Slicing The Slice

In just 2 years, the Slice of Saugatuck became a beloved town institution. Part street fair, part food fest, part replacement for Festival Italiano, it was a welcome addition to the September calendar.

This year though, there’s no Slice.

Founder and RTM member Matt Mandell wrote yesterday, in one of his regular emails to district residents and other community activists:

I am sad to report there will be no Slice of Saugatuck Festival this year.

As many of you know the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce approached me last year, asking if they could take over running it. Those of us involved thought this was a good match moving forward. The WWCC worked with me last year to learn the functions of what turned out to be a very successful followup to the 1st festival in 2011. Unfortunately this transition has not gone as anticipated.

Bridge Square rocked last September, at the "Slice of Saugatuck" festival. (Photo by Terry Cosgrave)

Bridge Square rocked last September, at the “Slice of Saugatuck” festival. (Photo by Terry Cosgrave)

Needless to say, this is very disappointing news. I know that many people and merchants were looking forward to the Westport community once again gathering on a late summer day in Saugatuck to celebrate all it has to offer.

Sadly, the biggest loser as a result of not having the festival is the  Gillespie Center‘s food pantry. Last year’s Slice of Saugatuck revenue generated through ticket sales allowed for a donation of $5000 to help feed the homeless and hungry.

It is my hope, in the meantime, that our generous community will take a moment to buy a few extra cans of tuna or soup, and stop by the center to help out.

It is my and many merchants’ intention to ensure that the festival will once again be held next year, either in the spring or fall.

So hang in there. The Slice will be back.

Dunville's was one of 24 restaurants offering free food. The sliders were a big hit.

Dunville’s was one of 24 restaurants offering free food at the Slice of Saugatuck The sliders were a big hit.

13 responses to “Slicing The Slice

  1. This is so sad. What can we do? How did this happen?

  2. How did that “infomercial” pass muster to be published on this thread?

    Any way, back to the topic…. I admit I did not make it to the slice either year, because I was out of town. It sounded like a great idea – but from what I heard there were long lines waiting for cold pasta. There’s an awful lot of construction going on down in Saugatuck, and I’m wondering if there’s more to the story that has not been shared about how this decision was made?? Did anyone contact the Chamber to inquire?

  3. As a native Saugatuckian I was looking forward to The Slice. I enjoyed it very much. What can we do to help plan another.

  4. Lisa Parrelli Gray

    Hi Dan,

    I had emailed my comments earlier, but they don’t seem to be posted. I probably hit the wrong key when I responded. I am sorry that we didn’t have the opportunity to discuss the Slice of Saugatuck event. The Chamber had several meetings with many of the merchants and business owners in the Saugatuck area this past spring and summer. After much discussion, it was decided to create a new event that would better showcase the individual businesses and create a more intimate experience for both their existing and prospective customers/clients and business owners. We are in the planning stages for a spring event, ” Celebrate Saugatuck”, partnering with the diverse businesses while highlighting the unique history of the Saugatuck region of Westport. It will probably be a month long event, and if it is well received, will be duplicated in the fall. Although the Slice was a wonderful event, the merchants feel this will better serve both the community and the businesses alike.

    • Wow. Create a more intimate experience by doing it over a month? Was that really what I read?

  5. Sandy Soennichsen

    Wow….a Slice of Saugatuck and Kennedy’s Barber Club, sounding more like the Barber of Seville. Now what could a barber shop possibly have to do with a Slice of Saugatuck? Or, does someone need a haircut, come in to Kennedy’s Barber Club and we’ll slice you. C’mon LoriG, lets keep things in perspective here.

  6. I think it’s to bad the Chamber got slammed with out the chance for response/reason- Dan, I thought you liked promoting good things in Westport. The Chamber does allot of good and really as a “reporter” they deserved a comment in the article some people don’t scroll down for comments.

    • The Chamber didn’t get slammed. Please show where anyone ‘slammed’ you. However, being so sensitive gives a sign this change and decision to take away what Matt Mandell started was done to stop it instead if make it better.

      Instead of being critical to anyone responding why don’t you tell us what real plans are in place? To me it seems like you decided to stop this wonderful event. Now you can say you got slammed.

      • I do not have anything to do with the Chamber, but reading this post I thought their side should have been represented. It sounds like they have a plan and it would have been nice to have that part of the story-

        • Kirsten–seems like you opened a real concern about what is going on. And why you are defending the Chamber–saying ‘it sounds like they have a plan’ and claiming the Chamber got slammed? You took a harsh stand when it appears that is not right.

          We now have a Saugutuck merchant writing he ’embraced’ the Slice and and also saying many merchants thought the Slice was ‘a huge positive’. He also writes he is suprised the Chamber canceled the event so quickly.

          So what is really going on with the Slice? Why do you believe there is a good story, when one merchant who is willing to write he has spoken to others, believe differently.

          How did, what Matt Mandel help put together, which was wonderful, embraced by many merchants, all of a sudden get cancelled? Why did the Chamber interfer?

  7. As a saugatuck merchant who embraced all that the “slice” embodies find it perplexing that the Westport Chamer of Commerce so quickly made the decision to cancel the event. I have spoken to many merchants who thought the whole event was a huge positive. A win/ win so to speak. The merchants had the opportunity to showcase there products , the food shelter made some money , and the people from Westport had a great family friendly day.
    Where I get lost is where Mathew hands over a very successful event to the Chamber, and that’s it, a non event. What transpired at this meeting? What seemed so negative that certain issues couldn’t be worked out?
    I receive calls daily inquiring about this wonderful event. What do I say? We’re going to have a month long celebration in the spring?
    At the very least this warrants another look, and see if we can resurrect the ” slice of Saugatuck”.
    In the interim it would e ice if everyone an send a little something to the food shelter to make up the loss from this event.

  8. Ryan Fibiger

    I’m really surprised at the tone of this article. It doesn’t appear that the Chamber was even approached for comment. As a Saugatuck merchant I can attest to the fact that this event has been very polarizing. Contrary to some of the comments above, most of the merchants that I speak with regularly have not liked the structure of the event and many of the biggest names went so far as to opt out last year. As far as I’m aware, the merchants were all invited to meet with the Chamber to discuss the event going forward. Only three of us showed up.

    I was in full agreement with the original premise for the event, to showcase local businesses, celebrate our amazing community and to support the Gillespie Center. The money that has gone to the GC each of the past two years has been an amazing result, but the event doesn’t seem to have forwarded the other two goals at all. My business suffers significantly on the day of the event due to a lack of parking and the free products/discounts that people are promised when they attend. Despite some big marketing efforts the past two years, the Slice hasn’t created any repeat or sustainable business for us either.

    As for celebrating the community, to my knowledge there was no effort to highlight the rich history of the area. What’s more, most of the people in attendance were not native to Saugatuck or Westport. This in itself isn’t an issue, as we’re always thrilled to introduce our business to people in neighboring communities, but it is problematic when our local customers who shop with us tell us that they are making it a point to stay away from Saugatuck on that day.

    I hope and expect that the Chamber will reach out to all the area businesses to get their input on structuring the new event. I know that they have already engaged the Westport Historical Society to enhance the cultural focus of the event. Perhaps a single day event rather than a month-long celebration is a better approach for some of our merchants. Let’s talk about it, then let’s decide what will work best for everyone to both preserve the tradition and meet the goals for which everyone works so hard.