Steve Silver: Compo Acres Is Open For Business!

There’s never a good time for a commercial property owner to do a major renovation.

But there is a worst time: the holiday shopping season.

Steve Silver has lived or worked here his entire life. He and his sister Sue have a combined 70 years’ experience with Silver of Westport, the store their father founded in 1951. It’s the oldest continually operating store in town.

Their lease in Compo Acres Shopping Center has 16 years to go. Since April, though, they’ve been looking for someone to join them, or take over their luggage and gifts store. Nearing retirement, they want fresh ideas (and legs).

April is when construction began on the center. Steve says their landlord — Equity One — “seems to be doing everything possible to make our business fail.”

The company — which owns 2 other shopping centers in town — has simultaneously blasted and reshaped the back hill into level parking spaces; installed new sidewalks  and curbs around the building, and gutted 2 stores for new tenants.

The front of Compo Acres Shopping Center...

The front of Compo Acres Shopping Center…

The results will be nice, but timing is everything. Compo Acres has been a mess for 7 months. And Equity One plans to continue work straight through Christmas.

The Silvers — and several other tenants — asked for a break from November 1 through December 25. That’s the period when most businesses make most of their money. The landlord said no.

“We all love what we do here,” Steve says. “Our staff has stayed with us for over 15 years. Endless numbers of young people pass through here every Christmas, helping us. Many of them come back to visit, and remember their experience.”

Silver of Westport has supported nearly every charity that knocks on their door. That’s what locally owned businesses do. Steve himself was a 33-year United Way volunteer, and chaired 2 preschools.

“I always hear about mom-and-pop businesses failing,” Steve says. “I want people to know that it is landlords you have to look at — well, at least Equity One. And if nothing happens here, Equity One — which has already forced out businesses at Fresh Market center — needs to know how much Westporters care about their hometown.”

...and the rear.

…and the rear.

In 1963, Silver’s burned to the ground. Townspeople, fellow merchants — and a caring landlord — helped Steve and Sue’s father get back on his feet.

Silver’s asks area shoppers to help them and their retail neighbors out this holiday season. Ignore the parking mess. Ignore the scaffolding that makes it seem like the shopping center is closed.

Instead, help support the many local businesses that make Westport what it is.

And, if you’d like, contact Equity One to ask for a holiday season without hassles. Project coordinator is Michael Lai (mlai@equityone.net); leasing agent is Eliot Fierberg (efierberg@equityone.net), and COO is Michael Makinen (mmakinen@equityone.net).

33 responses to “Steve Silver: Compo Acres Is Open For Business!

  1. Equity One’s mission is straightforward: take as much money out of Westport as they can. When you look at the new shopping malls going up along the thruway in Norwalk and Bridgeport, remember what out-of-town owners’ goals are: high rents and minimum wages to maximize the flow of money away from here. Minimal “tax revenues” and “job creation” don’t begin to balance out what leaves, don’t let the politicians fool you. Those landlords and out-of-town businesses hollow out the community (just as they tried to do at Baron’s South) . – Chris Woods

  2. Great store ! 🙂

  3. I just sent this:
    Dear Equity One People,
    I live near and shop at Compo Acres in Westport. I understand that you are a profit-making business and need to make the changes underway at Compo Acres.
    But couldn’t you take a break now until January so the merchants, especially Silver’s, can have a good holiday selling season, so crucial for their survival?
    Thanks. Catherine Onyemelukwe

  4. Beth Berkowitz

    Yes I was at this shopping center yesterday and it is awful what the landlord is doing to the current businesses there. While I do think it will look good when they are done, it is a mess currently and has been for awhile.

    I have a problem with landlords that continue to increase rents over what is affordable to locally owned businesses and making it only affordable to chain stores.

    While I do appreciate landlords who improve their buildings and parking areas, this construction in particular does seem to be continuous for an inordinately long time inconveniencing customers and making it harder for the businesses to conduct their businesses in a profitable way. It does look like some of the stores are closed until you find a way to get inside. Maybe the landlord could have only done work in back until that was finished and then done the work in the front with signs saying please use rear entrances and parking. That way it would have looked open in the front while the back was being worked on and less inconvenience for the businesses. However, since that obviously not done, what the business owners are asking is for the landlord to give them a short window where the work could “take a holiday vacation” and then finish after Christmas. They aren’t asking for that much.

    Again, I also understand the landlord and contractors want to just get it all finished as soon as they can, without dealing with even colder and possibly worse weather as they approach January, since all the work is being done outside, it would be good for the businesses and the public to know when it will be finished and maybe they could limit it during the time period of the holidays as the business owners have requested.

    The work in the rear yesterday was all over the lot and the cars had to stop numerous times for the workers to move around and they blocked my ingress and egress several times with their machines. Maybe they could do some of the work at night with large spotlights like they are doing on the Merritt to inconvenience less customers?!? But then would it impact then neighbors too much that live nearby and maybe trying to sleep through the construction at night. Maybe they can work from sunrise until 11 am and then from 6:30 pm until 10 pm at least for the parts that make moving around the parking lot so difficult.

    The landlord needs to compromise a little in order to keep these small businesses in business. Otherwise we will continue to loose the smaller shops that really contribute to the community, like we did on Main Street and landlords will have more and more vacant stores until they lower their rents and accommodate their tenants and the people of Westport.

    I truly hope the landlord acts in good faith to try and help accommodate their current tenants more.

  5. Here is the problem in a nutshell. Equity One is a faceless investor with no vested interest in the success of their tenants. Silvers goes they will lease to some other (national chain) business for more money. Lots of examples around town. Small local businesses don’t by definition have the economies of scale (one store can loses money because another makes lots) so they are at a disadvantage from the start. But without local stores the whole atmosphere of our town will continue to change and we have few left so that ship may have sailed.

    Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but it would not surprise me at all that Equity One’s timing (and not putting off the construction) is to drive the SIlver’s out. The worst part is we as customers of “Mom & Pops” (in this case brother & sister) have no recourse other than to do our best to shop there and get our friends to do the same.

    Our town government can play a role to right this imbalance and should. I will assume Equity One needed a building permit. Any suggestions on how to keep the Equity One’s from ruining our town?

  6. Luckily you have long lease, Equity One trying to drive out all the “mom and pop” small businesses by doubling rents and charging excessive CAM fees.
    Look what they did to The Fresh Market Center and I’m sure the shopping centers across the street, which they also own, will be looking the same in the near future. It’s sad since many of the tenants of Equity One’s newly acquired centers in Westport have been in business for many years and now are being forced out by the big bully corporate owner.

  7. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    I’d love it if they’d give the shopkeepers a holiday break. Unfortunately, they probably won’t and have probably been cleared by their attorneys to go ahead with this rape of their tenants. What I’d suggest is that everybody “suck it up” and do whatever is necessary to make sure that they overcome any obstacle, support any friend, oppose any foe, to ensure that Silver’s and the other CASC tenants have a barn burner of a holiday season. I’m stuck in Ohio (22 miserable years and counting) and would love a good excuse to return to Westport for the holidays. I will do MY part and plan my holiday shopping early at Silver’s, which is a pleasure I’ve not been able to enjoy since being transferred to Chicago in 1978.

    Happy Holidays to all my Westport friends and to Silver’s and their co-tenants I offer a hearty OLB (Outlast The Bastards) don’t retire until in the immortal words of President Clinton (the male one) “the last dog has died”

  8. Thanks for running this, Dan…and for letting us know whom to contact. I have emailed the three you mention and I hope others will as well. Sometimes, Westporters have made such a big noise about something they care about that things have changed. So let’s rally and let Equity One know that this matters to us.

    Here is what I wrote to Equity One:Please pause remodeling Compo Acres for the holiday season. It matters to me… and to many Westporters… to be able to easily access Silvers and the other stores there.

    I have known Steve Silver for over 30 years; he has always made shopping and asking for donations to causes that I have helped personable and fun. Sometimes I have gone into his store to check up on him and just to chat!

    Please either hurry and complete the front work so it looks open for business or do something to make the bank of stores there personable and engaging during the holiday season.

  9. First it was that creepy tombstone – like sign that got put up near the Trader Joes entrance, then it was the heart stopping blasting in the rear (I hear that whole thing’s going great from an environmental standpoint and the residential abutters are having a really awesome time too) and now this. Equity One, since you guys seem have this fetish for digging stuff up, could you please divert a few of your peeps to undo the stupid tree killing volcano of mulch that you carelessly put around the giant sycamore visible in the first picture above? If you are trying to evict the tree along with the Silver family then just keep it up. It shouldn’t take long.

  10. I am finding these comments are somewhat hypocritical. Everyone knows that this parking lot is terrible and i think it is even mentioned on this blog elsewhere as one of the worst parking lots in westport. Now the owner is trying to fix it and everyone is complaining. Last time i checked, October is not peak season for luggage shopping. Everyone will be thrilled when it is done so they are not fighting for parking spots to go to trader joes (not Silvers).The work looks like it is happening fast, if the parking lot was done before thanksgiving will anyone have any legitimate complaint? Why would he need a rent break through the end of the year? Has anyone thought to ask why? What if the parking lot is done in the next two or three weeks? Sounds to me like a squeaky wheel trying to get some grease in their pocket.

    Truth be told if this center was owned by a local resident the parking lot would never be fixed because most small landlords do not have the money to make improvements like that.

    Also, every time i have gone into Silvers it is empty. Wesport needs to get over nostalgia and understand that whether it is a private landlord or a corporation, landlords have the right to charge market rent for this space. Last time i checked all those national luxury tenants on main street are doing well. We all have our clothes on your back. If Silvers is so great then people of westport need to start shopping there so that he will do well. Otherwise you are asking someone else to pick up the tab for your sentiments.

    • I forgot to mention that I think the blog post has some inaccuracies. I do not believe the work has been happening since April. Someone can check the town records but I think their permit was approved in august or September. I was shopping at trader joes a week after Labor Day and none of this work was happening. As a private shop owner myself I also used to own a strip center so I can appreciate both sides of the coin but to me this post seems entirely one sided to me

  11. David J. Loffredo

    The hypocrisy on this blog is really something….

    Go bemoan the greedy corporate landlords (although with corporate headquarters on Park Ave let’s not pretend that some of them might not be our fellow residents) and defend the poor little local shop keeper. Sounds great, easy to do, nice populist movement, screw capitalism.

    But do some research and figure out who originally sold out to the greedy corporate bastards, and you know what you’ll find? Some of the same Westport royalty who you gesticulate in front of every time they sponsor a little league team. There was a time where all the commercial space was owned by local families – many hiding anonymously behind LLC’s – but most of them have sold out – run right to the bank – and they could care less what happens to their tenants.

    Stop villifying the corporate PE and Hedge Fund owners – I love that some of our local restate agents do = who exactty do you think buys your ridiculously overpriced houses?

    • Bart Shuldman

      Nice job David. It takes both a buyer and a seller. Why is it the buyer who only gets scrutinized? Let me remember-how many buildings does Gordon own? Who rents his buildings?

      How much have taxes increased due to the charges? Both housing and buildings? Or have taxes leveled off as we build more income? So who benefits?

      Clearly our town costs are not decreasing. How much do the schools cost? Without some of the changes can we not say it has helped?

      The situation at Silvers is wrong–BUT WE CAN HELL. JUST LIKE WE DID WITH GREAT CAKES.

      Let’s all go and buy something and help them out. Let’s not let this construction get in our way. I pledge to go and help.

      But the story of ‘ugly’ owner or big house is truly getting old as everyone is benefitting. No matter what you say. Our tax base is showing it.

      Just think-it is so good we have some wanting to spend $6 million + on Compo. Just saying.

  12. Sometimes there’s just nowhere to go with one’s sadness. I rarely shop Main Street and (to be frank) rarely shop Westport, because most of what I want/ am willing to pay for can’t be found here. Fact is, our entire economy is currently set up to marginalize the little guy — whether shopkeeper or customer. Little victories, like keeping the wonderful Silver open, would be lovely, but this stream’s flowing downhill.

    Speaking of little victories, I spent a week in Asheville, NC this summer. No chain stores are permitted downtown. It was amazing. http://www.pps.org/great_public_spaces/one?public_place_id=833&type_id=0

    But more than a few of the locals would enjoy access to their favorite chains. http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/nation/2014/01/25/why-no-bass-pro-or-academy-sports-in-asheville-area/4899767/

    I don’t think we’ll be able to (sustainably) stop “progress” until we reach critical mass and enough of us say, “We need to change the system” (at best) or, at least, “I’d rather live without chain stores.” In the current financial climate, that’s gonna take some cojones.

  13. Hypocrisy? Nonsense! Longevity, service, quality and lots of smiles from truly local owners ( who were here and serving us long before the McMansion invasion) deserve thanks and consideration. Methinks a few of the bitter writers above are the true hypocrites. Their view of “progress” is merely “make my precious life simpler”. If they really knew Steve and Sue
    (and their father, Phil ) they wouldn’t be so ready to trade the qualities offered by the Silver family, and other “Mom & Pops” like them, for sterile New York imports. But helping others is apparently not in their DNA.

  14. I thought they said if you like the store, shop there. Can you think of a better way to preserve the revered “mom and pop” stores? “Mom and pop” have been disappearing for decades. A lack of patronage might be one of the reasons.

  15. Shopping issues is the 06880 headline after this week of turmoil?

    • Sharon Paulsen

      Well, to be fair, I think the comments made here today are pointing (somewhat) to the broader topic of economic issues and resulting change of our “real estate” landscape … plus, our collective sentimentality, which is of course sparked when a local, long time merchant is partially in the limelight/focus. We can’t help ourselves sometimes.
      I enjoy reading everyone’s opinion from both sides of the fence too – it provides perspective, even if it’s just on “lesser breaking-news” local topics.

      As to those events occurring this past week … and today, well … another blog topic, perhaps for future discussion, since there are so many heavy ones to address?

  16. One additional point for consideration on this topic. I have worked with a shopping mall company and understand their business and profit model. The issue for residents should be what kind of community do we want to live in? Strip malls populated with chain stores and congestion? There is no question that a chain has the marketing funds to make (most) of these stores work but is that what we want our community to be? Many other communities have said no (as mentioned.)

    I for one do find the comments supporting a hiatus in construction to be anything but hypocritical just a wish for a more balanced approach to give “locals” a chance in what is an unbalanced (economically) competition for the consumers dollar.

    • Peter, well said. Doesn’t that decision lie with our P & Z?

    • I am quite sure that Equity One cares very little about letter writers and have faced much, much more stringent opposition in their other malls. Anyone with any experience in these matters knows that the builder/landlord understands that they are in opposition to some of community and they are quite prepared to deal with a few letters, which will quickly be forgotten. They are professionals at this. Writing a letter to a landlord in Florida makes as much impact as writing a letter to the paper complaining of bad drivers texting and talking on their cell phones or griping about owners not picking up after their dogs. Until there is regulation and enforcement, it only gets worse. Just look at the results of years of these type of things. It is obvious from looking at all these problems no one – particularly the town government or P&Z – cares to change things. – Chris Woods

      • Chris, as tragic as it is I believe (know) you to be absolutely right on all counts.

    • Bart Shuldman

      Peter. Let’s just remember we cannot legislate success. People shop where they want. Not where we tell them too. Some small shops work and even become bigger stores (Mitchells) and some don’t make it. Many have left because they were not successful-meaning they did not the product or price or both that people wanted. Urban Outfitters is a a story of what some want. If the store was not in Westport, parents would go to another town with their child to get the clothes they desire. Nothing out P&Z can do about it. And if nobody shops at the stores then the real estate is not worth anything. Then the snowball starts with our tax base.

      Sorry but the consumer decided. Not P&Z who should rent the store.

      • Bart I agree with your points and am not suggesting P & Z has some responsibility beyond its charter but I do believe it is about choices. Yes the choice at where we shop but also the choice about whether we want to live in a town with strip malls and traffic or something less. I grew up in Stamford when High Ridge Road was two lanes with homes and family businesses. I just don’t think Stamford or High Ridge Road is better off today.

        • Bart Shuldman

          Peter. Thanks. Just one question- the si called strip malls exist today. I have lived here for many years and do not remember any ‘new’ one being built. We have watched as the ugly ones have been spruced up a bit. There is more of that going on which is making the buildings somewhat better looking. But they have been around for decades.

          Are you saying we should tear them down?

          • No that is not what I am suggesting but raising the issue that the transformation from local to the revolving door of national chains is something I don’t think is progress. Just one persons opinion but the Westport Dan wrote about in The Westport-News (http://bit.ly/1trNnyy) is more preferable. I liked when I went to Klein’s or the Remarkable Book Store they remember me and treated be as a neighbor. Just saying…

            • Bart Shuldman

              Peter. Can’t speak to the book store as not many left whether small or national. But I would like to mention that some of our neighbors work at these so called national chains and they benefit from a successful business that can hire. It is also nice when I walk into Coffee An and they know me.

              If we are worried about Silvers then we should all go shop there and show them our support. I plan on it. While some tried with Great Cakes, they closed. But Rick is actually doing much better at his new location and he has learned to ship to other stores. Please go visit him in Weston to hear of his Success. And he had his store like Coffee An in a strip mall.

              The reality is we will always have a combination of small and national stores. Lulu Lemon started as a small store and expanded. Now you can call them a national chain but their employees are local people who can get to know you. There is no way to legislate success.

        • What’s wrong with P&Z regulating the type of town we want?

          They already do, preventing commercial businesses in residential areas, trying to prohibit ugly signs, requiring a certain # of parking spaces per store, limiting the height of buildings, etc. all to make/keep the town the way the citizens would like.

          Preventing an office building or a nightclub in a neighborhood is no different than saying we don’t want chain stores (that suck money out of the community and import minimum wage employees). Plenty of towns, including the most exclusive with the highest property values, have no-chainstore zones because they believe that maintains the value of property and community. Why wouldn’t we do that in Westport?

          I’d bet most of the customers in those Main Street stores are from out of towners. We are too small a town to float a Brooks Brothers, Tiffany’s etc. (Ask your friends in other towns what they know about Westport. They will tell you that they “love the shopping”)

          Equity One doesn’t buy buildings to support the Y or the Little League. Have you seen any of their trucks pulling floats in the Memorial Day Parade? They buy buildings to transfer money from here to Florida.

          The real economics of these stores is just like what we worried about with Baron’s South: out-of-town proprietors take over local resources, import minimum wage employees for non-local customers in order to maximize the money they take out of the community. It’s pretty simple simple math. – Chris Woods

          • Chris who is the “we” to which you refer. I have noticed a propensity for those who post here to claim to speak for “we”. Have there been any votes to decide what “we” want? We can see wnat the market wants every day; people vote with their feet and their dollars.

            The math is not as simple as you claim. If the stores are not successful, the investors will not do well. Why would anyone invest in stores that fail? If the stores are successful, they must have some support from a customer base. Who do you think is the customer base?

            • Hi Michael: I use “we” to refer to the town regulations, which are essentially voted on by selecting the P&Z. And I use “math” to refer to the actual flow of funds, which is in fact a simple model. – Chris Woods

              • The town’s zoning regulations seem to permit activities of which you disapprove.
                Maybe we are getting the type of town “we” want, but not the type of town you. want
                “We” did not worry about Baron’s South. The time for worry is long past. It ended when the town bought the property in order to create the type of town “we” want. The damage has been done.
                If the people who work in the stores are local, then your math is in error. If the real estate owners pay taxes to Westport, then your math is in error.

            • Bart Shuldman

              Is it just Equity One? Didn’t a local person who was our Selectman rent his property to one of those so called national chains? Does he not have the right? Does the consumer decide? The local resource, as you title it, is not owned by the town. Yes we can legislate no ‘strip clubs’ which benefits us all. But the ‘we’ you are talking about could be the ‘we’ that are shopping in the stores on Main Street and other areas in Westport. Where we have a mixture of both independents and Nationals. And ‘we’ are voting with our wallet for both.

  17. Ginny Williams

    Dear Mr. Lai, Mr. Fierberg, and Mr. Makinen,

    The residents of Westport are very proud of our town. We are also loyal and dedicated to our local merchants. In turn, our local merchants donate to charities and employ townspeople at good wages.

    We are very concerned about the changing retail landscape in two of your shopping centers. It is disconcerting to see that the shopping center anchored by Fresh Market is nearly empty. And now, the merchants left in the Compo Shopping Center are facing their most lucrative quarter with construction in both the rear and front of the building.

    Take a moment to consider that your activities have a significant influence on the decent people who occupy your buildings and their staff. The Silvers have made it their life’s work to be a part of this community. They and others like them need your support to be successful, and deserve better treatment than they’re currently receiving from EquityOne.

    We request that you delay construction on the Compo Shopping Center until after the holidays. Waiting out the next two months will make a small impact on your business. Yet for the Silvers and other merchants, it could be devastating.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Sincerely,
    Ginny Williams