructed to let myself or a manager know when there is this sort of mess back there. Rather then leaving it for someone else to find, we can call City Carting to address it or figure out a better way rather than leaving that mess.

Those compactors are great, better than regular dumpsters, as long as they work (which is not always the case). I have been dealing with them for years in my other locations.

I just got off the phone with Scott. He apologizes for his guys leaving a mess. Nice to know he contacted “06880” to take responsibility.

As he notes though, only a small portion of the garbage is his. The hunt continues.