If the battle for Westport’s heart was a prizefight, today Saugatuck knocked downtown out of the ring.
Or — to put it another, perhaps more maritime way — the original business center of Westport blew the long-time reigning champ out of the water.
The 1st annual Slice of Saugatuck Festival — the brainchild of area resident Matthew Mandell, with the collaboration of dozens of restaurants and stores — drew thousands of residents to that pizza slice-shaped, still semi-Italian, and fairly funky neighborhood.
Free food (and beer, wine and margaritas) were a main attraction. But there was much more: music, kayaking, hairstyling, fire truck sitting, fly fishing, tae kwan do, people-watching…
In other words: fun.
I’m a native Westporter. I’ve always loved Saugatuck. But until today — when I strolled its very stroll-able streets, and wandered its alleys and shortcuts — I didn’t really think about how much is packed into that small space.
The range of restaurants — from the Black Duck to the Boathouse; Mansion to Mario’s; Rizzuto’s to Tarry Lodge and Viva’s — is remarkable. There’s room for Saugatuck Grain and Grape, plus Saugatuck Wine & Spirits.
And — as the 2nd phase of redevelopment begins — there’s even room to grow.
Of course, new projects are planned for downtown too. From the Church Lane restaurant/retail complex to National Hall across the river — and, at some point, whatever replaces the Y — new restaurants and businesses could bring refreshing energy to that much-maligned area of town.
Riverside Avenue or Main Street? The real fight may just have begun.