Betsy and Hal Kravitz sat outside Elvira’s yesterday.
The deli/market/community center on Hillspoint Road by Old Mill Beach has been closed since winter.
A steady stream of people — all ages, on foot and bike — stopped to peer in the dark window. No one — not even nearby neighbors — knew what lay ahead.
Betsy and Hal told them.
They’re the new owners. On Thursday, they closed on the property.
They’ve already begun renovating and remodeling. Soon — to the delight of everyone in the area, and countless other walkers, joggers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, tradesmen and everyone else passing by — Betsy will reopen it.
The new store will be great. So is the back story leading up to it.
Hal is a Stamford native. He retired after a career with Coca-Cola and related companies, focusing on bottled water.
Betsy was born and raised in Buffalo. She spent most of her adult life in California, working on music for TV networks.
While in Atlanta to help start the Food and Wine Festival, she met Hal. Several years ago, they got married.
Life in Malibu was good. But they came back East in October, to be near ailing parents.
Neither of them knew Westport. When a realtor brought them here, they loved the “artsy, fun” vibe — and the water. “It was as close to the Malibu lifestyle as you can get,” Hal says.
They were also intrigued by Elvira’s. The realtor stopped there with Betsy, for lunch. Soon, she and Hal bought a house near Compo Beach.
With 4 dogs, Betsy thought about running a doggy day care center. They explored other business options.
Then, on March 11 — Betsy’s birthday — they heard Elvira’s was for sale.
“We wanted to put down roots in Westport,” she says. “Buying it, and keeping it open, seemed a great way to be part of the neighborhood. Even though we were new to the community, we heard rumors it might be sold to a builder and become a house. We didn’t want that.”
Niki Boulas — part of the Yiovanakos family that owns it — was “fantastic,” Betsy says. She let the Kravitzes begin renovating even before the sale was final.
“They know the importance of summer,” Betsy says. “They want us to open as soon as we can.”
But because the transaction had not gone through, neither she, Hal nor Niki’s family could answer the many questions about the future of Elvira’s.
Now they can.
Yesterday, Betsy told “06880” — and that steady stream of hopeful customers — that she’s adding a window in front. She’ll serve ice cream — and food to go — there from 4 p.m. on.
The store itself will open at 7 a.m., and stay open till 4. Betsy is adding specialty coffee from BonJo in Stamford, more baked goods, healthy options — and bulk candy.
Luis Romero — the popular chef — will return full-time. The menu will be less extensive than Elvira’s. The pizza oven is gone.
But she’ll still sell ice — and the very popular bacon-egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwich.
She’ll still keep house accounts — though not with the current ledger. Betsy will use a smartphone app (and a gift card option for younger kids without cellphones).
She’ll also still sell newspapers. Someone asked for tidal charts. And — on Niki’s advice — she’ll mount all those kids’ school photos (currently under glass at the counter) on the walls. “She told me they always come back and want to see them,” Betsy says.
With those 4 dogs, Betsy is canine-friendly. She’ll welcome them with water and treats.
The floors are new. There’s fresh paint inside and out. The shelves in the middle are gone.
Betsy knows that Elvira’s regulars will be pleased it’s reopening. But she also knows she’s replacing a deli that was a 2-decade-old icon.
“We’re the new people here,” she says. “Everyone will tell us what went on before.”
She gives huge props to Niki, and Stacey and Nick Yiovanakos, for their help with the transition.
“They had great ideas for this place, and we do too. It’s like 1 plus 1 equals 3,” Betsy says.
Niki echoes the kind words.
“After 22 years, this is bittersweet for us. We’re happy for my parents’ retirement, and for us others moving on.
“It’s been nothing but our pleasure to serve the community. We will genuinely miss it. We take with us fond memories, and value the family relationships we built.
“We’re more than joyful that it will continue. Betsy and Hal are wonderful people. We want you to welcome them with open arms. Thank you to them, and everyone!”
Betsy’s middle name is Mae. She thought about calling her new place Betsy Mae’s.
But when Niki said that Elvira’s was named for her mother Stacey’s sister — who died of cancer at 38, just before the deli — she realized the importance of keeping the name.
So — hopefully in mid-June, but definitely by July 4 — Elvira’s will open again.
As “Elvira Mae’s.”
“It’s a way to keep the old, and add the new,” Betsy says.
Just like the tides whose charts she’ll stock, Elvira Mae’s will be always moving, and also timeless.