OMG! Old Mill Grocery Saved!

The market/deli at the foot of Compo Hill has served the Old Mill neighborhood — and Westport — for nearly 100 years.

Now it’s poised for its next 100.

A group of concerned — and active — residents has achieved the near-impossible: In just 2 months, they raised the $1.51 million purchase price. With boundless energy, great creativity — and the help of dozens of other concerned citizens — they ensured that one of the town’s last remaining local landmarks would not fall to a developer’s wrecking ball.

Saved! The sign says it all.

And while they’re at it, they’ll provide training and employment to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Old Mill Grocery & Deli — which I’m sure will soon be called OMG by all — is a nod to the past, with an eye to the future. Old Mill Grocery & Deli was actually its original name, in the 1920s. It’s been called Kenny’s, Elvira’s and Joey’s by the Shore in the decades since.

The original Old Mill Grocery & Deli.

Now it’s not only a market/deli, but a non-profit. Its pending 501(c)(3) status enables the purchase and preservation of the historic gem, and the employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The mission statement — “Preserving History. Serving Good” says it all.

But it would not have been possible without 100 donors, who contributed the first $1 million; another 450 who clicked on GoFundMe to add almost $300,000 more. Contributors came primarily from Westporters, but included former residents who remember the neighborhood store fondly.

Fairfield County Bank, which provided a mortgage to close the gap.

Organizers Jim Hood, Ian Warburg, Chris Tait and Emily Ashken Zobl  lauded town officials too, in the selectwomen’s office and other departments, for their “incredibly supportive” help.

Jim Hood (left) and Ian Warburg, outside their new business..

So when will OMG open?

The new owners are talking with several prospective operators/partners. A deal will be signed soon.

Supply chain issues have created long delivery times for some kitchen equipment. There may be a soft opening, with a partial menu, initially.

“We are in this for the long, long term!” the group says.

But the short-term payoff is already here. Yesterday evening Jim and Ian were hanging a sign announcing this summer’s opening.

A woman pushing a newborn in a stroller saw the scene — and cried with joy.

Meanwhile today, fundraising continues. Naming rights opportunities exist for new partners to provide some or all of the kitchen equipment, pizza oven, beverage coolers, a community table and chairs, picnic tables and umbrellas, espresso and soft-serve ice cream machines, delivery scooters and more. Signage and recognition will be provided. Email OldMillGroceryDeli@gmail.com for more information.

OMG! It’s really happening!

19 responses to “OMG! Old Mill Grocery Saved!

  1. Bruce Fernie - SHS 1970

    GRUBS LIVES ON!

  2. Terrific news indeed! Kudos to the organizers.

  3. Janette Kinnally

    Congratulations to everyone involved – as they say, it takes a village and look what happens when you come together to get something done. Maybe Washington should take note, from Westport this week. You can get things done together! So happy for Westport citizens and patrons of this newly renovated place – that has been a staple here, since I was born.

  4. India van Voorhees

    😍

  5. Melissa Diamond

    OMG! What wonderful news! So true that “It takes a village” and so happy that we live in this “village” and the third generation of our family will continue to enjoy this spot. Adding people with disabilities ( like The Porch on the other side of town ) makers it even more special!

  6. Patricia McMahon

    What wonderful news waking up to✨✨✨✨
    Bravo and Big congratulations to Ian, Jim, and all those involved .
    Just a suggestion… Can we make Coda the mayor of Compo🐾🐾

  7. Cristina Negrin

    I remember it referred to as “Grub’s”?

  8. LAURA LAWHON lawhon

    As an 8 year old living on S. Compo R, my 6 year old brother and I used to walk to Kenny’s (aka Grub’s–I think after Kenny’s apron ) to get the ingredients for meatless Friday spaghetti plus a few of the goodies on the wall behind the cash register. On Fridays our mom worked until 9 PM at Westport Hardware but she got a dinner break at 6 and she would come home in time to drain the spaghetti and eat with us. My dad, well it was Friday night in old time Westport and after buidling houses during the day, the guys were pretty busy at places like the Red Gallion and Horse’s something or other in Saugatuck. Every summer my mom’s best friend and their family would come down from Pelham and open their house, the last one in Old Mill, and we have beautiful memories of those days too.

  9. Bonnie Scott Connolly

    The great thing is that the community came together for such a great cause. The crazy thing is that a tiny store would cost 1.5 million dollars. What an odd reality.

    • Location, location, location.

      • Odd???? How’s this for odd… the most recent owners between what they paid for the property 3 years ago and put into it to renovate/bring up to current health standards…to keep the iconic business alive…and after real estate commission/ ridiculous state and town conveyance taxes….lost $250k to help make this initiative a reality. All versus selling it to a developer where the 75+ year old business would vanish…and there were several interested…to build another $4m beach house and pocket a nice profit!! Most importantly, hats off to all who stepped up to make Jim, Ian, Chris, Tommy, and many others ‘ vision and hard work a reality!!!

        • Elaine Marino

          Mr. Kravitz,

          I am grateful to you and your wife Betsy for your tremendous dedication and extraordinary generosity, which was instrumental in saving the Old Mill Grocery property from developers.

          Elaine Marino

  10. Brandon Malin

    Amazing news! So happy that this long-standing Westport establishment will live on with a terrific group of new owners (including Koda, of course)!

  11. Can’t wait for all the OMG merch…hats and tees…hope to see that soon…

  12. I remember Kenneth Montgomery. My mother said he “looked like a character out of Dickens.” A large ruddy portly man with hairy arms and a filthy apron. You had to like him

  13. Nice outcome but unless a significantly greater number of people shop there, the store will suffer the same outcome – no profit to sustain. Buying 1-2 ice cream each summer isn’t the sustained support that business will need so for everyone cheering the news, the real cheering can be done with your pocket book

  14. stephanie Bass

    So happy; the heart of my neighborhood was yanked out when Elvira’s. closed. I won’t expect a Harry to shovel my car out of my driveway if I get stuck, or Nicky to drop off soup if I’m sick, but tell me I can pick up a quart of milk or a box of spagetti so I don’t have to order in when I have nothing interesting in the house to eat and are they gonna take cash or am I gonna need an app to get an ice pop (with the 10%. 15%. 20%. tip option)?

    I like to rant about all the changes in my world, but I am very grateful that so many people got together to make my neighbor a neighborhood again

  15. Mark Bachmann

    Fantastic news – thanks to everyone involved in the rescue effort, although I agree with the caution expressed by people suggesting that the victory may prove temporary. Developers in this town are still holding the high cards.

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