Spa Owner: “Save Local,” Or Lose Our Town

For many businesses, the holiday season makes the entire year.

But as Westport staggers through an ominous wave of COVID infections, many merchants and restaurant owners fear they’ll be broken.

And not just for the month or year.

Permanently.

Lori Dodd is one of those small business owners. For 20 years, her Dream Spa & Salon has provided clients with relaxing treatments. Her customers love her, and the feeling is mutual.

But love is trumped by a more powerful force: fear.

Lori Dodd

A small PPP payout helped in the spring. Summer brought a bit of hope, and returning clients. But the long-expected second wave of infections has been brutal.

Right now, Lori is operating at 30% of her usual business. That has nothing to do with capacity restrictions. It’s clients staying away.

Stress is everywhere. Masked employees worry about exposure to unmasked women during facials. Some clients snap at employees for little things. Others balk at or refuse to pay a 5% surcharge Lori instituted to pay for PPE and related costs.

Little kindnesses help. Lori’s sign maker, Marty Rogers — a small businessman himself — offered his services gratis as Lori prepared for a grand reopening. A few clients have been very understanding when Lori rescheduled them, because it wasn’t worth opening the doors one day recently and playing desk staff, electricity and housekeeping.

Where the holiday season means merchandise to many stores, Dream Spa sells gift certificates. With widespread uncertainty about the coming months, those sales have been slow.

Dream Spa,, on Post Road East near Greens Farms Elementary School.

Lori knows she’s not suffering alone. When she picks up takeout from local restaurants, they’re empty. Sometimes, if COVID strikes the kitchen, they close.

Often, Lori says, she’s wanted to cry.

Instead she hatched a plan.

“Buy local” is not enough, she says. “The public is numb to that phrase.”

The byword should be “Save local.”

“More impactful action is needed,” Lori explains. “If we are to survive — if we don’t want to lose restaurants, retailers, salons, spas, fitness centers — we don’t have the luxury of idly sitting by, waiting for more PPP and a holiday season that is not going to cut it.

“We need community support. And we need it now.”

She created an Instagram: @SaveLocalWestport. She’s asking small businesses to DM her for details. She’ll organize a Zoom meeting with interested owners.

Lori envisions signage to be placed around town, and a GoFundMe page. Donations will be divided among members, based on need (assessed by a CPA, hopefully a donated service).

Visitors to the Instagram page will be encouraged to buy gift certificates at their favorite stores and restaurants.

In a perfect world, Lori says, if every household in Westport and Weston gave $100, all the members of @SaveLocalWestport could survive.

“People need to help,” she says with emotion. “If they don’t, this will not the town I’ve lived in for 25 years. It won’t be the town you moved to, or the one you thought you knew.”

22 responses to “Spa Owner: “Save Local,” Or Lose Our Town

  1. I recently saw a list of mill rates for area towns. Westport’s is half of what some others are. Our town is run efficiently and our business community provides us with a solid tax base. I like the idea of $100 from every family to keep our small local businesses afloat until we are all vaccinated. I’m in. Is there a way to actually do this? It would be a very small price to pay to keep our community going. Can local government vote for a special assessment?

    • John thanks for your support! see comment below and stay tuned/follow us @savelocalwestport for upcoming details

  2. Lovely plan. Where do we give?

  3. Frannie Southworth

    Jeff & I would be happy to do this as well. Keep us posted. Thanks as always Dan for helping Westport stay in the know and thrive. So appreciate 06880.

  4. where do we send a check…we’re here to help

    • Jann you and your whole family are some of the dreamiest clients we have! thanks in advance for your support! follow us @savelocalwestport for upcoming details!

  5. Details on contributions to follow soon!

  6. Brilliant idea.

  7. Love the support and the great idea from John Dodig…is that the former principle of SHS??? would love the town to create/and help figure out how to assess but pretty sure thats not doable; that being said these are unprecedented times and call for unprecedented actions! please follow @savelocalwestport on Instagram for details to come!

  8. Please count me in for helping. I am a big Lori Dodd fan and would like to help others!

    • Donna you are a DOLL! We go back a long time and I so appreciate the support! Stay tuned for details…follow us @savelocalwestport

  9. Re: John’s suggestion, might something that would provide comparable relief but be more easily administered (the same ends – just a different way of getting there) be a tax abatement and/or deferral program for locally owned businesses?

    (That said, and without in any way diminishing enthusiasm for supporting local business owners, I would add that many of our residents are facing similar struggles due to pandemic-related job losses. I do worry a bit about increasing their tax burden, despite the laudable cause.)

  10. What is meant by, ‘…divided by members’? What is a member? is this defined as all (small) businesses in Westport & Weston? Is there some type of qualification to be a member? What is the projected amount of businesses you feel will benefit by this effort?

    • James thanks for the excellent questions…working on the logistics and we will post details on our Instagram page @savelocalwestport asap!

  11. Most of us go through our lives without much conscious awareness of how dependent we are on what small business people do every day. One of the small silver linings to this dark cloud we seem to be in right now is that this is beginning to change for many of us. Without even thinking about it, I find myself nowadays thanking clerks and proprietors for the many routine small transactions I always took for granted.

    What would any of us do waking up one morning to find all of them gone and their storefronts vacant? It would be the darkest of Twilight Zone episodes. Thanks to all these folks for being there!

    • Mark we feel the same…ever since we came back from lockdown, we have been keenly aware of who is on the front lines…making sure we all realize that we all play a part in this pandemic…appreciation is gratifying but support is key…thanks for sharing!

    • I feel the same way Mark

  12. Rather than buy dangerous services during Covid or donating to a fund to prop up high end stores, I donate to Bridgeport Rescue Mission to feed poor people.

    • Congratulations. You completely missed the point of supporting our local purveyors who are STRUGGLING to make ends meet and recuperate some what of their financial gains to LIVE and employ people who need the money. It’s not just the business owner, it’s ALL the employees.

      I’ll make sure to nominate you for the grand Marshall of this years parade because you donated to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission because GOD FORBID that your gesture go unannounced.

      See you at 2021 parade.

  13. I believe that low-wage employees and the poor need support in this environment. Each time I go shopping for groceries, I quietly give the check- out person a $20 gift/gratuity. I also contribute to the Connecticut Food Bank.

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