Category Archives: Downtown

Another Chain Store Leaves Main Street

Swezey Jewelers lasted several decades on Main Street.

Jack Wills is gone after less than 7 years.

The British-based clothing retailer is done here. Today, employees are clearing out the merchandise.

“They’re closing this location” is all one worker said.

Jack Wills has 70 stores in the UK. It expanded to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket in 2010, then to Westport, Boston, Chatham (Massachusetts), New Canaan and Philadelphia.

The New Canaan store closed in 2016, after less than 4 years.

The Westport closure does not appear to be related to the new SoNo Collection — the mammoth mall set to open in Norwalk in October 2019. Click here for this morning’s “06880” story, on the effect it may have on Main  Street.

Jack Wills’ Main Street store.


New SoNo Mall Looms Large

If you drive through Norwalk on I-95, it’s impossible to miss.

A 700,000-square-foot mall is rising inches off Exit 15.

Artist’s rendering of the SoNo Collection mall.

It won’t open until October 2019. But — with its size, its freshness, and its retailers like Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s — the SoNo Collection seems to pose a direct threat to Westport’s Main Street.

Matt Mandell disagrees.

The executive of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce told the Fairfield County Business Journal, “We offer an open-air experience instead of an enclosed mall. People come to Westport for a change of pace.”

Westport Downtown Merchants Association president Randy Herbertson adds that the mall offers “opportunities” for our town.

“They are focusing on mid-tier to aspirational retailers, and only 6% devoted to food service which will most likely be fast-service casual (chains like Olive Garden).”

That will “further accentuate our opportunity to provide a more upscale, specialty, open-air and experiential shopping, dining and living district that will complement this offering.”

Main Street is open air — not enclosed.

But, Herbertson says, to attract new merchants and downtown residents — and continue drawing investments like Bedford Square, the new Elm Street property, Belden Place, the former Save the Children complex, and the building that’s replacing Bobby Q — “we need to prioritize stronger cooperation and co-investment between our town and commercial interests.”

It’s already started, he says, through a constructive meeting he attended with First Selectman Jim Marpe and his team, Mandell, and area developers, landlords and merchants.

Meanwhile, the clock ticks down toward October 2019.

(Click here for the full Fairfield County Business Journal story. Hat tip: Scott Smith)

Celebrate With Olive My Stuff

Generations of Westporters loved Oscar’s. One of the main reasons was longtime owner Lee Papageorge.

Another reason was Ali. One of Lee’s 2 daughters, she grew up in the downtown hangout. Like her father, she welcomed regulars and newcomers with friendliness and energy.

Ali always loved retail and service. Last March, she started opened a consignment shop. Olive My Stuff is named after her youngest daughter, Olive — Lee’s grandchild.

Ali, Lee and Olive Papageorge.

Her store is on Main Street — in Monroe. She would love to be on Westport’s Main Street, but rents are prohibitive.

Her goal is to build her business, move here, and serve some of her dad’s former customers.

This Saturday (March 24) marks her first anniversary. She’ll celebrate with prizes, refreshments, and pop-up vendors.

Olive My Stuff is hip and eclectic. Oscar’s fans will recognize Ali’s unique style.

Plus, they’ll see a photo of Lee Papageorge, in a place of honor at the front counter.

(Olive My Stuff is at 590 Main Street, Monroe.)

Ali Papageorge, in front of Olive My Stuff.

Friday Flashback #83

As work proceeds on David Waldman’s latest project — converting the former Save the Children headquarters on Wilton Road into a retail/residential complex — it’s a good time to revisit Stevan Dohanos’ 1965 painting of the site.

Back then, it was home to Famous Artists School. Dohanos was one of those (very) famous artists who helped stay-at-home artists around the world discover their inner illustrator.

This painting — courtesy of Dohanos’ son Anthony — is a bit stylized. The house on Gorham Island is moved south, and Bedford Elementary School (now Town Hall) slides very close to Main Street.

But it provides a very realistic view of the days when Westport was the center of the illustration world. Even without Famous Artists, we were a town filled with — and honored by — famous artists.

Photo Challenge #167

The “new” Levitt Pavilion is less than 4 years old. But it’s an integral part of Westport.

It’s still 3 months before the new season begins. Still, Michael Calise, Andrew Colabella, Fred Cantor, Ben Berkley, Janice Strizever, Martin Gitlin, Lynn Wilson, Ellen Wentworth, Cindy Zuckerbrod, Shirlee Gordon, Seth Goltzer, Morley Boyd, Stephanie Ehrman, Lois Himes, Linda Amos, Mark Demmerle, Erik Ostbye and Myra Skluth all knew that last week’s photo challenge showed a bit of the riverside entertainment complex. (Click here for Larry Untermeyer’s photo.)

Here’s this week’s challenge. If you know where it is — and have more details than “something erected in 1906” — click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Pic Of The Day #327

A ducky view of downtown (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Friday Flashback #82

Winter keeps hanging on.

It always does. Hey — this is New England.

Snow falls. Winds blow. Trees and wires fall down. Eventually, spring comes.

This was the scene 84 years ago, after the Blizzard of 1934:

(Photo courtesy of Westport Historical Society)

The view is from Post Road West, looking west on Riverside Avenue.

The building on the left hasn’t changed at all.

Neither has the traffic.

Pic Of The Day #323

Elm Street and Church Lane: the calm before the storm (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

Fox And Honey

Normally, the announcement of a gourmet cooking class and tasting in a Westport store would not be “06880”-worthy.

It’s nice and interesting, sure. But there’s a lot going on in Westport, and with 10-15 requests for publicity a day — and 1/3 of my blog’s readers living outside Connecticut — any event I preview must be very remarkable.

Or have a way cool back story.

This one is all about the back story.

On Tuesday, March 13 (6 to 8 p.m.), Fox Schanzer leads that cooking class at Savannah Bee Company, the artisinal honey and body care store in Bedford Square.

For $25, you’ll master — and taste — 5 recipes, featuring honey from around the world.

Here’s the “wow” factor. It involves Fox — and not just because he has one of the coolest names this side of Rip Torn and Slim Pickens.

Fox — Savannah Bee’s “educator/resident” chef — is just 17 years old.

Fox Schanzer

He graduated from Staples High School early — in January. That’s 3 years after he discovered his love for the culinary arts, in chef Cecily Gans’ class.

Fox followed his passion by working for the top chefs in Connecticut, including Anthony Kostelis at The Whelk, and Brian Lewis of The Cottage.

Fox began working at Savannah Bee Company last fall. He immediately impressed customers with his extensive knowledge of pure raw artisinal honey, from around the globe.

He constantly experiments with new dishes, which he shares with customers.

The owners and butchers at M.EAT — the old-school/organic butcher market a few doors over in Bedford Square — love Fox so much, they asked him to include a marinated meat selection at the March 13 event. To seal the deal, they offered to provide their meats free of charge — and grill them for him.

Fox — also an accomplished guitar player and rock climber, and who in his spare time cooks for the Gillespie Center — heads off soon to the Culinary Institute of America.

His dream is to open a small, 20-seat restaurant near here, to cook for friends and family.

Remember the name: Fox Schanzer. And if you go to Savannah Bee Company on March 13, one day you can say “he taught me how to cook, honey.”

(The $25 fee for the March 13 event includes wine, a tasting of 5 prepared recipes, and instruction. For more information, and to reserve a spot, email

Pic Of The Day #319

Recent Main Street scene: 9:45 a.m. (Photo/Sandy Rothenberg)