Author Archives: Dan Woog

Okay, So First You Head Down State Street…

Alert — and confused — “06880” reader Jaime Bairaktaris was looking up an address on Google.

The world’s largest search engine — which supposedly knows everything — took Jaime’s “Post Road East,” and turned it into “State Street East.”

It’s right there on Google Street View too:

state-street

That’s the internet search equivalent of your grandmother telling you to close “the icebox.”

Jamie wonders: “Is State Street still the legal name of Post Road East?”

I’m guessing no. That would be “US 1.”

Photo Challenge #113

Some photo challenges can be figured out by current Westporters, and those who lived here many years ago. The anchor by Ned Dimes Marina — installed in 1958 — was a great example, 3 weeks ago.

But you need to live here now — or have visited in the past 2 summers — to know last week’s image. John Videler’s shot showed the tile ramp at the “new” Levitt Pavilion, leading down to the lawn. If you’ve never seen it, be sure to stop by next summer — it’s a beauty! (Click here for the photo.)

Congratulations to Eileen Lavigne Flug, Marc Hartog, Cheryl McKenna, Nancy Wilson, Seth Braunstein, Fred Rubin and Seth Goltzer. If there was a prize, you’d get a season’s pass to the Levitt. Oh, wait — it’s free for everyone!

Today’s photo challenge was inspired by tonight’s Academy Awards. Here’s a hint:  It has nothing to do with the Oscars.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

If you think you know where in Westport you’d find this beauty, click “Comments” below. Winners won’t get a prize that looks anything like this.

They’ll get something better: Their name on “06880,” next Sunday.

Sssshhh!

An alert — and acoustically assaulted — “06880” reader writes:

Can “06880” start a movement for restaurants that provide a quiet environment?

There’s not a single good restaurant in town where one can go with a friend, and enjoy a meal in an atmosphere conducive to relaxed dining and conversation.

I know this isn’t a problem limited to Westport. I don’t know when “buzz” became the hallmark of success, but it’s time to revert to a more civilized standard. Enough!

This is an issue all my friends comment and complain about constantly. When one decides to skip dessert in order to escape the assaulting noise, something must be really wrong!

Maybe your “voice” will be strong enough to start a successful campaign for change. Maybe there’s a town noise ordinance — or there should be!

So, “06880” readers: What do you think? Is this a real issue? Are there restaurants you avoid — or seek out — because of noise? Where do you go for a “quiet environment”?

Click “Comments” below. Bon appetit!

Yogi Berra once said of a New York restaurant: "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

Yogi Berra once said of a New York restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

 

Nefaire Rejuvenates Downtown

When you work 100 hours a week, you need a good way to relax.

But, Michael Chang found, traditional resort or day spas were not it. They lacked the services, schedules and ease of booking a hard-charging private equity guy like he demanded.

So — even though his firm owned a massage franchise — he looked for a fresh approach.

Which is how he created Nefaire.

The spa — designed for busy people, with a “kitchen” where many oils, masks, cucumbers, and other fresh stuff used in its facial and aesthetic services are produced — opened earlier this month. It’s located on the Post Road, next to Westport Pizzeria.

The kitchen at Nefaire.

The kitchen at Nefaire.

Nefaire — its name comes from an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph denoting beauty and health — offers short, rejuvenating services. They’re convenient enough to fit into busy lifestyles.

Chang chose Westport because he’d worked at Bridgewater. Despite his long hours there — and his need for relaxation — he got out enough to realize downtown is a great destination. He’s excited about Bedford Square, and the new retailers arriving soon.

He likens his new spa’s vibe to the reasons he’s attracted to Westport. “It’s got the aesthetics of a city,” Chang says. “But I’ve never seen any place like it in Connecticut. You can walk around and enjoy it. It’s not super crowded. It’s a special place.”

Soon, Nefaire will launch an app. Clients can book massage or facial services to their home, office or hotel in just an hour.

Then: Back to work!

The Rubber Band STARs

On Thursday night, STAR held its annual “Galaxy of Gourmets” event.

Among Fairfield County’s many worthy organizations, STAR is a star. Since 1952 it’s offered programs and services for anyone in the area, of any age, with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The fundraiser was certainly fun. Aitoro turned its appliance showroom into a showcase for nearly 2 dozen restaurants, delis and caterers. Westport was represented by A & S, Grana Pastificio, Le Rouge, Winfield Street Italian Deli and A Dash of Salt Catering.

The food was fantastic. Meeting and mingling with STAR families and supporters was rewarding.

Pork, chicken and spicy meatballs were part of the treats.

Pork, chicken and spicy meatballs were part of the menu.

But one of the biggest treats was the Rubber Band.

Formed 15 years ago to provide an outlet for STAR-related musicians, the hard-working rock group includes staff members Nancy Armstrong and Mark Minnock, who lead 6 or more STAR participants and occasional guest performers.

The group rehearses a couple of times a month, and performs many times a year.

They play for STAR’s Music Club, and are regular participants at the Oyster Festival, Norwalk Concerts on the Green, Sono Arts Festival and  STAR’s Walk, 5k Run & Roll at Sherwood Island each May.

They’ve ventured further afield too, to venues like Toad’s Place, the Georgetown Saloon, Cobb’s Mill Inn and the Ridgefield Playhouse.

Here’s their version of “Johnny B. Goode.” Chuck Berry — move over!

 

Y Seeks Clarification Of “Membership Cap”

During the many long months years decades it took for the Y to move from downtown, I thought the result would be a traffic disaster.

I envisioned lines of cars backed up and down Wilton Road, all the way to the Post Road. I’ve seen bad traffic there; I could not imagine it wouldn’t get worse.

Well, the Y has been out there next to Exit 41 for more than 2 years. And — you could blow me over with a feather — the traffic is not only not worse. It may even be better.

Maybe the lights have been rejiggered. Maybe everyone hops onto the Merritt and gets off at Exit 42. Maybe everyone jogs there.

Whatever the case, the traffic apocalypse never happened.

And next Thursday (March 2, 7 p.m., Town Hall), the Planning & Zoning Commission may discuss a membership cap for the Y.

The (relatively) new Westport Weston Family YMCA.

The (relatively) new Westport Weston Family YMCA.

According to an email sent to members, in 2008 — when the Y sought approval to build — the P&Z established certain conditions. One was a “membership cap” of 8,000.

The Y says they’ll ask the P&Z to clarify that the 8,000 “pertains to individuals that are of driving age.”

That makes sense. The fire marshal should care how many people are in the building. The P&Z should concern itself with the number of cars.

The Y did not ask me to write this. They don’t know I’m doing it.

But as someone who spent years imagining gridlock — and hailed the cap when it was first announced — I might as well admit how wrong I was.

Smile! You’re NOT On Candid Camera!

The new Main Street traffic lights — at the Avery Place/Parker Harding and Myrtle Avenue/North Kings Highway intersections — have some Westporters spooked.

An alert “06880” reader sent photos of what he thought were surveillance cameras:

traffic-light-not-camera-2

Were they installed to catch drivers zooming through the light?

Or — worse — some kind of nefarious, Big Brother spy cams?

traffic-light-not-camera-1

This called for a call to Westport’s top cop.

Have no fear, Police Chief Foti Koskinas responded quickly. There are no cameras on any traffic lights in Westport.

These are traffic control devices. They replace the strips that previously lay under the pavement, sending signals to the lights to determine if cars were waiting in line. That’s why sometimes a light allows a left turn on red, while other times it turns green for everyone.

In the past, Foti said, every time a road was repaired or repaved, the strips were torn out and replaced.

Now — sitting high above ground — they’re much safer.

Until the next wind storm.

Friday Flashback #29

As Bedford Square nears completion, it’s shaping up as a handsome addition to downtown. David Waldman has taken the original lines of the Bedford Building — the Tudor YMCA, built in 1923 — and extended them along Church Lane, then up across Elm Street.

But Bedford Square has nothing on the grandeur of its namesake’s estate.

E.T. Bedford —  director of Standard Oil, and philanthropist of (among others) Bedford Junior High and Bedford Elementary School — lived on Beachside Avenue, next to Burying Hill Beach.

Here’s what his house looked like in 1920:

e-t-bedford-estate-beachside-avenue-1920

He wasn’t the only wealthy Beachside resident. This is a view of “Nirvana” — E.B. Sturges’ home (and personal dock) — in 1909:

nirvana-e-b-sturges-residence-beachside-avenue-1909

Yet the Bedford influence was hard to avoid. That’s his windmill in the distance, toward the right side of the photo.

(Hat tip: Ken Bernhard)

Academy Awards Come To Westport

The closing of Oscar’s Delicatessen ended a great Westport tradition: the annual Oscars at Oscar’s pre-party.

But the Westport Cinema Initiative has filled the gap.

A number of local businesses have  become “polling places” for a contest. Just stop in and vote for who you think will win awards this Sunday in a variety of categories: Best Leading Actor and Actress; Best Supporting Actor and Actress; Best Director; Best Picture; Best Animated Feature; Best Documentary and Best Foreign Film.

Winners receive prizes donated by those merchants.

The contest ends this Sunday (February 26) at 4 p.m. You can vote at these locations:

  • Le Rouge by Aarti
  • iFloat
  • Francois du Pont Jewelers
  • Organachs Farm to Skin
  • Vincent Palumbo Salon
  • The Brownstone
  • Green & Tonic
  • The UPS Store
  • Downunder
  • Westport Hardware
  • Saugatuck Sweets
  • Joe’s Pizza
  • Simon Pearce
  • Body Quest
  • Soleil Toile

PS: As you enjoy the Oscars Sunday night, raise a glass in memory of Oscar’s.

Last year's pre-Oscars party at Oscar's was also deli owner Lee Papageorge's 65th birthday. His daughter Missy presented him with his very own statue. (Photo/Diane Lowman)

Last year’s pre-Oscars party at Oscar’s was also deli owner Lee Papageorge’s 65th birthday. His daughter Missy presented him with his very own statue. (Photo/Diane Lowman)

How The Earthplace Garden Grows

Like the perennial plants that bloom, then disappear there, the native garden in the Earthplace atrium has cycled through periods of growth and dormancy.

Designed in 1960 by Eloise Ray — a noted landscape architect — at what was then called the Mid-Fairfield County Youth Museum, the handsome garden was filled with indigenous species.

Eloise Ray, in the natural garden she conceived and designed.

Eloise Ray, in the native garden she conceived and designed.

Over the years — as the name changed to the Nature Center — the garden became a favorite spot. A bronze statue and bench added to its serenity.

In 1977, the Greens Farms Garden Club took over maintenance. They continued until 2011, when the board of trustees changed the courtyard focus. For a few years, the garden fell into disuse.

But in the fall of 2015, the garden club revived it. They weeded vigorously. Working from Ray’s original blueprints, they planted 17 new shrubs, and 42 native plants. Last year, they added 12 more perennials.

Greens Farms Garden Club members (from left) Ann Watkins, Barbara Harman, Wynn Herrmann, Rivers Teske and Donnie Nader take a rare break from their Earthplace work.

Greens Farms Garden Club members (from left) Ann Watkins, Barbara Harman, Wynn Herrmann, Rivers Teske and Donnie Nader take a rare break at Earthplace.

Today the garden is once again a delight. It supports local wildlife like grey tree frogs. Honeybees pollinate the flora. Birds and butterflies abound.

Staff and visitors love it. And, says Greens Farms Garden Club past president Wynn Hermann, members and Earthplace employees enjoy a “wonderful partnership.”

Earthplace's atrium garden blooms again.

Earthplace’s atrium garden blooms again.

On Saturday, March 11, guests will gather there for a Garden Party Gala. There’s great food and music, plus an auction. It’s a fundraiser for Earthplace’s education programs.

The theme of the evening is “Help Our Garden Grow.”

Which makes perfect sense. Whether it’s flowers or the environmental awareness of children, Earthplace plants seeds, nurtures and grows.

(The Garden Party Gala is set for 7-11 p.m. on Saturday, March 11. For information and tickets, click here.)