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.
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.
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.
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!