Since opening Savvy + Grace on Main Street 2 years ago, Annette Norton has been one of downtown Westport’s biggest boosters.
Shoppers love her cool, funky, crammed-to-the-gills-gift-and-more shop tucked underneath Tavern on Main. Annette returns the favor, sponsoring fun events inside and out that showcase nearby retail neighbors (and Rye Ridge Deli) too.
The next one is Thursday, November 7. From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., she’ll bring a large white tent with lights, a food truck with light bites, and rinks to Main Street.
But the joyful gathering has a serious back story.
In 1976 Annette’s mother, Caryl Ann Stein Lagaris, moved as a single mother to Fairfield. Annette — then a young girl — says that her town had only a couple of interesting stores.
Westport, by contrast, had the Remarkable Book Shop, Klein’s, and many more, plus loads ofo restaurants.
When Annette, her sister and mother went out, her mother seldom drank even a glass of wine. She never used drugs
But after a serious car accident, Caryl Ann was prescribed opioids. She died 13 years ago, from a fentanyl overdose. She was 61 years old.
“She was my mother, a grandmother, a businesswoman and a woman with so much humor and character,” Annette says. “I miss her every day.”
At the time, she notes, little was known about opioids. Annette could not understand why her mother just did not stop taking the medication. Or why she surrounded herself with people who enabled the situation.
When her mother was addicted to opioids, Annette’s relationship was “tested, strained and in turmoil.” She had no idea how bad things were.
Looking back, Annette says, “I see she needed help. But she was probably too embarrassed to admit what was truly gong on.”
Annette feels guilty. “If I knew then what I know now, I often wonder if I could have stopped this.”
After Caryl Ann’s death, Annette and her sister asked the police if the doctor could be held accountable for prescribing so much medication. “Your mother had pills all over the bedroom,” the officer said. “She was a junkie.”
Annette felt stigma, shame and pain. Today, she knows her mother was not a junkie. She was a woman struggling with the disease of addiction.
As the mother now of teenage girls, Annette shares any information she can find related to drugs.
On Facebook, she saw a post about a man in Easton who lost his son to opioids. That was Annette’s introduction to Shatterproof.
The non-profit works to end the shame and stigma associated with addiction, and end its devastation.
“I work downtown every day. I love what I do, and the people I meet,” Annette says. “I finally feel I have a large enough customer base to hold a fabulous fundraiser and, together, do something for such an amazing cause.
“For me, this is what having a business in this beautiful town is about: being part of a wonderful community.”
The event itself is free. Annette will contribute a percentage of proceeds from purchases that night to Shatterproof.
Any other businesses on Main Street that would like to help: feel free to join in!
(If you plan to attend the shopping-and-more event on November 7, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Annette hopes to get an approximate head count of attendees.)